Rail network spending up in China

BEIJING — China spent 54.5 billion yuan (S$8.8 billion) on railway infrastructure in the first quarter, up 28 per cent from a year earlier, Xinhua news agency reported yesterday, citing China Railway Corporation, the newly created state-owned company.

The total budget for railway investment this year is set at 650 billion yuan, up from 631 billion yuan in 2012, it said. Of that total, 520 billion yuan is earmarked for railway infrastructure. Some 5,200 kilometres of new railway track will be laid this year, it said.

China began overhauling its massive but troubled railway system last month. The Railways Ministry was dismantled and its administrative and commercial functions separated. The construction and operation of the rail networks was put in the hands of China Railway.

The railway system has long been plagued by corruption allegations and heavy debt, and since a deadly 2011 train crash also under a cloud of safety concerns. Earlier this month, former railway chief Liu Zhijun was charged with bribery and abuse of power.