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High-speed railways to drive economic integration around Beijing

TIANJIN, March 21 (Xinhua) -- The construction of a new express railway section between two cities near Beijing was kicked off Sunday, which, when completed, is expected to further speed up economic integration around the Chinese capital.

The 158-km-long railway linking coastal Tianjin and Baoding in Hebei Province will shorten the journey between the two cities to less than an hour.

The project is part of the railway network that covers Beijing, Tianjin and cities in Hebei.

"The network will serve as an important impetus for the integration of the cities around Beijing," said Wang Ailan, a researcher with the Tianjin Academy of Social Sciences.

An express railway between Beijing and Tianjin was put into operation in August 2008, shortening the 120-km journey between the two municipalities to only 30 minutes from the previous 74 minutes at least.

The intercity railway network is centered at Beijing and Tianjin, and all the cities covered by the network, including Hebei provincial capital Shijiazhuang and coastal Qinhuangdao, can reach each other within two hours' rail ride, according to the plan .

With an investment of 24 billion yuan (about 3.5 billion U.S. dollars) and a designed speed of 250 km per hour, the section between Tianjin and Baoding will serve both passenger and freight trains.

The railway between Tianjin and Qinhuangdao, which is under construction, boasts a designed speed of 350 km per hour and will cut the trip between the two cities to 50 minutes when completed. Currently, the fastest train journey between the two port cities is about two hours.

A high-speed passenger rail between Beijing and Shijiazhuang is also under construction. By 2012, 11 cities in Hebei will be covered by high-speed rails, and by 2020, the intercity railways between Beijing, Tianjin and cities in Hebei will reach 710 kilometers.

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