China’s road network varies enormously in both quality and quantity. Until the late 1990s, much ofChina was served by rudimentary road systems. The best road networks were concentrated in theregions of the Eastern coastal cities, but even there varied in quality.However, between the turn of the century and the end of the first decade, China built an extensivehigh-grade highway network linking its provinces. The development of western China has been highon the list of priorities and considerable resources have been invested in the region. The lack ofcapacity on a series of major inter-provincial trade corridors is judged to be one of the reasons whythe benefits of rapid economic growth have not been evenly distributed.In 2000, the government announced three measures to build roads in the western part of thecountry. The first measure was to build a 12,600 km road system that would link: Dandong andLhasa, Qingdao and Yinchuan, Shanghai and Chengdu, Shanghai and Ruili, Hengyang and Kunming,Erenhot and Hekou, Lianyungang and Korgas, and Chongqing and Zhanjian.The second measure wasto accelerate the upgrading, or building of 210,000 km of interprovincial and local highways. Thethird measure was to build 150,000 km of roads between townships and villages.China’s total road network grew from 1.16m km in 1995 to almost 4m km by 2010. Of the surfacemodes, road transport has seen its modal share grow over the last ten years from 45 percent to 60percent in terms of passenger-km and from 24 percent to 30 percent in terms of freight ton-km(excluding pipelines or waterways). From 1990 to 2009, the nation built out almost 50,000 km ofhigh-grade expressways, the main portion of which comprises the National Trunk Highway System(NTHS). For the same period, some 400,000 km of local and township roads were also improved. Noother nation has made such drastic improvements to its road system in such a short period.At a cost of USD 150 bn, the 44,000 km NTHS was completed in 2005 and connects every provincialcapital and 100 major cities with populations in excess of 500,000 inhabitants. The NTHS iscomposed of 12 major highways, with five north-south corridors and seven east-west corridors.In 2007, 8,095 km of highway was constructed—the most for any year--with fixed asset investmentsof CNY 750 bn. This completed a 15 year goal to construct 35,000 km of highway, two years ahead ofschedule. The project included the establishment of national expressways such as Qingdao-Laiwu,Jingdezhen-Yingtan, and Chongqing-Suining. At year’s end, 80 percent of the 8 trans-provincialhighways in the West were complete.For the same year, road length reached 3,573m km, including 53,600 km of expressway. Some of thetop provinces for length of expressways include: Henan and Shandong with approximately 4,000 km;Jiangsu and Guangdong with roughly 3,000 km; and Hebei, Zhejiang, Yunnan, Hubei, Anhui, Shanxiand Jiangxi with over 2,000 km. Daily average cargo volume was roughly 52m tonnes, and annualtransport volume was 19bn tonnes. Daily average passenger volume was 57m, including 1m trans-provincial via expressway. The annual passenger volume reached 20.8 bn.In 2007, the ministry of transport issued the “National Highway Transportation Hub Layout Plan”,“Highway & Waterway Transportation Infrastructure Framework” and “Highway & WaterwayTransport Development Plan for the Western Region”. These plans cover national expressways andrural highways.
By the end of 2010, the government pledges all national highways will be class 2 in East and CentralChina; class 3 in the Western region except Tibet; class 2 in towns and cities in the Central andWestern region except Tibet; and 80 percent of towns in Tibet will have asphalt roads.Outside participation is being increasingly sought, as is funding from the World Bank and AsianDevelopment Bank. China’s Ministry of Communications states that more than USD 1bn a year hasbeen gathered from these sources every year since 1994.In 2009, China is estimated to have exceeded CNY 900bn on infrastructure spending as part of itsoverall fiscal stimulus package. China’s National Expressway System expanded by 4719 km in 2009,bringing the nationwide total to just over 65,000 km. This number ranks second worldwide to theUnited States, a tremendous achievement considering that China did not seriously develop itsnational expressway network before the late 1980s. In accordance with the 2009 Fuel Tax ReformLaw toll roads will be phased out, though at present progress is reported to be slow.Road coverage in the countryside remains an issue of great importance to the Chinese government,which has identified rural poverty eradication as a major policy goal. In January 2009 Chinaannounced a plan to build 300,000 km of roads in rural areas within a year, an ambitious attempt toreach the estimated 11 percent of villages currently inaccessible by road.China’s most significant road construction project is the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, whichbegan construction in December 2009. The bridge when completed will link the two specialadministrative regions with the western part of the Pearl River Delta and is expected to have a largeimpact on road logistics in China’s most vital economic region. Scheduled for completion in 2016, thebridge will relieve congestion on current passageways linking Hong Kong and Macao to the Chinesemainland.