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China to cut railway spending in 2012: Xinhua
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Dec 23, 2011

China will cut spending on its railways next year, state media said Friday, after authorities borrowed heavily to fund the rapid expansion of the country's massive network.

The railways ministry will invest 400 billion yuan ($63 billion) on rail infrastructure in 2012, the official Xinhua news agency said, down from an estimated 469 billion yuan this year and 700 billion yuan in 2010.

The cash-strapped ministry is sinking under a mountain of debt after borrowing to finance railway projects and some banks have stopped lending it money, state media said previously.

Xinhua said last month that the ministry will receive 200 billion yuan in financial support to help fund projects, amid reports that more than 80 percent of projects currently being built are facing construction delays.

Many projects face a one-year delay in completion, previous reports said.

The railway ministry was 2.1 trillion yuan in debt at the end of June, bringing its debt-to-assets ratio to nearly 59 percent.

China has developed its vast transport network at breakneck speed, building the world's largest high-speed rail system from scratch in less than a decade.

But the government has been accused of overlooking safety in its rush to develop, most notably after the deadly July high-speed rail crash near Wenzhou city and a metro collision in Shanghai in September that injured nearly 300.

In the weeks following the July crash, the government announced a halt to new train projects.

The planned budget cuts come weeks before millions of Chinese board trains and buses to journey home for the Lunar New Year celebrations at the end of January, in the world's biggest annual human migration.

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