January 31, 2018 / 4:44 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 2-China aims to boost rail freight capacity to ensure coal supplies

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BEIJING, Jan 31 (Reuters) - China will add at least 200 million tonnes of rail freight capacity in 2018, including at least 150 million tonnes of thermal coal capacity, a senior government official told Reuters on Wednesday.

Lian Weiliang, deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, also said the government is working with the national rail operator to ensure coal supplies after a surge in demand for power.

China is trying to push more transportation of goods from coal to agricultural produce onto the rail network and reduce transport by road as part of its effort to reduce pollution.

Adding 200 million tonnes to the rail network would mark an increase of 5 percent from 2017 rail cargo volumes of 3.69 billion tonnes.

That’s still much lower than volumes by road, by far the most popular way to transport freight, of almost 37 billion tonnes.

Lian, speaking at a briefing ahead of China’s Spring Festival starting Feb. 16, also said the government and rail operator are prioritising current coal deliveries for power plants.

Utilities have warned of heating and electricity shortages after blizzards snarled railroads and highways, cutting off critical supplies of the fuel ahead of the upcoming holiday.

“We have worked with China Railway Corp to outline measures to target power plants that have less than seven days of coal stocks,” Lian told reporters, adding that checks had been carried out on 26 such plants.

“The railway departments will prioritise coal to guarantee that supplies are within the safe range,” he said.

Currently coal stocks at power plants nationwide are enough for 15 days, “within the safe range”, he said. (Reporting by Dominique Patton; additional reporting by Josephine Mason; editing by Richard Pullin)

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