MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is providing a $100 million loan to help develop an efficient and effective emergency management system for the railway network of the People's Republic of China (PRC).

The Railway Safety Enhancement Project will also receive $40 million from the government's Ministry of Railways to complete the funding requirement. The project is a priority under the government's 11th Five-Year Plan 2006-2010 as the railway system is the primary mode of long-distance and bulk transport.

"The project will develop an efficient, safe, reliable, and competitive railway transport system in the country. It will introduce modern technology, capacity building and institutional development," said Manmohan Parkash, Senior Transport Specialist of ADB's East Asia Department.

The new technology will enable the railway system to respond more quickly to emergencies, reduce restoration time and enhance safety. Through capacity building, the government will be able to handle emergencies more efficiently. The institutional framework will pave the way for the creation of a quick, responsive and efficient emergency rescue and restoration system for the railway network.

The successful implementation of the project will lead to improved reliability, higher mobility, increased network capacity, optimal use of the railway network and other related assets, and increased staff productivity. By improving the efficiency of the railway system, users can benefit from lower transport costs, less pollution and lower fuel consumption, and enhanced energy efficiency.

The project reflects ADB's railway sector operational strategy for the country, which includes promoting sustainable economic growth by improving the efficiency of railway transport by reducing railway network constraints and enhancing railway safety.

Market-oriented reforms introduced in 1978 have enabled the PRC to experience sustained rapid economic growth, which has resulted in an accelerated expansion in transportation demand. Annually, passenger transport rose 9% and freight transport grew 7.6% from 1978 to 2006.

At the end of 2006, the country's railway system spanned 77,000 kilometers. The system currently has the highest freight transport density in the world and the second highest passenger transport density next to Japan. Between 1978 and 2006, railway freight increased to 2.17 trillion ton-kilometers from 535 billion ton-kilometers. Passenger traffic for the same period rose to 666.2 billion passenger-kilometers from 109 billion passenger-kilometers.

"Despite such growth rates, railway capacity has lagged behind demand because of system constraints. Given the railway system's important role in providing transportation, these constraints will continue to hinder efficient economic growth if not addressed," said Mr. Parkash.

Delays in rescue and inefficiency in handling accidents and emergencies contribute to loss of lives, heavy damage to goods and people and prolonged disruption of traffic flow on the country's railway network. They are also two of the constraints preventing railways from capitalizing on their comparative advantages.

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