BEIJING, February 12, 2007 –China has made great achievements in the development of its expressway network in the last fifteen years, with a large stock of highway assets created. As the expressway network matures, the central and provincial governments of China must address the requirements of a growing number of road assets that demand adequate maintenance and safe operations as well as financing mechanism to realize a balanced development. While stressing the positive impacts of the development of the expressway network over the last fifteen years, a World Bank study presented at a joint seminar with the Chinese Ministry of Communications (MOC) on February 12, 2007, proposes the implementation of enhanced planning, financing, and management approaches to ensure the sustainable upkeep and effective management of expressway assets and facilitate the distribution of opportunities across Chinese regions.
China's Expressways: Connecting People and Markets for Equitable Development examines the remarkable growth of the Chinese expressway network over the last fifteen years and compares this development with those that took place in other developed countries in the past. The report concurs with the Chinese Government's priority to the development of the transport infrastructure as an engine to facilitate and spur economic growth, as well as a way to achieve more equitable development. Looking forward to the continued expansion of the network, the report highlights the challenges that lie ahead along three major strategic areas for action: (a) investment planning; (b) financing; and (c) management and operations. The report makes recommendations for strengthening the planning methodologies, the financing framework, and the approaches for the maintenance and management of the network, towards ensuring the sustainability of road assets and its more efficient use. Revamped strategies related to maintenance mechanisms, control of overloading, tolling and fuel charges policies, and road safety are highlighted in the report.
Weng Mengyong, Vice Minister of Communications attended the workshop and expressed appreciation for the World Bank's support to China's transport sector. “China will focus on the development of the National Expressway Network in the next two decades." said Vice Minister Weng. "We will continue to expand our transport capacities in order to support economic and social development, help build a new socialist countryside, and facilitate the mobility of people." He noted that the Ministry of Communications is willing to work with the World Bank in all areas including expressways, rural roads and inland waterways, as well as in knowledge cooperation. The World Bank can bring in new ideas and management experience to China's transport sector, he said.
"The development of China's expressway network over the last fifteen years is remarkable and on a par to the development of the interstate highway system in the US fifty years ago. This development has generated impressive reductions in transport costs and travel times, enhancing the competitiveness of Chinese markets," said Christian Delvoie, Director of the Sustainable Development Department, East Asia and Pacific Region of the World Bank. " Looking ahead, a concerted effort must be undertaken to enhance the management of the growing number of highway assets while confronting the needs of more distant regions with lower traffic volumes and more limited resources."
Since its first loan to China's transport sector in 1983, the World Bank has lent over $8 billion to support a series of highway and waterway projects. At the request of MOC, the World Bank started the expressway retrospective study in 2005. The report China's Expressways: Connecting People and Markets for Equitable Development is the outcome of the first phase of the research collaboration. MOC and the World Bank are discussing a new study focused on the impact of highway investment and approach for effective and efficient highway management. .