Railroads boost China's western provinces

2015-04-13 14:33:03
Summary:Construction of railway networks has made great progress in China& 39;s western regions since the national governme
Construction of railway networks has made great progress in China's western regions since the national government decided on a strategy of opening up western regions. 
The growth of passenger and freight transportation has expanded at a higher rate than the national average as more and more track has been laid. 
If we credit the railways with playing a key role in the rapid development of the west in the past decade, we'll need stronger support from the rail system to reach the goal of building a well-off and well-rounded society, part of which is continuing western development. 
At the same time, we need to make sure there is a positive relationship between social and economic development on one hand, and the development of railroads on the other. At the same time, improving the efficiency and profitability of rail investments is another important goal. 
There are a number of reasons illustrating why the growth in train service is so important to the rapid but sustainable development of the economy and society in the western regions. 
First, industries are being transferred from the east to the west, and rail connections between the regions need to be strengthened in order to ensure coordinated development between the east and the west. It's more than 1,000 kilometers between China's east and west, so robust transportation is needed to ensure movement of resources and products between the two regions. 
Despite rail's rapid development in the past few years, total capacity still cannot meet the development demands of western regions. We need more railways with higher capacities in order to accelerate industrial transfers and improve the overall level of development. 
Second, the west has great potential for working cooperatively with neighboring countries, so we need to improve connections with neighbors' international rail service. 
The 12 western provinces have a combined land border with other countries of more than 17,200 km, which accounts for 78 percent of the whole country's borders. China's west has borders with 13 countries: Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam. 
Cooperative agreements and collaboration have been established between western regions and nations in Central Asia, Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia. But comparatively, the west's advantageous geography in terms of opening up to surrounding nations hasn't been exploited fully yet. One of the most important reasons is that there are many gaps in railway connections. 
These gaps hinder implementation of the government's new Silk Road Economic Belt plan as well as deepening of other types of collaboration between western regions and neighboring countries. So accelerating rail construction in the west is a priority to push forward these relationships that the western provinces are so perfectly suited to fulfill. 
Third, the potential for resources exploration in the western areas is huge, but will require large-capacity, low-cost transportation. The west has immense resources, such as minerals, land, water and tourism, and they are just waiting to be developed. 
Of the 156 mineral reserves that have been explored in China, 138 are found in the western regions. Of the 45 major minerals, 24 are in the west, and those reserves account for 50 percent of the nation's reserves. The western provinces also have considerable energy resources, especially natural gas, coal and petroleum, with reserves accounting for 87.6 percent, 41 percent and 38 percent of the national reserves, respectively. 
With China's rapid economic development, gaps between supply and demand will grow for energy resources and some minerals. As a result, China will look to greater exploitation of these resources in western regions, and the railway will be the most effective transportation tool in terms of capacity and cost. 
Fourth, railways will also help promote societal development and the growth of cities in the western areas. The urbanization rate in the nation's west is still very low because of factors like the current level of economic development, the population's geographic distribution and geographic and natural conditions. 
As the national strategy for developing the west takes greater hold in the future, railways will help connect rural and urban areas in ways that will promote urbanization. 
Among my suggestions for western rail development are, first, that problems with efficiency and profit should be dealt with early on. China's plans should be of a rational nature, based on solid forecasts of market demand and feasibility studies of the different rail construction projects. 
Excessive spending should not be allowed simply to push economic growth. For example, high-speed railways should not be used to connect lightly populated areas. Doing so would invite a massive debt. 
Second, system innovation is a necessary ingredient for extension of the railway network. This especially comes into play when looking to strengthen the frequency and tonnage of freight loads and develop the New Silk Road Economic Belt. 
Over the past few years, with the consistent efforts of local governments, China-Europe container rail services have grown. Good examples are the line from Chongqing to Xinjiang and then to Europe, the train service from Chengdu to Xinjiang to Europe, and the Zhengzhou-Xinjiang-Europe rail connection. 
But problems remain, such as bad service and high prices along the journey as a result of different price policies of companies along the way and the imbalance between the goods volume transported from China and back to China. Solving such issues will require China to work more closely with countries along the line. But it also means Chinese railway companies and related logistics companies must find bold, innovative solutions to reduce prices and improve service. 
Third is to construct and operate newly built railways according to their purpose. China should carefully assess the commercial and social benefits of the new projects. Projects mostly for the public good should be built according to the nation's abilities, use public funds for the majority of construction costs and operating subsidiaries, and be watchful for excessive debt. Meanwhile, for commercial projects, it's best to use market capital and make them into commercial operations as much as possible. 
Fourth is to consider combinations with other modes of transportation, making the most of various transportation resources in the western regions and avoiding redundancy and excess capacity. 
The author is professor of the School of Economics and Management, Beijing Jiaotong University. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily. 

Ally Information

World Railway Magazine

E-Magazine weekly

Set home | Favorites | About Us | Advertising | Contact Us | Copyright | sitemap

Copyright2004-2014 © Beijing Ally Information Inc.All rights reserved