US$12.86 billion high-speed rail project approved, China.

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China’s state planner National Development and Reform Committee (NDRC) has approved a US$12.86 billion high-speed rail project in the southwestern part of the country that will connect Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, with the cities through to Chongqing municipality, according to an NDRC statement. The US$12.86 billion high-speed rail project will involve the construction of 432.4km of railway and comes days after China began construction work on a major railway link in Tibet that will connect Sichuan province with Nyingchi.

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This high-speed rail project comes under China’s investment of US$67.9 billion plan to improve rail connection in the Greater Bay Area, building 775 km (480 miles) of the intercity railway and five transport hubs, according to a plan approved by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). In recent years the scheme has been gradually rolled out with the construction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and the Hong Kong-Guangzhou high-speed train, as well as inter-region cooperation on other infrastructure projects, education, and scientific research.

The connectivity program, which was approved by the NDRC, China’s top economic planning agency, is intended to cover all cities in the area above county level with 5,700 km of the railway by 2035. By then, passengers would be able to commute between major cities in the Greater Bay Area within an hour, major cities to smaller cities within two hours, and major cities to capitals in surrounding provinces within three hours, according to the plan. Under the scheme, transport hubs will be built within cities, connecting airports, train stations, and linking intercity rail systems with inner-city transport. Hong Kong and Macao would also be better integrated into the regional grid, the plan said.

The project is anticipated to face construction challenges due to the rough terrain and complicated geological and climatic conditions in the region.