China plans to expand railway network to 200,000 km before 2035

BEIJING (Reuters) - China plans to expand its railway network, the second largest in the world, by one-third in the next decade and a half, as part of a long-term plan to rev up urbanisation and stimulate local economies.

China aims to have about 200,000 kilometres (124,274 miles) of railway tracks by the end of 2035, including about 70,000 km of high-speed railway, according to a plan issued by state-owned China State Railway Group.

The targets compare with a total length of 141,400 km of existing rail lines as of end-July, among which 36,000 km are high-speed routes, the most in the world, company data showed.

The goals would mean a 33.3% increase in China’s railway network from this year and a 133% expansion in high-speed railway, according to Reuters calculations.

In a 2016-2020 plan issued in 2016, China said it aimed to expand its railway network to 150,000 km by 2020, including 30,000 km of high-speed rail.

All cities with a population of over 200,000 will be covered by the railway network before 2035, and those with a population of more than 500,000 will be connected to high-speed tracks, according to the latest plan.

China will also promote railway construction in places dominated by ethnic minority groups, as well as border areas and underdeveloped regions in central and western China, to help alleviate poverty and revitalise the countryside, the company said.

The world’s second-largest economy has vowed to speed up urbanisation and new infrastructure investments to revive an economy battered by the novel coronavirus epidemic.

Fixed-asset investment in railways totalled 325.8 billion yuan ($46.93 billion) in the first half of this year, up 1.2% from a year earlier, the company said last month.

Reporting by Lusha Zhang and Ryan Woo. Editing by Gerry Doyle