The Chinese National Development and Reform Commission has given the green light to a huge rail project in Xinjiang, a vast landmass in the northwest of the country.
Spanning 825km and costing $3.5bn to build over the next three and a half years, the programme will add vital connectivity to the south of the region.
The National Development and Reform Commission also said it would deliver an economic boost and contribute towards poverty alleviation projects.
The Xinjiang region covers 1.665mn sq km and is home to a population of more than 19mn people, many of whom are from ethnic minority groups. Han Chinese people moved to the area during its economic development years, powered by its wealth in natural resources.
Countrywide, China added more than 3,000km of new rail tracks in 2017, costing $125bn. The China Railway Corporation reported that this smashed last year’s target of 2,100km of new lines.
In total, China has 127,000km of active rail lines, with high-speed rail accounting for 25,000km.
The country’s bullet train network is already the largest in the world, well ahead of Spain which stands in second with a network of just over 3,000km.
Construction of the 130km Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong Express Rail Link is almost complete, with the final section to Hong Kong all that is left to build.
This is also being accompanied by an enormous 4mn sq ft station for the futuristic ‘Vibrant Express’ trains, which can travel up to 350kmph.