China's high-speed rail plans set to break records by 2020

China adds 3000 km of rail lines in 2016 - official

A high-speed train runs along the Shanghai-Kunming railway line on December 28, 2016. The ambitious project would make certain that 80% of China's major cities are covered by high-speed rail to make them more economically viable and create more economic hubs in the country.

Overall, China plans to invest 3.5 trillion yuan ($504 billion) in railway construction between this year and 2020, Yang said.

On Wednesday, China formally opened a new 1,400-mile (2,250 km) high-speed railway connecting the southwestern city of Kunming with Shanghai on the eastern coast.

China spent 3.58 trillion yuan over 2011-2015 to build 30,000 km (18,600 miles) of new tracks, Yang said. By the end of this year, the nation's total railway length will reach 124,000 km, including 20,000 km of high-speed railway, accounting for 65 percent of the world's total high-speed rail.

While the vast network has enhanced connectivity in large swathes of the country, disparity remained as construction has lagged behind in the less developed western regions, and in recent years, the government is seeking to narrow the gap. The plan will also rebuild expressways and speed up construction of railways that serve less-developed regions in central and western China.

Notably, despite "unprofitable" operations, further rail investments will be made in some of the poorer parts of the country in the west, according to Yang.

The year 2020 has been set by the Beijing-based Government as the target year to have churned out 30,000km of high-speed rail up from the 19,000km that the railcurrently cover. Even so, the UK's high speed network of one line, spanning just 110 kilometers, looks pretty pathetic in comparison.

The new railway will accelerate communication between China and ASEAN countries and play an important role in the Belt and Road Initiative.

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