Following more than 10 years of deliberation and planning, construction of the 1,320-km Beijing-Shanghai High-speed Railway began in mid-April. Following the world's most elevated Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which went into service in July 2007, the new line is set to become another milestone in China's railway building history, breaking world records in terms of both the length and the designed speed (350 km per hour).
After it is completed and put into operation in five years, the railway will halve the train ride time between China's capital and the country's largest business hub to merely five hours. The annual one-way passenger and cargo transportation capacities will reach 80 million passengers and 100 million tons, respectively.
Though investment in the project is estimated at 220.94 billion yuan ($31.5 billion), larger than that of any previous capital infrastructure project in China, experts predict that the money would be recovered 14 years at most.
Considering its massive social and economic benefits, Chinese people naturally place high expectations on the high-speed line's role in promoting the country's modernization and urbanization drive.
The Beijing-Shanghai High-speed Railway passes through the economically dynamic Bohai Sea Rim and Yangtze River Delta areas, which account for a quarter of China's total population and 40 percent of the country's gross domestic product. The existing Beijing-Shanghai Railway, with only 2 percent of the country's operational rail mileage, handles 10.2 percent and 7.2 percent of national passenger and cargo transportation volume. The high-speed line will raise transportation capacities of regions along it and enhance their economic links. More importantly, it is expected to speed up the urbanization process there and thus attract more population and resources from across the country to the regions.
Along with the line comes not only the improved efficiency of talent and resource usage, but also higher requirements for local governments' public administration and public services. Cities along the high-speed line, and even the Central Government, can take advantage of the opportunity to work out more flexible and people-oriented policies, in such fields as education, housing and population registration, in preparation for the emerging urbanization surge nationwide.
The railway was designed in China by Chinese engineers. According to the Ministry of Railways, at least 70 percent of the core technic know-how to be used in the construction will be proprietary and all equipment will be homemade. The achievements demonstrate the initial success of the country's ongoing innovation-oriented development program.
This August, the 120-km Beijing-Tianjin High-speed Railway, the first rail line of its kind on the Chinese mainland, of which designed speed will top 300 km per hour, will be put into use. It will become a section of the Beijing-Shanghai line.
According to an ambitious plan announced by the Ministry of Railways, a high-speed railway network will be completed by the year 2020 to link up major cities in the Bohai Sea Rim, Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta areas.
The "era of high-speed rail service" is already in sight, which may make the territory smaller and bring tremendous changes to the national economy and ordinary people's lives as well.