WITH seventeen new trunk lines under construction, to be supplemented by many local railways undertaken by the local authorities, and with the first powerful diesel engines and modern passenger cars already successfully trial-produced, a far-flung modernized railway network is gradually shaping up in China.
Railways today are regarded as one of the keys in the great leap forward of the national economy, since they pave the way for the rapid development of other branches of the economy. In the nationwide battle for steel, they play an important role in transporting iron ore, fuel, and equipment.
A major effort this year is the double tracking of the two main north-south trunk lines — PekingCanton and Tientsin-Shanghai — and of the east-west Lunghai railway from the Yellow Sea to Lanchow and the province of Sinkiang.
Peking is building a line connecting Lanchow with Sining, Lhasa, and the oil centers in the Tsaidam Basin. The Lanchow route, which goes through Sinkiang to Urumchi and into Russia, should be ready soon.
When the Communists took over ten years ago, there were roughly 13,500 miles of railways, less than half in operation, most of them in disrepair. The Communists claim that, between 1950 and 1957, they rebuilt 2074 miles of old lines and built 3962 miles of new lines. They say that they built an additional 1400 miles in 1958.
Peking’s goal in the next few years is a nationwide railway network which will link all the provincial capitals. The north-south trunk lines, the east-west trunk lines, and the new lines connecting the southwest and the northwest with the rest of the country will form the backbone of this network. They will be supplemented by regional lines and circular lines bringing together autonomous regions and areas inhabited by national minorities.