China to boost rail freight by 30 percent by 2020 in anti-smog push

FILE PHOTO - Freight trains wait at a station in Wuhan, Hubei province, September 14, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China will boost rail freight capacity by 2020 and raise the volume of goods delivered by trains by as much as 30 percent, an environment ministry official said on Thursday, as the country grapples with rising vehicle pollution.

Ding Yan, vice-director of the vehicle emissions control center at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, said trucks produced 13 times more pollution per unit of cargo than trains.

“Motor vehicles have become the primary source of pollution in many large and medium-sized cities,” Ding said in comments published by the environment ministry on Thursday.

The total number of vehicles on China’s roads reached 310 million last year, with car ownership still rising by around 20 million per year. Cars are responsible for about 45 percent of the particulate matter drifting over the capital, Beijing, Ding said.

While China has been making efforts to discourage road freight, particularly in the heavily polluted Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, it still accounted for 76.8 percent of total cargo deliveries in 2017.

Though the government took action to restrict the transportation of coal by road, the share of rail in total freight volumes rose just 0.1 percentage point to 7.7 percent last year, Ding said.

To boost rail freight by 30 percent by the end of the decade, the government will charge higher fees and introduce more stringent monitoring procedures to try to discourage road deliveries, Ding said.

The government will also crack down on fraudulent emissions inspection agencies and raise fuel standards, especially for diesel. The country’s National VI fuel standards, equivalent to the Euro VI introduced in Europe in 2014, are set to be rolled out at the start of next year.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu