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Multi-Level Rail Transit Plan for Chengdu and Chongqing

By ZHAN CHENICHONGQING|Jan 11,2022

Transportation is the key to economic development in the Chengdu-Chongqing economic circle. Breakthroughs have been made at the beginning of 2022, such as the release of the Multi-level Rail Transit Plan for Chengdu-Chongqing Economic Circle and the opening of the Chengdu-Ziyang-Chongqing Expressway, etc.

These achievements should be credited to the program of building four major transportation development poles of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region, Yangtze River Delta, Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, and Chengdu-Chongqing Region of the Outline for Comprehensive National Transport Network demonstrating that Sichuan and Chongqing have adopted more proactive strategies and more precise plans in transportation. 

What is multi-level rail transit? What impact does it have on Chongqing? What are the advantages and disadvantages of Chongqing compared with the coastal areas, and what’s the next step? To address these issues, Liangjiang Observation interviewed Professor Yang Jirui, President of the Chengdu-Chongqing Economic Zone Development Research Institute of Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, and Professor Li Jing, Vice President of Chongqing Technology and Business University.

On the track at Zengjiayan Station, the moving cars and rail transit trains leave colorful light trails under the curtain of night.

Transportation is the key to economic development in the Chengdu-Chongqing economic circle. (iChongqing file photo)

What is multi-level rail transit?

Yang Jirui: The “multi-level” concept has rich connotations and great significance. In terms of levels, the “multi-level” network includes the trunk railway network that is part of the national strategic transportation network, the intercity railway network connecting regional city nodes, the intra-city railway network that supports the integrated development of the metropolitan area, and the urban rail that ensures the rapid commuting within the city.

In terms of contents, “multi-level” network includes national railways, intercity railways, intra-city railways, metros, trams, and new-type rail transit like maglev rail systems, monorail systems, and automated rapid transit systems. To build an important national advanced manufacturing center, western China’s financial center, western China’s international comprehensive transportation hub, and international hub city, Chongqing needs to enhance its resource carrying capacity as a central city and drive the development of surrounding areas. Multi-level rail transit is an effective means to achieve this goal.  

What is the significance of the Plan?

Yang Jirui: First, the planning supports the Chengdu-Chongqing economic circle to become an important growth pole and a new driving force for the national development, which shows that the Central Government attaches great importance to the construction of the Chengdu-Chongqing economic circle.

Second, the planning accelerates the implementation of the Planning Outline for the Construction of Chengdu-Chongqing Economic Circle. The Chengdu-Chongqing economic circle should build the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor (ILSTC) based on the Chengdu-Chongqing comprehensive transportation hub.

Third, the planning meets the actual needs for constructing the Chengdu-Chongqing economic circle. Considering the regular and frequent inter-regional and inter-city commuting, an efficient, convenient, sound, and well-organized rail transit network is particularly important.

Fourth, the planning positively responds to the new urbanization based on the “intensive land-use.” The implementation of this planning will contribute to forming a new well-organized and open regional spatial pattern and an intensive land use model, building a high-density and compact layout of intensive land use and forging an efficient, sustainable, and well-organized land and space development pattern.

Fifth, implementing this planning will help achieve carbon emission peaking and carbon neutrality goals and tasks, encourage people to take public rail transit as the main travel mode,  and cultivate a low-carbon and energy-saving life concept.

What are the impacts of the Plan? 

Li Jing: There are three aspects. The transport scale will increase sharply. By 2025, the total scale of rail transit will increase from 7,000 km in 2020 to more than 10,000 km, of which the railway network will come to more than 9,000 km, covering all cities with a population of 200,000 or more, and forming a one-hour commuting circle between Chongqing and Chengdu. 85% of large-scale industrial and mining enterprises with an annual freight volume of more than 1.5 million tons of bulk cargo, and newly built logistics parks will have access to special railway lines, and major ports on the mainstream of the Yangtze River will be connected by rail. 

The transport functions will be optimized. By 2025, the transport network of Chengdu-Chongqing economic circle will be basically completed, which comprises the four-direction passages entering and leaving Sichuan and Chongqing. It is a network of facilities with clear functions and optimal layout, realizing “zero transfer” among well-organized and interconnected hubs and integration of multimodal passenger and freight transport.

The transport efficiency will be improved greatly. The idea of “hub connection” will strengthen the coordination between the hub and the urban functional layout, ease the pressure on hub transport, and enhance the convenient connection of the main passenger stations. The idea of “operation integration” will make full use of modern information technology to promote the integration of rail transit and urban functions, thus greatly improving the operation services and travel experience.

A picture of Chongqing. (iChongqing file photo)

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the Chengdu-Chongqing economic circle compared with the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region, the Yangtze River Delta, and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area?

Yang Jirui: On the whole, the Chengdu-Chongqing economic circle has great potential for multi-level rail transit development, with prominent advantages in location and regional resources. It also has broad prospects under the new dual-circulation development paradigm.

It also needs to make improvements in the following aspects. First, the Chengdu-Chongqing economic circle needs to speed up infrastructure construction. The Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the Yangtze River Delta, and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area have basically built the multi-level rail transit network integrating trunk railway network, intercity railway network, intra-city railway network, and urban rail network, with interconnected hubs and integrated operation, while the Chengdu-Chongqing economic circle is still in its infancy and needs to step up the pace.

Second, the development concept needs to be shifted. The Chengdu-Chongqing economic circle lags behind the coastal areas in terms of personnel support, technical support, and service concepts. It is also mired in uneven terrain, great difficulties, and high costs in construction. Hence the development concept needs to be shifted.

Third, the Chengdu-Chongqing economic circle needs to strengthen overall planning and coordination. The planning, construction, operation, and management of rail transit construction in the Chengdu-Chongqing economic circle are conducted by different entities at each stage, posing challenges to coordination and orderly operation of multi-level rail transit between regions. Hence, it is necessary to intensify efforts in overall planning and coordination.

What’s the next step?

Yang Jirui: First, Chongqing needs to meet the diverse travel needs of the residents. Based on the actualities, Chongqing should enhance the multi-level rational division of labor and meet people’s diverse and multi-level needs.

Second, according to local conditions, Chongqing needs to build a multi-entity rail transit connection mode. In this regard, Chongqing should strengthen the organization and cooperation among entities to build a unique multi-level rail transit network.

Third, Chongqing needs to vigorously develop high-speed railways for freight transport along the Yangtze River to ease the pressure on water transportation along the Yangtze River. Specifically, Chongqing should optimize the connection and transfer process of different modes of transportation, enhance its ability of goods transshipment, collection and distribution, and improve the efficiency of logistics organization and operation.

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