China says needs extra million km of roads by 2020

BEIJING, Nov 16 (Reuters) - China needs to build 1 million kilometres of new roads by 2020, when highway use will have more than doubled, the Xinhua news agency said on Friday, even though Beijing is concerned about energy security and rising pollution.

Vice Minister of Communications Feng Zhenglin said the country needed to upgrade its network to prepare for the estimated 36.5 billion passenger trips that will be made on its roads by the end of next decade, Xinhua reported.

China currently has 3.5 million km (2.2 million miles) of road, but over half of that is low grade and it has only 53,000 km of expressways, Feng told a summit on highway construction.

Beijing is pushing for cleaner growth after years of chasing economic expansion at any cost and is worried about a rising reliance on foreign oil, which meets nearly half its needs.

But despite growing environmental concerns and the rising popularity of hybrid cars in some countries, oil-based fuels are likely to power most vehicles in the near future.

Already the world's number two oil consumer, China's highways face a 150 percent rise in passenger transport and a 40 percent increase in freight to 20 billion tonnes by 2020, Feng said.

Although officials are also keen to curb unnecessary fixed asset investment, Feng said the country would boost spending on road construction to 660 billion yuan ($88.9 billion) this year, from 623 billion yuan in 2006. ($1=7.423 Yuan) (Reporting by Emma Graham-Harrison; editing by Roger Crabb)