Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China 60 years ago, under the firm leadership of the Party committees and the provincial governments of Sichuan, cadres and staff in the transportation circle of Sichuan province forged ahead despite difficulties to transform the rough paths of the original Shu Kingdom into roads that lead to all directions. Expressways sprung out of nothing and evolved into a major framework. Road networks were improved and expanded. The development of inland river transportation quickened thanks to innovative ideas, the transporting capacity structure was improved, and the service standard was enhanced. The development of a comprehensive transport hub in West China and the post-quake reconstruction in communications was accelerated. All of these proved to be powerful support to the economic and social development of Sichuan.
First, construction of highways saw leap-forward development.
At the early period after the founding of the PRC, there were only 8,581 kilometers of crude roads between Sichuan and Kangding. There were few bridges and culverts along and the roads were badly worn out, with a trafficable mileage less than a half of the total length. Since the adoption of the reform and opening-up policy, campaigns like “work-relief”, “all-round responsibility system in highway development” and “year of transport development”, and especially policies of “building roads on loans and repaying by tolls” secured steady funding sources for highway construction in Sichuan and created a policy environment for its quick development, and the development scale of highway infrastructure kept expanding continuously. In 1984, highways were built to connect the county of Derong in Ganzi Prefecture, the last county in Sichuan inaccessible by highways, and from then on every county in Sichuan could be reached by highways. At the end of 2008, the length of highways in the whole province reached 224 thousand kilometers, over 26 times of that at the early period after the founding of the PRC. There were 46.29 kilometers of highways every one hundred square kilometers, and 25.47 kilometers of highways every ten thousand people. The total mileage of highways rose to the second largest in China, and the 3-category road network of expressways, national and provincial trunk highways, and rural roads experienced coordinated development. In today’s Sichuan, 11 national highways and 36 provincial highways, 929 county highways and 6,693 rural highways constitute a road network of both trunks and branches leading to all directions.
Second, construction of expressways saw quick growth from nothing.
In 1995, Chengdu-Chongqing Expressway, the first expressway in Sichuan, was completed and open to traffic. After a decade’s efforts, 27 expressways have been built in Sichuan, among which are Chengdu-Mianyang Expressway, Chengdu-Leshan Expressway, Chengdu-Ya’an Expressway, Dazhou-Chongqing Expressway, Chengdu-Nanchong Expressway, Xichang-Panzhihua Expressway and Dujiangyan-Yingxiu Expressway. Especially since the year of 2008, great progress was recorded in the construction of expressways in the province. In 2008, 9 expressways with a total length of 1,120 kilometers commenced construction, equal to the total length of those in the past five years. Again, 2009 witnessed the commencement of construction of a number of expressways like Yingxiu-Wenchuan Expressway, Chengdu-Zigong-Luzhou-Chishui Expressway, Dazhou-Wanzhou Expressway, Bazhong-Nanchong Expressway, Chengdu-Anyue-Chongqing Expressway, extending the mileage of expressways under construction to 2,392 kilometers. Till the present, the total trafficable mileage of expressways in Sichuan province is 2,188 kilometers and 7 Sichuan-outbound grand passages have been built; 17 places where municipal (prefectural) governments are situated and 13 municipalities each with a population of over 200,000 are accessible by expressways, covering about 80% of the population and GDP of Sichuan province. A major framework of expressways has taken shape, and they are playing a leading rolr in promoting the economic and social development of Sichuan.
Third, historic changes happened to the development of rural highways.
In the early period after the founding of the PRC, there was hardly any highway to connect the rural villages with each other, and the transportation of goods and materials completely depended upon human or animal labor. Since the adoption of the reform and opening-up policy, especially after the 16th National Congress of the CPC, governments at each level made more investment into the construction of rural highways, which facilitated the rapid expansion of rural highways. From June 2001 to September 2003, the “County Tar Road Project of the Three Prefectures” was launched, and tar roads and cement roads with a total length of 4,276 kilometers were constructed, resulting in a 20-year leap-forward progress in the road construction in the three prefectures. In 2003, the Ministry of Communications called on the whole country “to build tar roads and cement roads in rural areas and serve the progress of urbanization”. The province worked out four innovative mechanisms in constructing rural roads, namely the mechanism of top-down publicity, the mechanism of bottom-up democratic decision-making, the mechanism of open and transparent public supervision, and the mechanism of social participation and aid, which conferred the power of decision-making and management to the farmers, showed respect for farmers’ free will and aroused their enthusiasm. At the end of 2008, the total length of rural roads in Sichuan province reached 200,500 kilometers, No.1 in the whole country. 68.84% of all the towns could be reached by tar roads, and 80% of all the administrative villages could be accessed by highways. In the first half of 2009, another 13,320 kilometers of township and rural highways were constructed, and 236 passenger transport terminals were built in towns and villages. The development of rural highways contributed a lot to the development of new socialist countryside.
