China begins work on privately funded high-speed railway

China began construction of its first high-speed railway network line under a private- public partnership, officials reported on Saturday. The 269 km line will connect Hangzhou and Taizhou, in the eastern province of Zhejiang, among China's most prosperous provinces and one where the private sector is flourishing, Efe news reported. Fifty-one per cent of the total investment of 44.9 billion yuan ($6.46 billion) is financed by the private sector, which also reflects Beijing's plans to reduce the state's presence from economic activity.

According to Xinhua news agency, the investors include financial conglomerate Fosun, automobile manufacturers Geely and Wanfeng Auto, who will have a 30-year franchise period, which includes the four years the construction is expected to last. Local governments will subsidize the project for smooth operation, and will take up ownership of the high speed rail at the completion of this period.

Conceding management status to private investors helps to improve administration of the project and attracts further investment, said Xu Kunlin, head of the investment department of the National Development and Reform Commission on Friday. This year, the Chinese government has inked more than 1,000 public-private investment projects, worth more than 1.8 trillion yuan, in which state firms do not enjoy a majority stake.

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