China to invest 120 billion dollars in high-speed rail

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The Independent Travel

China said Wednesday it will spend about 120 billion dollars to nearly double the country's high-speed rail network by 2012, as part of an ambitious programme to expand the national train system.

Beijing will invest 800 billion yuan laying about 6,000 kilometres (3,730 miles) of new high-speed track across the nation, Yu Bangli, Ministry of Railways chief economist, told reporters.

China currently has 6,920 kilometres of high-speed lines in operation, according to figures provided by the ministry, which added that by 2020 the government plans to have more than 16,000 kilometres of high-speed track.

But the massive spending spree, part of Beijing's efforts to boost domestic demand to spur economic growth, has prompted concerns over the solvency of the ministry.

A research report released by China's Minsheng Bank this week estimated the ministry's debt exceeded one trillion yuan in 2009, with its debt-to-assets ratio at more than 55 percent and expected to reach 70 percent in 2012, state media reports said.

But Yu dismissed the concerns, adding the ministry's debt-to-assets ratio was 53 percent at the end of last year.

"I can tell you in a responsible way that currently our balance sheet is very good," he said, without providing a debt figure.

Beijing plans to increase the national rail network from the current 86,000 kilometres to 120,000 kilometres by 2020.