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China approves US$5.3b plans for Beijing-Xiongan rail link

[SHANGHAI] China has approved plans to build a rail link connecting the capital Beijing with the new economic zone of Xiongan in Hebei province, with total investment expected to reach 33.53 billion yuan (S$7 billion), the country's top planning body said on Thursday.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said the rail project is designed to carry 50 million passengers a year and will involve the construction of five new stations and the laying of 92.4km of new track.

It will also link up to Beijing's planned new international airport in the southern suburb of Daxing.

In a separate notice on Thursday, the Hebei provincial government said the connection from Beijing to the new airport is expected to go into operation by September 2019, and would be fully connected to the new station in Xiongan by the end of 2020.

Half of the funding for the project will be provided by the Beijing and Hebei governments as well as the state-run China Railway Corporation, the NDRC said.

The Xiongan New Area was launched in April last year by President Xi Jinping and is part of a state-driven campaign to integrate the economy of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and ease congestion and pollution pressures in the Chinese capital.

Beijing plans to shift "non-capital functions" of the government to Xiongan, and is also encouraging businesses to relocate to the new district, which is located around 100km south of the capital.