BEIJING, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) -- China's rapidly expanding and modernizing rail network will record 1.64 billion passenger journeys in 2010, up 120 million or 7.6 percent from last year, Railways Minister Liu Zhijun said Thursday.
At a national railways work conference in Beijing, Liu forecast the larger network would also carry 3.5 billion tonnes of freight, up 5.4 percent year on year.
In 2009, a total of 1.52 billion journeys were made, and 3.32 billion tonnes of freight were transported, both breaking records.
The Ministry of Railways (MOR) forecast 210 million train passengers during the Spring Festival "peak period" (Jan. 30- March. 10) this year, 9.5 percent more than last year.
The MOR revealed at the conference the China's railways in operation reached 86,000 kilometers (km) in length by the end of 2009, second only to the United States.
Railways investment in 2009 alone was more than the total amount from1995 to 2005, hitting 600 billion yuan (88 billion U.S. dollars), up 79 percent year on year, according to the MOR.
"Another 33,000 kilometers of railways are now under construction. This will need 2.1 trillion yuan of investment in the years to come," said Liu.
Investment on the Beijing-Shanghai High-speed Railway had reached 122.4 billion yuan, he said.
Construction of the high-speed railway, with a designed travel speed of 350 km per hour, started in April 2008 and would finish in around five years. The 1,318-km line would cut travel times between the two cities to only five hours from about 12 hours.
In late December, the Wuhan-Guangzhou high-speed line opened with a 350-km-per-hour average speed. Travel time between the cities was cut to three hours from 10 previously.
However, the country's vast rail system is also vulnerable to natural mishaps. The worst snow in five decades hit central and south China in mid-January 2008, causing rail disruptions and stranding tens of thousands of people, many of them migrant workers rushing back home for the Spring Festival, at rail stations.
In the northern Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, passenger trains have been trapped in snow and icy weather that hit north China last week, and on Tuesday, the Ministry of Transport called on transport authorities to make "all-out efforts" to clear the snow.