CHINA EXPECTS A TORRENT OF FOREIGN AID FOR RAILS

CHINA EXPECTS A TORRENT OF FOREIGN AID FOR RAILS

China expects to receive massive amounts of foreign funds for railway modernization, a senior official said.

An Shunyi, deputy director of the foreign capital and technical import office in the Ministry of Railways, said loan accords totaling US$750 million will be signed next year with the World Bank and Asian Development BankThe rail network, totaling 33,000 miles, is China's transport backbone, moving 70 percent of the country's goods.

The World Bank will provide US$550 million to electrify the 642-mile Wuhan-Guangzhou sector of the Beijing-Guangzhou railway, the nation's main north-south artery.

The Asian Development Bank will provide US$200 million to aid construction of the 1,500-mile Beijing-Kowloon line scheduled to open in 1996. It will take some strain off the existing north-south main line and terminate in Hong Kong.

Mr. An said "a large proportion" of the Japanese government's forthcoming batch of official loans will go to the rail sector. In the last 14 years, Japanese loans totaling US$2.1 billion have built 3,500 miles of track.

Another US$1.6 billion received from the World Bank since 1984 has enabled China to add or replace 4,000 miles of track, Mr. An told the Sweden-China Rail Technology Forum in Beijing. Other World Bank funds have been used to

purchase foreign technology and equipment to update rolling stock.

Mr. An said the German government will shortly grant about US$100 million to buy German-made passenger cars next year.

Swedish companies represented at the seminar said they would lease some equipment to China and form joint ventures.

Details are sparse, but SKF, the world's largest producer of roller-bearing and rail-axle boxes, said it would soon launch two joint ventures to produce roller bearings.

Stig Larsen, head of the Swedish side, said his government and some banks are considering loans to China for the purchase of Swedish equipment. He did not elaborate.

Macroeconomic measures imposed in July to cool an overheated economy have reduced some of the strain on the rail network, though suppliers and consumers remain frustrated by its inadequacies.