China is on track to fulfill its annual railway investment target as its fixed-asset investment for the sector hit 542.3 billion yuan (about 80.1 billion U.S. dollars) in the first three quarters, up 10.3 percent year on year, according to the latest data.
State-sector investment rose 12 percent to 517.1 billion yuan during the period, according to data released Monday by China Railway, a solely state-owned enterprise under the management of the central government.
Insiders say the country has seen a railway construction boom since the beginning of this year and will probably exceed the annual railway fixed-asset investment target of 800 billion yuan.
China has planned 45 railway projects for 2016, with more than 3,200 kilometers of new rail lines, including 1,300 kilometers of high-speed rail lines.
The nation's top economic planner announced earlier this month that it has approved feasibility reports for two railway projects with total investment of 79.47 billion yuan.
The two projects would be located in the country's underdeveloped western regions, including Guizhou, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, according to statements on the website of the National Development and Reform Commission.
China has a vast and efficient railway network, but construction has lagged behind in the less developed western regions.
The approval came as the government looks to boost infrastructure investment in needy areas to support faltering economic growth.
Local governments also stepped up with railway construction. A high-speed train left impoverished Sanjiang County in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on May 15 and three hours later arrived in Guangzhou, 400 kilometers away.
That day marked China's biggest railway expansion for ten years with nearly 150 new routes. Most of the new trains link small cities in central and western China with metropolises, and hopes are high that better connectivity will bring prosperity.
"Railway construction requires big investment and involves a long production chain, so it plays an important role in promoting regional economic development and stabilizing the national economy," said Wang Mengshu, a railway expert with the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
In the last five years, about 1.85 trillion yuan was spent on railways in central and western areas, with about 23,000 kilometers of new lines opened. Last year, 9,531 kilometers of new lines went into operation at a cost of 824 billion yuan.
The nation plans to spend 3.5 trillion yuan in the next five years on more than 30,000 kilometers of new tracks, with central and western areas key to the plan.
"Investment in high-speed railways and railways in central and western regions are believed to be a safe and effective way to stimulate domestic demand," said Zhao Jian, a professor with Beijing Jiaotong University, adding there is more room for investment in these sectors.
The efforts have already taken effect to some extent, with the nation's fixed-asset investment rising 9 percent year on year in September, accelerating from 8.2 percent in August and 3.9 percent in July, official data showed.
"Against the background of a weak global economic recovery, investment retains a major role in boosting growth. For China, investment will continue to play a key role in maintaining national economic growth. As a result, railway investment will continue to increase in the coming months." said Li Kun, an analyst with Pingan Securities.