The Beijing-Tianjin inter-city passenger rail line will be completed and open to traffic before August 2008, when the Beijing Olympic Games open.
The train will shuttle passengers between the cities in just half an hour, 45 minutes shorter than the current travel time. The train is designed to go 200 kilometres per hour (kmp), but can reach speeds of 350 kmp.
The 115-kilometre railway is expected to cost 12.3 billion yuan (US$1.5 billion), said Ma Zhenhong, a press official with the Tianjin Municipal Communications Commission in a phone interview.
Earlier reports in the Beijing Times said the Ministry of Railways and the municipal government of Tianjin have each poured 2.6 billion yuan (US$325 million) into the project, while Beijing gave its share by providing requisitioned land and paying for resettlement of residents. A company has been established to manage the construction project.
The construction of the passenger rail line started in July this year. The construction work will finish before the end of next year, and the railway will be put into service before August 2008.
"The rail line is an important project to serve the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games," Ma said.
The Beijing-Tianjin inter-city passenger line is also believed to be the pilot project of a massive high-speed rail network in China. This will be the country's first high-standard passenger rail.
With a speed of 300 kilometres per hour, locomotives manufactured by Tangshan Locomotive Plant in Hebei Province, which uses Germany-based Siemens technology, will be first put into use on the Beijing-Tianjin inter-city passenger line.
Siemens and Tangshan Locomotive Plant were reported to win a bid together in 2005 to manufacture 60 locomotives with a designed speed of 300 kmp for the railway ministry. Of these, three locomotives will be entirely imported from Siemens, and 57 will be domestically made.
Siemens was also reported to have won a contract together with two other Chinese companies to provide signal, telecommunication and electricity supply systems for the high-speed rail.
In order to promote economic integration of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, China plans to build a two-hour circle to cover major cities in the Bohai Rim Region. A total of 710 kilometres of inter-city rail lines will be built in the region's inter-city rail network before 2020.
The Beijing-Tianjin inter-city passenger rail will serve as an axis in the regional rail network, to meet the soaring demand of travel between the cities.
At present, the municipalities, each with a population over 10 million, are linked by highways, expressways and rail. The current railway is under pressure, handling 25.55 million passengers each year.
The new passenger rail line is expected to handle 32 million passengers in 2008 and 54 million passengers in 2015.
At present, there are also three expressways under construction that will link the two cities.