China set out April 7 an ambitious blueprint for the construction of over 12,000 kilometers (7,440 miles) of high-speed railways to connect its major urban centers. The plan calls for four north-south high-speed lines, four east-west tracks and three inter-city networks, Su Shunhu, a Ministry of Railway official said. Train speeds are expected to exceed 200 kilometers per hour (120 miles an hour.)
The plan was unveiled only days after the central government gave the go ahead for two new high-tech, high-speed railway lines that are expected to bring China's lumbering rail system into the 21st century. On April 3, the rail ministry announced the construction of a high-speed rail line between Beijing and Shanghai would begin this year, with services to start in 2010. Expected costs for the line were over 140 billion yuan (US$17.3 billion).
Xinhua news agency also this week announced that construction of a $4.3 billion MAGLEV line -- a high-speed magnetic levitation railway -- would begin this year. The line will link the eastern metropolis of Shanghai with the tourist city of Hangzhou about 175 kilometers away.
Last year, the government announced that it would spend $250 billion to upgrade its rail system by 2020.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006