Ganzhou City, the capital of neighboring Jiangxi Province, will soon be connected by high-speed rail to the Greater bay Area, reducing travel time from seven to two hours. Once the “Ganshen” railway running from Ganzhou to Guangzhou opens at the end of this year, it is expected to provide a significant boost for Jiangxi, one of China’s poorer provinces, in both exports and imports of goods and services. Chief of these will be agricultural products, which will be boosted by the completion at the end of this year of an integrated logistics center in Ganzhou, as well as tourism. Jiangxi is one of the country’s most naturally scenic areas, with forests, rivers and unspoilt countryside.
The municipality of Jiangmen has a fascinating history, and to say it has “been through the wars” would be an understatement. Like most of the Greater Bay Area, it has had its ups and downs. Yet its history is unique as a once-proud node on the Maritime Silk Road, a home to many overseas Chinese who traded throughout Southeast Asia in the days before Hong Kong and Canton became the powerhouses they are today. Once one of the region’s richest areas, today the GBA’s westernmost city is, like the easternmost city of Huizhou, finding itself playing catch-up to the rest in economic development.
Shenzhen is building a public transport system with rail transit as its core. By 2035, the end of the GBA masterplan, most residents should need to walk no more than 10 minutes to reach a railway station.
According to the city’s overall transport development plan, released this week, the combination of Metro, Intercity, and High-Speed Railways should cover more than 1,000 sq km of land by 2035. That is more than three times what it has built to date.
The eight Metro lines currently under development in the city are the biggest growth phase of the project, and by 2022 at least half of the total network will have been built. Daily passenger flow is at a maximum of around 6.5 million.
Intercity rail is being given a high priority, too, as many Shenzhen residents are living further from urban clusters due to rising living costs. Last year, about 1.36 million trips were made from Shenzhen to neighboring Dongguan and Huizhou, but this is expected to increase to 6.2 million per day by 2035.
The timing could not be better for the Greater Bay Area, home to arguably the country’s most ambitious high-speed railway network masterplan: The central government has decided to accelerate local governments’ spending on infrastructure – by doubling their originally approved budgets for this year.
Although we will need to wait for further details to trickle down, it seems likely that Guangdong will move fast on this decision. The province isn’t included specifically in the new list of projects approved for spending, but this is likely because it already has so many major railway projects under way. However, a few of the region’s more ambitious plans have been languishing recently while awaiting approval from Up North. Those that spring to mind are the CrossBay Railway, which will run from Zhuhai directly under the bay to Shenzhen, and the second Intercity Railway linking Guangzhou to Hong Kong, which will pass through Shenzhen’s Qianhai and run all the way out to Lantau.
That is besides plans for 600 km/h Maglev lines, will likely now be given more serious study.
The Greater Bay Area is not just a collection of nine cities and two Special Administrative Regions. It is also a springboard to a much larger hinterland in Guangdong province, and beyond.
This hinterland is shrinking – in
distance – as new high-speed railways open. The latest example is the opening
of the Meizhou-Shantou High-speed Railway, which is being described is the “wing
insertion” necessary for the take-off of the eastern side of Guangdong.
The GBA gets a major boost at the end of this month, when the north-south Intercity Railway opens between Shenzhen, Dongguan and Guangzhou, as we reported recently. But in five years’ time, the much bigger infrastructure project of the main east-west high-speed railway connection will open. This has been confirmed by provincial authorities. The Shenzhen-Jiangmen section of the Shenmao Railway has been given the official green light to begin construction by the end of the year, with completion set for late 2024.
It cannot be emphasized enough how this railway connection will change the economic structure of the GBA. Running from Shenzhen’s under-construction Xili Station, one of the city’s four major railway hubs, it will run across (and under) the mouth of the Pearl River, linking the manufacturing powerhouses of Shenzhen and Dongguan on the east with Nansha (in the middle) and Zhongshan and Jiangmen in the west.
The Shenzhen-Nansha section will chug along at a sedate 200km/h, while the Nansha-Jiangmen section will allow speeds of up to 250km/h. There will only be seven main stations along the route, which means express trains can get across the Bay more quickly at certain times of the day.
The line will essentially make Zhongshan and Jiangmen outer neighborhoods of Shenzhen. And it will boost Nansha, being right in the middle, as a central hub as it strives to build a new center of gravity for the entire Bay (more on this tomorrow in our Nansha overview).
Passengers taking the high-speed railway between Guangzhou and Hong Kong will soon be in for a treat. Before the next Spring Festival (known to foreigners as Chinese New Year), the train journey will be experienced almost entirely on a 5G network.