China was the first country to begin shutting down its economy and limiting movements in order to control the spread of Covid-19.
This also meant that China was one of the first to lift its lockdowns. As restrictions began to ease in March, construction was able to resume on a number of high-speed rail projects, as momentum was restored to the national high-speed network development programme.
Overall, China National Railways (CR) opened 1178km of new lines in the first half of 2020, including 605km of high-speed lines. For scale, the first stage of Britain’s High Speed 2 (HS2) project will be 225km long, with the full network around 531km long. June 30 also marked the ninth anniversary of the opening of the 1318km Beijing – Shanghai high-speed railway, which has since carried 1.11 million trains.
CR invested RMB 325.8bn ($US 45.9bn) on fixed assets between January and June, up 1.2% year-on-year. This included RMB 245.1bn in infrastructure, up 3.7% year-on-year.
Investment in the first quarter dropped to RMB 79.9bn, down 21%, due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, work rebounded in the second quarter, with the country completing works worth RMB 245.9bn, up 11.4% year-on-year, cancelling out the first quarter reduction. This included a RMB 179.7bn investment in infrastructure in the second quarter, a 16.4% increase year-on-year.
This expansive growth peaked in the middle of the year, with CR launching services along a multitude of new sections of line with the introduction of the summer timetable, which features additional services to accommodate tourists and students travelling across the network.
Overall, CR expects to open a total of 4400km of new line in 2020, including 2300km of high-speed infrastructure.
The opening of the new lines, coupled with the lifting of restrictions, resulted in a recovery in passenger numbers towards the middle of the year, after a strong drop in passenger patronage in the early months of the year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
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