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Railway Construction Project in S China to Link Region

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Work on a massive transportation project in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is underway.

Construction on four railroads got underway this October. Sunday, the Office for Railway Construction said work will begin on another 12 lines at the beginning of 2009.

Combined all 16 railroads will stretch 4,262 kilometers. Of that, 2,802 kilometers will be in Guangxi.

The estimated cost of the infrastructure project is placed at 196.2 billion yuan (about US$28.85 billion), said Li Hongqing, deputy chief of the regional office for railway construction.

"A modernized railway network will be in place by the year 2016, with Nanning, the regional capital of Guangxi, as the center," said Li. "The lines will link up to southwestern and central China, and to ASEAN member states."

Not only will there be more destinations for travelers it will also take them less time to get places.

A single journey from Nanning to Beijing will only take nine hours instead of the current 28 hours, according to Ma Biao, chairman of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Regional Government.

Inter-city train services will also help shorten travel time from the regional capital to three coastal cities on Beibu Gulf --Qinzhou, Beihai and Fangchenggang-- to all within one hour's journey, said Ma.

Currently, it takes one and a half hours for a single journey by train from Nanning to Qinzhou, or three hours from Nanning to Beihai. There is no direct train service from Nanning to Fangchenggang.

By 2007, there were only 2,750 kilometers of railway roads in service across Guangxi and 1,879 kilometers of freeways.

"The existing railroads were backward and fell far behind from meeting the growing demand in Guangxi, which has put our region at a disadvantageous position," said Chairman Ma.

Guangxi will invest more than 400 billion yuan (US$58 billion) on transportation infrastructure over the next five years, Ma said at a specially convened press conference held in Beijing early this month.

Industry observers say the transportation construction boom will help Guangxi improve its potential appeal and win over more investors.

Guangxi Autonomous Regional Office for Railway Construction is a new agency created late last month under the regional government to oversee railway construction work.

Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, one of China's five minority autonomous regions, borders Vietnam.

It was founded on December 11, 1958 and has 12 ethnic groups. The total population in Guangxi by the end of 2007 was more than 50 million, a third are of the Zhuang ethnic minority.

(Xinhua News Agency December 15, 2008)