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High-speed rail: New Silk Road

2010-03-12 15:49 BJT


By Kang Juan

Less than two years after China's first high-speed railway went into operation, the country is now planning to extend its rail network beyond its borders, a project that will involve 17 nations, a Ministry of Railways spokesman confirmed to the Global Times Thursday.

The international rail network will boost the exchange of trade and promote China's newly acquired high-speed railway technology, likely the next brand of "Made in China" comparable to world competitors, experts say.

Initial negotiations with some countries are already underway, the spokesman said, without disclosing what progress had been made or details of the routes.

The information was first revealed by Wang Mengshu, a professor at Beijing Jiaotong University and a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, who said Sunday that China plans to construct a high-speed railway system that will travel across Asia and Europe by 2025.

Wang told the Global Times yesterday that China began construction of the domestic part of one route, which will travel across Southeast Asia, several years ago. The line starts in Kunming in Yunnan Province and runs south, as far as Singapore. Negotiations with parties in Myanmar and Singapore have gone smoothly he said.

According to Wang, a second route will start in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and connect Central Asian countries such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan with Germany. A third line will connect the city of Heilongjiang in northern China with Eastern and Southern European countries via Russia.

"Progress on the first route has been faster than the other two," Wang said. "Many problems such as discrepancies in track gauge, line direction and expense allocations are under discussion with the related countries."

Lu Huapu, director of the Communication Research Institute at Tsinghua University, said the project is part of the Pan-Asian railways network, a plan proposed in 2006 that is expected to connect 28 countries with 81,000 kilometers of railways.

"The construction of the network requires a huge coordination effort among countries with big development gaps and must overcome difficulties in terms of discrepancies and technical standards," Lu said.

China will obtain major benefits from the project, which will carry mostly cargo transportation. "The second route will serve as a new "Silk Road" for China's western regions," Wang said. "Industries, businesses and issues of environmental protection are built on growing transport networks."

"It will also be more convenient for us to tap into natural resources, especially oil and gas, in Myanmar, Iran and Russia if the system is completed," Wang said, adding that some parts of the project can be financed by a proposed "resourc-es-for-technology" agreement.