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China's high speed railway 60% of world's total length

2015-03-06 08:55 Global Times Web Editor: Qian Ruisha

China is home to more than 60 percent of the world's high-speed railways, or 16,000 kilometers, Premier Li Keqiang said in this year's government work report on Thursday.[Special coverage]

"The rapid expansion of high-speed railway meets the needs of China's economic development and helps promote urbanization," Wang Mengshu, an academician at the China Academy of Engineering and railway tunnel expert, told the Global Times.

By the end of 2015, 18,000 kilometers of high-speed railways will be used as part of efforts to build a network of more than 45,000 kilometers, covering all cities with a population of at least 500,000, according to China's 12th Five-Year Plan in 2011.

"High-speed railways can drive economic development in west China and facilitate the flow of resources in different regions. It plays an important role in narrowing the gap between eastern and western China," Cheng Zhongxing, deputy director of the high-speed railway development study center at Southwest Jiaotong University, told the Global Times.

Cheng added that compared with other modes of transportation, high-speed trains are more environmentally friendly.

In September 2014, Li said that the construction of railways would favor the central and western regions during the 13th Five-Year Plan.

In October alone, the National Development and Reform Commission approved three high-speed railway projects worth more than 10 billion yuan ($1.61 billion) in the central and western regions, the 21st Century Business Herald reported.

"The development of high-speed railway in the western regions remains a problem because of the terrain and the limited resources of some local governments," Cheng said.

High-speed railway is a long-term investment with uncertain economic returns, which makes it less attractive for some private companies to invest in western regions, Cheng said.

Zhao Jian, a professor at Beijing Jiaotong University, said that less dense populations in some remote areas may result in limited economic benefits from the railway, and could lead to local government debt.

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