More high-speed rails planned

China has 6,552 kilometers of operational high-speed railways (HSR), the most in the world, said Wang Zhiguo, vice minister of the Ministry of Railways at a press conference during the annual parliament session Saturday.

The figure includes 3,676 kilometers of new tracks and 2,876 kilometers of upgraded tracks, with top speeds of 200 kilometers to 250 kilometers per hour.

A mid- and long-term railway network plan includes eight new lines to be completed by 2020.

Four vertical lines will link Beijing and Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong, Beijing and Harbin, and Shanghai and Hong Kong, connecting developed regions such as the Pan Bohai Sea area, Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta.

Four horizontal lines will connect major cities, such as Zhengzhou, Qingdao, Chongqing and Chengdu, facilitating communications between the resource-rich West and the well-developed coastal areas.

Currently, 773 bullet trains deliver 845,000 passengers daily, with an average occupancy rate of 101.7 percent. By 2012, the HSR network will expand to 13,000 kilometers and grow to 16,000 kilometers by 2020, connecting all provincial capitals and cities with more than 500,000 residents, which account for more than 90 percent of the country's population.

"At that time, tickets, particularly during the Spring Festival, will not be hard to get any more," Wang said.

A Xinhua report said China invested about 600 billion yuan (US$88 billion) in railway construction in 2009, which will grow to a record 823.5 billion yuan (US$120.7 billion) in 2010.

Investment for construction will be raised through multiple channels, said Yu Bangli, the chief economist for the Ministry of Railways. China is looking to establish joint ventures and issue bonds.

"Non-governmental investments account for 30 percent of the total," Wang said.