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Wednesday, 17 April, 2002, 12:53 GMT 13:53 UK
China plans high speed rail link
Rail passengers, China
Passengers could still be in for a long wait
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By Duncan Hewitt
BBC Shanghai Correspondent
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China is planning to build a high speed rail link from the capital Beijing to the southern city of Guangzhou, cutting the journey time from almost 24 hours to just 10.

It is the latest in a series of plans to revolutionise the country's lumbering railway network.

The new train line would link to a planned high speed connection to Hong Kong.

China has pledged massive investment in railways - including the world's first commercial magnetic levitation train which will be launched in Shanghai early next year.

China's antiquated railways have been seen as a major bottleneck in the country's economic development. Official figures say the average speed of trains to the capital Beijing is just 75 kilometres per hour.

But Zhang Jianping of China's State Development Planning Commission said the government aimed to revolutionise travel on the key route from Beijing to the southern economic hub of Guangzhou.

He told the China Daily newspaper that a new line would cost at least 200 billion Yuan ($24bn). He said the project, via the central city of Wuhan on the Yangtse river, would help maintain China's economic growth momentum.

Since it is expected to link to the planned high speed rail link between Guangzhou and Hong Kong, analysts say the completed project would play a role in linking Hong Kong even more closely to the mainland Chinese economy.

Money worries

But Mr Zhang said work on the Beijing to Guangzhou line might not start for another three to five years. First priority is completion of China's first long distance high speed rail link, from Beijing to Shanghai.

But work on this project has yet to begin - amid reports of differences of opinions among officials over what technology should be used.

One option is the revolutionary magnetic levitation train, with a top speed of about 500 km/h. A short line is currently under construction between Shanghai's new airport and the city centre, but officials are thought to be concerned about the expense.

They are likely to wait to see how successful the Shanghai line is when it opens early next year.

The German consortium behind the Shanghai project says such a line would cut journey time from Beijing to Shanghai from 14 hours to less than four.

But experts say integrating such fast routes with the rest of China's railway network could pose a considerable problem - and passengers expecting rapid rail travel right across China could still be in for a long wait.

See also:

01 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
China's ambitious railway
29 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
China lays Tibet railtrack
09 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
China plans Tibet railway
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