Roads:

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Page Two -

hai gov­ern­ment, the Ex­press­way opened to traf­fic in Oc­to­ber, 1988, mark­ing the start of China’s mas­sive plan to up­grade the high­way net­work.

China’s first pur­pose­built high­way: The Shang­hai-Jiad­ing Ex­press­way

Grow­ing net­work

In the early 1980s, the length of China’s high­way net­work was no more than 900,000 km, ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Trans­port.

By the end of last year, the to­tal length of high­ways open to traf­fic was about 4.8 mil­lion km, about 5.2 times the length in 1984 when high­way con­struc­tion work was in the early stage of de­vel­op­ment, the Min­istry of Trans­port said.

Last year, ex­press­ways at­tain­ing mod­ern trans­porta­tion stan­dards ac­counted for 136,500 kilo­me­ters of the to­tal length of high­ways na­tion­wide, the long­est net­work in the world, the min­istry said.

Ex­press­way con­struc­tion re­ally be­gan to take shape in 2005 when the min­istry in­tro­duced the “7918” net­work, which in­cluded seven ra­dial ex­press­ways from Bei­jing, nine north-to-south ex­press­ways, and 18 east-to-west ex­press­ways.

The net­work was up­graded with two more north-to-south ex­press­ways af­ter the min­istry re­leased the Na­tional High­way Net­work Plan­ning (20132030) pro­gram in 2013. The net­work was then re­named “71118”.

In­vest­ment in high­way con­struc­tion was 2.1 tril­lion yuan last year, a rise of 18.2 per­cent from 2016, and fund­ing for ex­press­ways ex­ceeded 900 bil­lion yuan, a rise of 12.4 per­cent from the year be­fore, ac­cord­ing to the min­istry.

The rapid de­vel­op­ment of the high­way net­work has greatly im­proved traf­fic ca­pac­ity and ef­fi­ciency.

Cheng Xin­guang, a 50-yearold from Jixi county, Xuancheng city, An­hui prov­ince, has been im­pressed by the great changes high­way con­struc­tion work has brought for him.

Be­fore the ex­press­way con­nect­ing Jixi and Hangzhou city, Zhe­jiang prov­ince, opened in 2014, Cheng used to drive on wind­ing moun­tain roads for more than three hours to reach his home­town in Zhe­jiang and visit his par­ents’ house.

“The road I used to drive on has many curves which made it ex­tremely dan­ger­ous when en­coun­ter­ing large trucks and cars,” he said.

“Now it is much safer and eas­ier to get home, and it only takes about 90 min­utes.”

The world’s long­est desert-cross­ing high­way: The Bei­jing-Urumqi Ex­press­way

China’s busiest high­way: The GuangzhouShen­zhen Ex­press­way

Toll­ways

How­ever, the high­way con­struc­tion pro­gram has also sparked an ar­gu­ment about sec­tions that in­clude toll­ways.

Na­tion­wide, the length of toll­ways had reached 163,700 km by the end of last year, ac­count­ing for 3.4 per­cent of the to­tal length of the na­tion’s high­ways, ac­cord­ing to the min­istry.

The na­tion’s toll­ways at­tracted com­bined in­vest­ment of more than 8 tril­lion yuan from 2010 un­til the end of last year, the min­istry said. How­ever, their com­bined deficit reached 403 bil­lion yuan last year.

The Ji­huang Ex­press­way, a toll­way that runs from Jixi to Huang­shan city, con­nects An­hui and Zhe­jiang. Con­struc­tion fin­ished in 2014.

Cheng, along with most of his peers who use this ex­press­way, cares more about safety than the toll fees he pays at the var­i­ous booths.

“It costs 40 yuan for a sin­gle trip of about 110 km,” he said. “It’s not ex­pen­sive, be­cause the shorter dis­tance means I use less fuel and my ve­hi­cle is not get­ting worn out on the high­way com­pared with the poorly main­tained twist­ing moun­tain road,” he said.

“The toll fee, from my per­spec­tive, is nec­es­sary for the main­te­nance and op­er­a­tion of a healthy and con­ve­nient high­way. I pay the money for a

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