High-Speed Beijing-Shanghai Railway Start In 2010

China announced on April 3 that construction of the multi-billion-dollar high-speed rail line between Beijing and Shanghai would begin this year, with train services to start in 2010.

Travel time between China's two most important cities will be cut from around 13 hours to five hours with the trains expected to reach speeds of 350 kilometers (217 miles) an hour, the Ministry of Railways said in a statement. The railway is the first high-speed line in an ambitious plan to modernize China's huge rail network. The government said last year it planned to spend $250 billion 2020 to renovate and expand the network. The spokesman said the link would be "our nation's first high-speed railway with world-class advanced technology."

With the new service running, the existing Beijing-Shanghai rail line will carry cargo only, while the new line will be capable of hauling 80 million passengers a year, the ministry statement said.

While there have been varying signals from the government over how great a stake foreign companies will be allowed to have in the lucrative project, the ministry said investment would come from "private, institutional and foreign investors".

"We will bring into play investment from all areas, including monetary, material, intellectual property and land use rights' investment. We will participate in the domestic and international capital markets," the statement said.

Industry leaders from France, Germany and Japan have jockeyed for contracts since the project was first announced and in recent years have sold rail technology, including high-speed rail wagons, to China. China inked a 1.3 billion euro (US$1.5 billion) contract late last year for 60 high-speed trains from German engineering giant Siemens. It also reportedly agreed to buy 60 high-speed Hayate-model bullet trains from a Japanese consortium led by Kawasaki Heavy Industries.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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