China is planning to spend US$68bn on improvements to its rail network in the Greater Bay Area of Guangdong, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Macau.
The Intercity Railway Construction Plan was recently approved by China’s National Development and Reform Commission. The plan will encapsulate the construction of 13 rail lines between five hubs, linking the special administrative regions with nine cities in Guangdong to form a more integrated economic unit.
New lines to be launched before 2022 include the Shenzhen Airport to Daya Bay Intercity line, a link between Shenzhen Airport and Pingshan, the Guangqing Intercity North Extension line and the Guangzhou East Railway Station renovation project.
The new lines will bring the total rail network of the region, both existing and under construction, to 4,700km by 2025. The plan aims to reduce hub-to-hub travel times between any two major cities in the network to less than an hour.
Compared to the city-to-city model, the hub-based transport design is better since it makes it easier for passengers to switch between intercity rail systems, airports and city-region transport networks.
Guo Wanda, executive vice-president of Shenzhen think tank the China Development Institute, said, “There are still too few railway lines between cities; it’s inconvenient to switch from railways to subways, and other services, such as ticketing and road signs, are not integrated.”
Currently, the Pearl Delta cities have a combined GDP of around US$1.5 trillion, approximately equal to South Korea. The government aims to reach a GDP of US$4.6 trillion by 2030.
The plan also aims to balance out economic development across the region. Presently, the eastern part of the delta is thriving economically. The improved transportation is hoped to increase economic growth in the less developed western areas across the delta, specifically the Zhuhai, Zhongshan and Jiangmen clusters.
The nine cities of Guangdong are, in order of population size, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen, Huizhou and Zhaoqing.
The plan also benefits the government politically in terms of closely integrating Hong Kong and Macau into the Guangdong region.