China will pump in USD 117 billion for the second consecutive year to add 35 new projects to the world’s second-largest railway network as it aims to halt the slowdown of the economy through massive state investments.
Construction of 35 new railway projects will begin in 2017 to expand the network, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The report cited unnamed officials as saying that construction will start on 2,100 km of new rail lines, 2,500 km of double-track lines and 4,000 km of electrified lines this year.
To achieve the targets, China Railway Corp (CRC) has been assigned a budget of 800 billion yuan (about USD 117 billion) by the central government, the same as in 2016, the report said.
Vice Minister of Transport Yang Yudong has earlier said China will spend 3.5 trillion yuan on railway construction during the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020).
By 2020, China will have increased the length of high-speed railways in operation to 30,000 kms, connecting more than 80 per cent of its big cities.
China already had a 124,000 km railway network, featuring the world’s largest high-speed rail network of more than 22,000 km till last year.
The big push for bullet trains evoked criticism as except for the Beijing-Shanghai line, most of the other high-speed lines were found to be not profitable.
While the vast network has enhanced connectivity in the country, construction of lines lags in the less-developed western regions. To address this gap, much of this year’s planned projects will happen in central and western regions, to support the wider poverty-relief campaign, the CRC said.
The USD-117 billion allocation also meant China wanted to continue its reliance on an investment-driven economy to spur growth. The economy slowed down to 6.7 per cent from 6.9 per cent in 2015, a 25-year-low.
The slowdown is expected to continue.