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Hebei set for rapid rail links

High speed trains will connect all 11 prefecture-level cities in Hebei province by 2012 as the rail network expands to cover more of eastern China, said Wang Dejin, director of the Beijing Railway Bureau in Hebei's capital Shijiazhuang.

"Passenger railways with speeds over 200 km an hour will cover the region by then," he said. "The 11 cities of Hebei will be included in the network with at least two railways through each."

Hebei will then become the first province in the nation with all prefectural cities connected by high-speed railways, he said, which will help ease ticket shortages and spur economic development in the province.

Wang said all scheduled rapid rail projects will begin in 2009 as planned.

"There are 17 lines in Heibei currently under construction or that will start work in the near term," he said. "In the next four years 300 billion yuan will be invested in building 3,000 km of railways."

Lines from Beijing to Zhangjiakou, Tangshan and Shenyang through Chengde, as well Shijiazhuang to Jinan through Hengshui and Baoding to Tianjin, will begin construction this year.

Work on railways from Beijing to Shijiazhuang through Baoding, Shijiazhuang to Wuhan through Xingtai and Handan, Tianjin to Qinhuangdao and Beijing to Shanghai through Langfang and Cangzhou began last year.

A 261-km-long line from Tianjin to Qinhuangdao received approval from the central government in July 2008. Its speed for passenger rail travel is 200 km an hour, but it is designed to reach 350 km an hour.

The project is projected to cost 33.8 billion yuan, of which Hebei will contribute 4.3 billion yuan, with the Ministry of Railways and Tianjin funding the rest.

Upon completion in four years, the railway's transport capacity is estimated to reach 80 million passengers a year.

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