BEIJING, April 5-- How fast is fast? According to China's road planners, the answer is 24,000 kilometres per five years not driving, but building expressways.|
That total length of new expressways will roughly equal that in Canada and Germany combined. The two countries rank third and fourth in the world in expressway length.
The length of expressways in China was 41,000 kilometres at the end of 2005, the world's second longest only after the United States. About 24,000 kilometres were added in 2001-05, or 4,800 kilometres per year.
In 1988, China did not have an inch of expressway, according to Dai Dongchang, director of Transport Planning and Research Institute affiliated to the Ministry of Communications. But in 2010, the total length is expected to be around 65,000 kilometres. The United States had some 90,000 kilometres in 2005.
At least 60 per cent of the Chinese economy is facilitated by road transportation, the planning official said.
After its completion in 2010, the Chinese expressway network will connect all provincial capitals and cities with at least half-a-million population, as well as some with population ranging between 200,000 and 500,000.
In coastal provinces, people will be able to reach good roads(not necessarily expressways) within half an hour of travel from their homes.
In Central China, the time span will be within one hour while in the western regions, it will be within two hours, Dai said.
"Our plan for the next five years is to maintain the same speed as in the previous five years," Dai said in an interview with China Daily.
Over the longer term, Dai said, the plan is to increase the total length of expressways to at least 85,000 kilometres by 2020. During the period, some 2 trillion yuan(US$241.9 billion) will be raised for road development from overseas and private investors.
But industry analysts said that by then, the length could be more than the 90,000 kilometres in the United States last year.
"It is because road projects could be independently undertaken by local governments," said Wang Yuanqing, a professor at Chang'an Univeristy in Xi'an, the provincial capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province. The central government's plan covers only the national trunk system.
The overall road plan"takes into account regional, urban and rural development and population distribution," Dai said.
The planned expressway network will also stretch to Hong Kong and Macao, and include the proposed Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge. A feasibility study on a road link across the Taiwan Straits is also being conducted.
At least three major expressways will be built to link China's major economic hubs such as the Pearl River Delta, the Yangtze River Delta and the Bohai Sea Rim areas before 2020.
"Although transportation is no longer a bottleneck for the economy, we still need to expand its role," Dai said. Despite the huge investment,"building roads is an ideal way," he claimed,"to help the economy grow."
To facilitate the transportation of the same amount of goods and people, expressways use up 40 per cent less land than ordinary roads, cut down vehicle emissions by almost a third and reduce traffic accidents by a third, he said.
(Source: China Daily)