China plans undersea rail tunnel to link provincial capitals

China plans undersea rail tunnel to link provincial capitals :Opening its railway sector to private investment, China is planning to connect capital Beijing with all provincial capitals by high-speed bullet trains through undersea railway tunnel, spanning 5,700kms.

The nationwide undersea tunnel through the Bohai Gulf will be built as part of a network to connect Northeast China and South China’s Hainan Province, extending 5,700kms in 11 provincial regions.

The new undersea rail network will connect Beijing with all provincial capitals with a travel time of eight hours, state-run Global Times said, citing Wang Mengshu, a railway expert at the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

The undersea rail network, if realised, would run from Dalian, Northeast China’s Liaoning Province to Yantai, Shandong Province in a mere 40 minutes, a remarkable improvement from the current six-hour trip.

The official media reports came out after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang sought more private investments in railway, saying railway development will stabilise economic growth, enhance social harmony and help urbanisation.

Railways paid solely by the government and managed by administrative order must become a thing of the past, he said.

However, some experts questioned the comparative advantage of inter-provincial railways over other means of transport.

“It is internationally believed that a distance of 500 km is to the best advantage of high-speed railways and a distance of 1,000 kilometres is the maximum, but the distances between big Chinese cities are usually more than 1,000 kilometres,” Zhao Jian, a professor with the School of Economics and Management at Beijing Jiaotong University, told the daily.

He said that passengers prefer planes for longer trips since high-speed train fares are not cheaper than air fares at that distance.

Zhao chose the 1,300-kilometre-long Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway as an example.

“There are more trains between Beijing and Jinan along the line, at a distance of around 500km than between Beijing and Shanghai, while the number of flights between the two biggest metropolises in China has not decreased,” Zhao said.

Wang, however, argued that the undersea high-speed railway will drive economic development in the northeastern region and meet the huge demand for energy resources from coastal cities.

“In addition to the coastal regions, China should also develop northwestern, northeastern and southeastern parts to be gateways as Central and Western Asian countries serve as large energy exporters for China,” Wang added.

Contradicting the claim, Zhao said that high-speed trains cannot provide freight services, and energy reserves in the three provinces in Northeast China are low.

Even if trains are able to carry goods, the inadequate passenger flow and freight volume from the region will put high-speed railway under great pressure to recoup its enormous building costs, he said.

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