By end of 2021, China's railways reached 150,000 km, second largest in world, behind only 250,000 km in United States. From development of China's railway industry in 1876 to 2022, nearly 150 years have passed in construction of China's railways. Over past 150 years, railroad construction in China has grown from scratch, from piecemeal to systematic, from backward to advanced, creating epic epics.
However, railroad coverage in China still lags far behind US and it will take a long time to catch up. Many people will ask: Aren't China's railways very dense? All major cities are connected by railroads, why is length of railroads so much less than in US? As you look closely at map, you will find that construction of vertical railways in China is already very intensive, but horizontal railways are clearly not enough.
Let's look at vertical railroad first. From east to west, main vertical railway channels built in China include Beijing-Shanghai Railway, Beijing-Kowloon Railway, Beijing-Guangzhou Railway, Jiao Liu Railway, Hohhot-Nanning Railway, Yinchuan-Kunming Railway, Lanzhou Railway, Chongqing Railway, Xicheng-Guizhou-Guangzhou High-Speed Railway, etc. are very dense.
Let's look at horizontal railroad again. China's main horizontal rail corridors are Shanghai-Kunming Railway, Shanghai-Kunming High-Speed Railway, Kunming-Guangzhou High-Speed Railway, Lanhai Railway, Lanhai High-Speed Railway, Beijing-Baotou Railway, Shanghai-Chengdu High-Speed Railway, etc. etc., rest are branches. In addition, east-west high-speed rail lines and conventional rail lines overlap very heavily, resulting in many cities in south lacking east-west rail lines.
Why is this happening? First of all, this is due to economic structure of China. China's economic differences are mainly manifested in differences between east and west, rather than differences between north and south. At same time, economic complementarity between north and south is very strong, so a large number of railways are needed to connect north and south. south. For example, coal from Shanxi needs to be transported south, so a Jiaoliwu railway canal can be built that does not pass through provincial capital.
China high-speed rail planning map: north-south direction is very dense, and east-west direction is relatively sparse
Secondly, capital of China is Beijing, so general scheme of Chinese railways, of course, comes from Beijing. However, geographically, Beijing is located in north, so a large number of north-south railways are needed to connect Beijing to south, and major railway corridors such as Beijing-Shanghai, Beijing-Guangzhou, and Beijing-Kowloon have emerged.
Third, water transport in Yangtze and Pearl River basins is well developed, which has led to many years of delay in construction of freight railways on both rivers. From Sichuan to Shanghai and from Nanning to Guangzhou, there are no relatively straight conventional rail lines because these lines do not require rail transport. It was not until era of high-speed rail that Shanghai-Chengdu high-speed railway and Nanguang high-speed railway were built. It can be seen that development of water transport in south is an important factor in absence of horizontal railways.
But is Chinese horizontal railway enough? In fact, due to lack of horizontal railroads, many parts of China have become economically depressed. For example, from south Jiangxi to south Guizhou, urban development along this route is seriously lagging behind, and there are similar sections along Huai River. So how many east-west rail corridors does China need?
Let's first look at area south of Shanghai-Kunming line. In south of entire Shanghai-Kunming line in China, there is only one east-west railway, that is, Kunming-Nanning-Guangzhou high-speed railway line. The radiation area of this railway is very limited, so its ability to stimulate economy should be limited. It is very unreasonable that there is no horizontal railway connecting all of Fujian with Jiangxi, Hunan, Guizhou, southern Zhejiang and northern Guangdong and Guangxi. Therefore, in Fujian Province and in south of Zhejiang, several horizontal railways need to be built, crossing several provinces and regions, and reaching Kunming, Yunnan.
The main road could be railway from Wenzhou to Kunming. Starting from Kunming, railway passes through Xinyi and Dushan in southern Guizhou, Yongzhou and Hengyang in Hunan, Ji'an in Jiangxi, Nanping in Fujian, and finally reaching Wenzhou in Zhejiang. In this way, transportation problems of tributary cities on south bank of Yangtze River can be solved, and flow of people and materials to various provinces can be facilitated.
