NOVEMBER 10 saw the formal start of construction of a new line in northeast China which will eventually form a second trans-Mongolian link with Russia.

Dubbed the 'energy line', the project is being promoted by the Liaoning Chuncheng Industry & Trade Group. It will initially be used to carry coal from mines in Inner Mongolia to industries in Liaoning province. According to the mayor of Fuxin, Pan Liguo, speaking at the start-of-work ceremony, the region will need 116 million tonnes of coal a year by 2010. The Xi Ujimqin Banner basin in Inner Mongolia includes three coalfields with estimated reserves of 20 billion tonnes.

The line is to be developed in three phases, with the first to be completed by 2010 at an estimated cost of 5·9bn yuan. This runs for 487 km from Xinqiu near Fuxin to Bayan Ul in the mining district. It is expected to be carrying 12 million tonnes a year within three to five years of opening, increasing to ?35 million tonnes by 2025, according to LCITG Chairman Wang Chuncheng.

The 230 km second phase would continue north from Bayan Ul to Zhuengadabuqi on the border of Mongolia. From here the third leg would contine to Choibalsan, which is already served by a railway from Borzya in Russia. Wang says the new corridor from the port of Jinzhou to northeast Mongolia would be almost 1 000 km shorter than the present route from Tianjin via Erenhot.