China on Tuesday announced a plan to organize a bigger transport ministry, expected to improve efficiency and avoid traffic chaos like that caused by the snow havoc before this year's Spring Festival.
A government reshuffle plan announced by State Councilor Hua Jianmin to a parliament session said the new department under the State Council, or the cabinet, will incorporate the current Ministry of Communications, the Civil Aviation Administration of China and the section of urban traffic management under the Ministry of Construction.
The "super" ministry will also take over the State Post Bureau from the Ministry of Information Industry, Hua said, when making an explanation on the cabinet reshuffle plan to nearly 3,000 deputies to the National People's Congress (NPC), the top legislature.
The reorganization is aimed at establishing a "convenient, smooth, efficient, safe and integrated traffic system", said Hua, also secretary general of the cabinet.
The new ministry is responsible for the making of layouts, policies and standards of the development of highways, waterways and civil aviation, he said.
A state bureau of civil aviation will be set up under the new ministry, he said.
The new ministry is big enough to cover road, water and air transit, but still not that strong to incorporate railways.
The Ministry of Railways, which manages more than 77,000 km of railroads, will be kept because of "the special needs in building and managing railways," said Hua without elaboration.
Half of China was hit by unusual winter storms early this year and millions of passengers were affected on their way home for the Spring Festival, China's biggest family reunion occasion.
"The passengers shouldn't have been stranded at railway stations or on highways during the snow havoc if there were one authority that could provide information from different transport sectors and provide them alternatives," said Prof. Zhou Tianyong from the Party School of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee.
A ministry of transport should provide the public a safe, convenient and economical logistic service instead of just administering transportation, said Zhou.
"As far as I know, the logistic cost in China is twice of that in developed countries," said Wei Jiafu, president of China Ocean Shipping Companies Group, the largest domestic logistic company.
The annual logistic cost totals about 4.8 trillion yuan (US$671 billion) in China, equal to 20 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), Wei said.
Modern logistic service is very much integrated through all means of transportation, which strongly demands a single authority to manage all sectors, he said.
"China's transport, administered by different authorities, has brought lots of trouble to the fast growing logistic service industry," said a general manager of a logistic company who refused to be named.
"I promise to my clients that I could consign the goods to the destination no matter by air, road, railway or ship. But in China I have to deal with a couple of administrations to have my business done, which wastes time," he said.
China now has 3.57 million km of roads, linking 88 percent villages and 98.5 percent rural towns.
Medog in the southeastern part of the Tibet Autonomous Region is the last county in China without a highway, and construction of one is scheduled this year.
Flights shuttle among 148 airports of 146 cities in the Chinese mainland. About 387.59 million passengers traveled by air last year.
And the country has 14 harbors whose annual throughput surpasses 100 million tones.
(Xinhua News Agency March 12, 2008)