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First Privately-funded Railway Begins Operation

A railway linking Quzhou and Changshan in east China's Zhejiang Province, the first railway funded in part by private investment since 1949, began operating on Friday.

With a length of 41 kilometers, the feeder railway would be used mainly for cargo transport, said Wang Feng, deputy chief of the Shanghai Railways Administration.

Quzhou-Changshan railway would be included as a section of another planned trunk railway linking Quzhou to Jingdezhen and Jiujiang, both cities in east China's Jiangxi Province.

The Quzhou-Jingdezhen-Jiujiang railway was an important link, joining major railways in China, including the Beijing-Kowloon line between the capital and Hong Kong.

Construction on the Quzhou-Changshan line began in November 2005 and was completed at a cost of 675.1 million yuan (US$84.39 million).

Funding was provided by the Shanghai Railways Administration, Changshan County State-Asset Operation and Management Co. Ltd., Zhejiang Provincial Railways Investment Group Co., and Changshan Cement Co., Ltd., a private business.

Changshan Cement, which has a materials production base in Changshan, holds an 18.88-percent stake in the railway.

Wang said Quzhou-Changshan railroad was a tiny section out of China's massive railway network, but it served as a milestone in the country's efforts to reform financing for railway construction.

Previously, railway investment in China had long been monopolized by governments at central and local levels.

After the private investment in Quzhou-Changshan railway was published in February 2005, the preparatory group for construction of the Wuhan-Guangzhou passenger express rail in June 2005 announced that they would raise 24 billion yuan (US$3 billion) from home and abroad to build the trunk line.

The funds would make up about 20 percent of the 116.6 billion yuan (US$14.58 billion) needed to finance the Wuhan-Guangzhou passenger express line, while the Ministry of Railways would provide 51 percent, and local governments in the three provinces of Guangdong, Hunan and Hubei would cover the remainder.

When the express railway is put into service, a trip from Wuhan to Guangzhou will take four hours, compared with seven at present, and the Beijing-Guangzhou trunk railway line will only handle cargo services.

The Chinese mainland had 76,600 km railways in service last year, ranking third in the world by length after the United States and Russia.

In accordance with a blueprint for medium and long-term development of railway networks approved by the State Council, China's cabinet, 100,000 km of railways will be in operation by 2020.

It is estimated that in the next 15 years, two trillion yuan (US$250 billion), or 100 billion yuan (US$12.5 billion) a year, will be spent on construction of railway networks in China.

(Xinhua News Agency September 29, 2007)

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