China's plan to cut air pollution by boosting rail freight falls behind target
OFFICIAL data and media reports in China show that the nation's ambitious three-year plan to boost railway cargo volume and reduce long-distance trucking - a key plank in Beijing's campaign to cut air pollution - is falling behind schedule
OFFICIAL data and media reports in China show that the nation's ambitious three-year plan to boost railway cargo volume and reduce long-distance trucking - a key plank in Beijing's campaign to cut air pollution - is falling behind schedule.
Under the plan, which was introduced by the central government in 2018, China's 'transport structure' was to be improved by shifting the movement of bulk cargo such as minerals from dirty, diesel-burning trucks to cleaner electric-powered railcars.
By 2020, at least 80 per cent of industrial and mining firms with an annual bulk cargo volume above 1.5 million tonnes - an amount that would cover most mining sites and smelters - was to be connected to the railway system.
In addition, all major ports were told to move transport of iron ore and coal from trucks to ships and railways.
However, official data shows the plan is lagging far behind schedule and there is little prospect that targets will be met by year end.
The lack of railway cargo is forcing some key freight lines to run below designated capacity, including the Haoji Railway, which started operations last year as the world's longest special coal transport railway, connecting the coal hub of Inner Mongolia with central and southern China.
The 1,800km rail line has a transport capacity of 200 million tonnes per year, and the state-owned China Railway Group, which operates the national railway system, said it hoped it could transport 60 million tonnes of coal this year. But in the first six months, the rail line carried just 9.7 million tonnes of coal.
Zhao Jian, a professor in the economics department at Beijing Jiaotong University, said China Railway Group's monopoly over the railway system has resulted in inefficiency and a mismatch in market demands, according to a report in China Business, a local newspaper.