Xinjiang shifts into top gear with high-speed rail
Updated: 2014-11-17 07:31
By Cui Jia in Urumqi(China Daily)
Zhang Tianshun stood patiently outside the Yolchilar blacksmith workshop in Urumqi's Erdaoqiao area.
He was waiting for workshop owner Bayiaji to inspect a traditional cooking grill, before shipping the order to southern China's Shenzhen city by railway.
"Bayiaji's grill is the best and all his products customized for buyers around China are transported by railway," said Zhang, manager of the Tianshun railway logistics company in Urumqi.
The Lanzhou-Xinjiang high-speed railway is expected to have a major impact on his and Bayiaji's business, the 47-year-old said.
When the high-speed railway starts, all passenger trains will gradually be shifted to the new line. The old line, which was opened in the early 1960s and runs lower-speed trains, will serve only freight trains. That means the annual rail freight capacity to Xinjiang could surge to 200 million metric tons from the current 70 million tons, said Ma Liangyuan, director of the transportation department of the regional development and reform commission.
"Increased freight capacity could lower the shipment cost, which will bring more business to me and make the price of Bayiaji's products more competitive," Zhang said.
Xinjiang residents have a common complaint - online stores often exclude them from free nationwide shipping because the costs are too high. But Zhang believes the high-speed link could change that.
The old Lanzhou-Xinjiang railway is the only rail link to ship goods to and from Xin - jiang. Its capacity has reached its limit and can no longer meet the surging demand, said Yan Hailong, deputy director of the regional development and reform commission's regional economies research institute.
During peak seasons, people face difficulties in shipping Xinjiang's agricultural products and other resources. That also affects the planned relocation of some industries from the country's coastal areas to the west, he said.
Zhang said his orders include large quantities of Xinjiang's famous dried fruit such as raisins, dates and apricots.
"I have no problem shipping dried fruit but I have to turn down orders of fresh fruit because I cannot guarantee they can arrive at their destinations before they begin to rot."
There will be fewer such interruptions after the old Lanzhou-Xinjiang railway is reserved for freight and he plans to try delivering fresh fruit by then, Zhang said.
Xinjiang is rich in coal and oil reserves. The cost and time taken to ship its coal to other parts of China will also be lower, which could contribute to China's energy security, Yan said.
In September last year, President Xi Jinping proposed during a visit to Kazakhstan that China and other countries build a modern Silk Road Economic Belt to boost cooperation and essentially revive the ancient trade route linking China and Europe that dates back more than 2,000 years.
To that effect, the latest high-speed rail development could help plug the gaps in connectivity and transport infrastructure.
"The increased freight capacity could significantly help to boost trade with neighboring countries and countries on the Silk Road Economic Belt, making Xinjiang a trade hub," Ma said.
"The high-speed railway will facilitate economic and social development in the autonomous region."
An attendant checks a passenger's ticket on the high-speed train from Hami to Urumqi on Sunday. Zhao Ge / Xinhua