The nationwide undersea tunnel through the Bohai Gulf will be built as part of a network to connect Northeast China and South China’s Hainan Province, extending 5,700kms in 11 provincial regions.
The new undersea rail network will connect Beijing with all provincial capitals with a travel time of eight hours, state-run Global Times said, citing Wang Mengshu, a railway expert at the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
The undersea rail network, if realised, would run from Dalian, Northeast China’s Liaoning Province to Yantai, Shandong Province in a mere 40 minutes, a remarkable improvement from the current six-hour trip.
The official media reports came out after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang sought more private investments in railway, saying railway development will stabilise economic growth, enhance social harmony and help urbanisation.
Railways paid solely by the government and managed by administrative order must become a thing of the past, he said.
However, some experts questioned the comparative advantage of inter-provincial railways over other means of transport.
“It is internationally believed that a distance of 500 km is to the best advantage of high-speed railways and a distance of 1,000 kilometres is the maximum, but the distances between big Chinese cities are usually more than 1,000 kilometres,” Zhao Jian, a professor with the School of Economics and Management at Beijing Jiaotong University said.
He said that passengers prefer planes for longer trips since high-speed train fares are not cheaper than air fares at that distance.
Even if trains are able to carry goods, the inadequate passenger flow and freight volume from the region will put high-speed railway under great pressure to recoup its enormous building costs, he said.