China’s Infrastructure Splurge Rushing on by Road, Rail and Air

China's Infrastructure Splurge Rushing on by Road, Rail and Air
China’s Infrastructure Splurge Rushing on by Road, Rail and Air

The new Beijing airport terminal was designed by a British firm headed by Mouzhan Majidi. The terminal is the largest in the world, having been built by over 50,000 workers. It is about 1.8 miles long with a floor space 17% bigger than those in London. China wants this terminal to impress the people who will be going there for the Olympics. The country has, therefore, put a budget of $3.8 billion for the expansion of the terminal. The airport is currently the ninth busiest in the world. China’s rapid integration and economic growth have put a strain on its national infrastructure. A lot of money has therefore been spent on the expansion of the railways, roads, and air networks.

The state media has predicted a double in transport investment for the remaining part of the decade. The longest sea-crossing bridge in the world is to be opened in June. The bridge has six lanes and covers a distance of 36km. The travel time between Shanghai and Ningbo will be halved in the process. Work also began on a railway line between Shanghai and Beijing. If completed, the 1300km line will also reduce the travel time between the two cities by five hours. The country hopes that by 2020, it would have constructed over 70,00km of expressways.

The Open Road

The construction of expressways has diverted freight traffic from the railway system. It has also led to increased private car ownership among the Chinese nationals. The Chinese government launched a program to develop a “new socialist countryside”. This was an effort to reduce the widening gap between urban and rural services and incomes. The program aimed at constructing new rural roads covering over 300,000km. The investment in railway transport has failed to catch up with the pace of road transport. However, investment in the railway sector has grown considerably in the past ten years. For instance, the investment this year alone is set to increase to $42billion as compared to $72billion for the past five years combined. It is predicted that investment in the railway will reduce the cost of logistics and also bring down the level of pollution. China has also witnessed a higher increase in air passengers. The government has a plan in place to add 97 more airports before 2020.

No tree-hugger allowed

There was no consultation between the Chinese government and the public on the construction of the terminal.There is a need to adopt a heavy-handed approach to appropriation of land. There is no clear definition of who owns rural land. Local officials seize land from the rightful owners and offer them little compensation. There is no question that grand plans in the transport sector will encounter more resistance in the coming years. People are becoming vocal and demanding for inclusivity in decision making when it comes to projects that affect them. Shanghai, for instance, experienced the most massive urban protest, where thousands were against the extension of a Maglev train line.

Olympic Swank

There has been a rapid expansion of underground railways. According to the World Bank, the extension is diverting resources from the needs in the bus system. About twenty years ago, only Tianjin and Beijing had subway systems. Now there are over fifteen cities which have developed these systems for a cost of billions of dollars. However, there are complains about how things generally work. There are so many traffic-slowing booths studded on expressways and intercity roads. The provinces have been made to shoulder some of the cost to speed up the construction of highways. Provinces use toll revenue to repay loans provided by banks.

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