06 Desember 2015

[061215.EN.BIZ] China Expects To Span Globe With Railways In Africa, South America, Europe

CHINA has built the biggest network of high-speed rail on earth in just eight years and now it expects to do the same around the world, reports the MacauHub news portal.

Current plans include a 33-hour hour rail link from Beijing and Moscow as well as routes across South America from the Atlantic to the Pacific and across Africa from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic.

China plans to invest over CNY2.8 trillion (US$437.86 billion) to build more than 23,000 kilometres (14,291 miles) of rail lines over the next five years, state media reported, citing industry sources.

Citing unnamed sources, the state-run Economic Information Daily said the focus will be on inter-city projects as well as the central and western regions of the country, and that the government will increase subsidies to support the sector.

Some CNY3.5 trillion has been spent on China's railway sector since 2011, far more than the CNY2.8 trillion allotted in the country's 12th Five-Year Plan, the newspaper said.

The country's total rail network, mostly built by state-run China Railway Group and China Railway Construction is 112,000 kilometres long. Its high-speed rail network, the world's longest, is 16,000 kilometres long.

New lines running across the Eurasian land mass, funded by Chinese money, are an important part of the “One Road, One Belt' initiative launched by President Xi Jinping, said the Macau report.

Premier Li Keqiang said: "China's manufactured goods have become popular around the world. Now our equipment is going abroad and is earning a good reputation."

At home, it has built 16,000 kilometres of high-speed rail connecting 160 cities, from Harbin in the north to Nanning in the south and from Qingdao in the east to Urumqi in the west.

Official media reports China is in talks with 28 countries on RUB1.06 trillion (US$15.9 billion) on rail projects. They have printed maps showing lines from Harbin to London, via Astana, Moscow, Kiev and Warsaw and from Urumqi to Germany via Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran.

Working with Russian firms, China is building a high-speed line to be completed by 2018 from Moscow to Kazan, capital Tatarstan, covering 770 kilometres and cutting transit from 14 to three and a half hours.

Russia's economy relies heavily on exports of raw materials like oil, gas, timber and minerals, many of them located in the centre and east of the country, while the markets are in China and Europe.

It is reliant on railways to transport these materials. Following its annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine, Russia has faced restrictions on access to western capital markets and now needs Chinese capital to compensate.

The most dramatic project of China's "One Road, One Belt" initiative in Russia is a proposed high-speed line between Beijing and Moscow, running through Kazakhstan covering 7,000 kilometres and cutting transits from six days to 30 hours.

It would run south of the Trans-Siberian Railway via Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.

Russian Railways vice president Alexander Misharin said he expected construction would take from eight to 10 years. He compared the new railway network to the Suez Canal "in terms of scale and significance".

More than any other continent, Africa needs railways. China has promised to build a railway from the Indian to the Atlantic Ocean.

In February this year, a 1,344-kilometre line opened between the Angolan coastal city of Lobito and Luau on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is the second longest railway built by a Chinese company in Africa, after the Tanzania-Zambia line, which opened in 1976.

The new Lobito-Luau line has 67 stations and cost US$1.83 billion; it is the longest, fastest and most modern line in Angola. Beijing provided $500 million in interest-free loans towards construction and technical and equipment support.

This is the first step in a route linking the Atlantic and the Pacific, to be extended through Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique.

In East Africa, China is building a 472-kilometre line between the Kenyan capital of Nairobi and the Port of Mombasa that will cut transits from 15 hours to four and a half hours.

Construction began in October 2014 and is due to be completed in 2017, at an estimated cost of $3.8 billion. The plan is for the line to be part of a new network linking Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda.

Last May, in South America, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang and Brazilian President Dilma Roussell agreed to a feasibility study for a 4,400-kilometre rail link from the Atlantic coast of Brazil to the Pacific coast of Peru.

At present, countries in the region mainly rely on the Panama Canal to ship goods. "Latin America has vast land area but lacks enough railways," said Chen Fengying, a researcher at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.

"It is difficult to raise enough money for such an expensive project from international institutions. China's involvement is critical. Its costs are much lower than those of Japan and Europe," he said.

Source : HKSG.

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