World Bank calls for enhanced planning and decision-making to ensure efficiency of urban rail development in China

July 22, 2010

BEIJING, July 22, 2010 –Market conditions are right for rapid development of urban rail transport in China, but improvements in some technical areas are needed to ensure full social benefits of the heavy physical investments, said a new World Bank report.
In 2003 the Government of China approved urban rail development plans of 15 cities with a total length of 1,733 km and investment of about $92 billion.  By the end of 2009 more than 900 km of urban rail lines were already in operations in 10 cities.  A number of new lines proposed are under consideration.  The World Bank report Urban Rail Development in China: Issues and Options presents the findings of a group of international and domestic urban rail experts who visited some Chinese cities (Beijing, Chongqing, Wuhan, Changsha, Hangzhou and Zhengzhou) and held discussions with central and local level governments.  The study is aimed to assist in improving policymaking and planning of urban rail development in China’s cities, as well as help the World Bank effectively target its support to this important sub-sector of China’s transport system. The activities were jointly organized by the World Bank and the Institute of Comprehensive Transport under China’s National Development and Reform Commission. 
“China has had four decades of urban rail development starting from Beijing’s Subway Line One. But the rapid development of modern urban rail systems is rather recent.  There are areas where policy and process could be strengthened to achieve even greater social benefits and sustainable development of cities,” said Mr. Klaus Rohland, World Bank Country Director for China and Mongolia. “These challenges are similar to those confronted by many other high- and middle-income countries.  By brining global knowledge and expertise, the World Bank is keen to work with China’s national and municipal governments to promote the sustainable development of this increasingly important sector.” 
The report highlights the positive outlook for urban rail development in China and the advantages and institutions that the country possesses in responding to that outlook.  It also identifies the key areas where strengthening institutions and processes of urban rail planning would enhance the contribution of urban railways to sustainable urban development and improve value for money from specific urban rail investments.  The report makes specific recommendations to this end.  The report also calls for enhanced planning and decision-making process to ensure that the expensive urban rail investments achieve the expected outcomes including meeting the growing travel demand, alleviating road congestion, reducing air pollution and CO2 emissions, and promoting compact land use development. 
Specifically, the report recommends: (i) better integration of urban land use and transport strategies as a foundation for urban rail development, (ii) more in-depth analysis and selection of alignments and technologies, (iii) introduction of risk assessment and mitigation techniques to address project risks associated with design, financing, construction, operations, safety, ridership and revenues, (iv) better integration of different transport modes, (v) private sector participation in the financing and operations of urban rail, (vi) strengthening of the central government review process of urban rail investment plans and projects, and (vii) support to R&D in urban rail technologies.
The World Bank recently started preparation of a new urban rail investment project in collaboration with the Kunming Municipal Government which will be the first Bank-supported urban rail project in China.

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