CHINESE Railways expects to start work later this year on a 1500 km rail link between Shanghai and Hong Kong, as part of the government's next five-year plan.

Vice-Minister of Railways Hu Yadong announced on July 1 that by 2020 the government expected to build 12000 km of dedicated passenger line between the major cities and 16000 km to open up central and western China. Among these projects are three new lines out of Kunming to Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand. To open up the far west of the country, the government has started planning for a 760 km extension through the Karakoram mountains from Kashi to Peshawar in northern Pakistan.

Meanwhile, tracklaying has begun within Tibet on the line to Lhasa, which is due to be completed in 2007. Ceremonies were held on June 22 at Amdo station, 440 km from Lhasa, to mark the next stage of work on the 1142 km line from Golmud.

CR has called tenders for a fleet of 78 diesel locomotives able to operate at high altitude on the route. The Ministry of Railways is looking at a number of options, and held talks in June with Charlene Begley, President of General Electric Transportation Systems.