Wen Kun Railway
The second route is from Fuzhou to Kunming. Starting from Fuzhou, railway passed through Sanming in Fujian, Ruijin and Ganzhou in Jiangxi, Chenzhou and Daoxian in Hunan, Guilin and Hechi in Guangxi, and finally merged with Wenkun railway in Xingyi, Guizhou.
The third railway goes from Quanzhou to Kunming. The railway starts in Quanzhou, passes through Longyan in Fujian, Meizhou and Shaoguan in Guangdong, Hezhou and Liuzhou in Guangxi, and finally joins Nankun or Yonggui high-speed railway in Baixe. This rail line mainly connects traffic to Fujian, Guangdong, and northern Guangxi, bridging gap in rail traffic between three provinces.
North of Shanghai-Kunming line and south of Longhai line, two main rail lines are still needed. The first is railroad from Hangzhou to Ruili, which is mostly parallel to current Hangzhou Expressway. Starting from Hangzhou, the railway passes through Huangshan Mountain in Anhui, Jiujiang in Jiangxi, Yueyang, Changde and Jishou in Hunan, Tongren, Zunyi and Bijie in Guizhou, Panzhihua in Sichuan and finally reaches Lijiang in Yunnan.
The meaning of this railway is completely different. It connects second largest city in Guizhou, Hunan Province, Jiangxi and largest city in Zhejiang Province, and also connects poor areas such as Jinsha River, Wumeng Mountain, and Wuling Mountain. . At same time, Hangzhou, Huangshan, Jiujiang, Yueyang, Zhangjiajie, Tongren, and Lijiang along railway are important tourist cities, and ability of this line to stimulate tourism cannot be underestimated.
The second railway runs from Yancheng to Hanzhong. Starting from Yancheng in Jiangsu Province, railway passes through Huai'an in Jiangsu Province, Bengbu and Huainan in Anhui Province, Xinyang in Henan Province, Xiangyang and Shiyan in Hubei Province, Ankang in Shaanxi Province, and finally arrives in Hanzhong. The railway connects two main water systems of Han River and Huai River, and can be called Han-Huai Railway. The construction of railway will connect economic depressions in Han and Huai river basins, forming a new sea channel.
From Longhai Railway to Beijing-Baotou Railway, China still needs two railways from east to west. The first railway starts from Cangzhou in Hebei, travels west through Shijiazhuang in Hebei, Taiyuan in Shanxi, Suide in Shaanxi, Yinchuan in Ningxia, and finally reaches Wuwei in Gansu and joins Lanxin line. The railway passes through many provincial capitals and its importance is obvious. At present, many sections of railway have been completed, only section from Yinchuan to Taiyuan has not yet been completed. Once completed, railway will become a horizontal railway line, second only to Longhai line in north.
The second railway from Qingdao to Lanzhou can be called Lanqing Railway. The railway starts in Qingdao, passes through Jinan and Liaocheng in Shandong, reaches Handan in Hebei, connects Changzhi and Linfen in Shanxi, Fuxian in Shaanxi, Qingyang in Gansu, Gushi in Ningxia, and finally arrives in Lanzhou. The eastern section of railway has been built, but section from Lanzhou to Changzhi is still a long way off. After completion of railway, transportation between Shaanxi and Shanxi will become more convenient, and road from Lanzhou to Shandong will be opened, which will help strengthen Lanzhou's status as a railway hub.
In total, 7 railways are indicated above, each of which runs from east to west and connects several cities, which is very important. Now that construction of railway between major provincial capitals of China has been basically completed, more horizontal railways remain to be built to connect prefectures and cities of different provinces and improve railway network. With completion of aforementioned seven major railroad channels, total length of China's railroads will be close to that of the United States.