Fourth, there was remarkable progress in port and navigation infrastructure.
Watercourse transport in Sichuan used to depend on natural rivers and vessels were berthed at natural harbors. The industry of ship building and repairing was underdeveloped. The founding of the PRC opened a new page in developing inland river transportation in Sichuan. In the 1980s, a system of water transport industry was established, featured by the cooperation and coordination of over 60 large, medium, and small enterprises. There appeared a new situation in the province where ships could be built and repaired by the enterprises themselves. Since the 1990s, port and navigation infrastructure construction developed rapidly. The throughput capacities of major ports, like Luzhou port, Yibin port and Leshan port, were significantly improved. Professionalized berths, like Leshan bulk cargo wharf and Xiaoba passenger transport dock were built at the Leshan port; the first phase project with a capacity of 500,000 TEUs at Zhicheng work zone of the Yibin port started construction; the second phase of a multi-purpose wharf project at the Luzhou port had initial production capacity, and two one-thousand-ton berths were built with a container throughput of 500,000 TEUs. The three major watercourses of the Yangtze River, Jialingjiang River and Minjiang River were getting smoother. The navigation conditions on the Sichuan-section of Yangtze River were remarkably improved, and one-thousand-ton-class vessels were free to travel on the watercourse down from Yibin day and night. There was new progress in the canal development of Jialingjiang River, and 8 navigation and water power projects were completed and 5 are still under construction. The comprehensive development of navigation on Minjiang River was also quickened, and this watercourse will turn out to be the artery and life line for entry into and exit out of Sichuan for products of major equipment manufacturing industry. As of 2008, 176 rivers, 147 reservoirs and lakes in Sichuan were navigable. Among them, courses of Class VII or higher classes were 4,026 kilometers in length. There were 21 key ports with a cargo throughput of over 500,000 tons, and 37 one-thousand-ton berths.
Fifth, there was further improvement in highway and waterway transport capacities.
In the early period after the founding of the PRC, in the whole province there were approximately only 4,000 vehicles of poor performance and low transport efficiency. 60% of all the counties were inaccessible to vehicles. In the past 60 years, with a view to facilitating the easy travelling of people and free distribution of cargos, the province made efforts to improve transport capacity of vehicles and vessels as well as the equipment standard, and as a result the difficulty in taking bus or train, traveling and transporting cargos was relieved ultimately. At the end of 2008, there were 2.24 million civilian vehicles in Sichuan, 560 times that of the early period after the founding of the PRC; the number of passenger vehicles reached 81 thousand, and middle-and-top-class passenger vehicles accounted for 37% of large-and-medium-sized passenger vehicles; there were 355 thousand cargo vehicles, and there appeared a trend that cargo vehicles were getting heavier, more vehicles were equipped with cargo cases and vehicles were more specialized; among these cargo vehicles, there were 1,200 special container trucks, 7,564 vehicles for dangerous substance, and 36.4 thousand van trucks; and there were 273 province-level passenger transport terminals and 2,247 rural passenger transport terminals. The express passenger transport network relying on expressways covered 18 cities and prefectures. The accessibility rates of passenger vehicles in villages and towns and administrative villages accessible by highways were respectively 99% and 88%.
Sixth, technology and education in communications saw great achievements.
Through 60 years of development, science and technology in Sichuan transportation grew stronger, and over 200 scientific and technologic awards were granted to Sichuan such as National Award for Scientific and Technological Progress, Provincial Award for Scientific and Technological Progress, Ministerial Award for Scientific and Technological Progress, Prize for Excellent Investigation and Design and Zhan Tianyou Prize for Civil Engineering. The construction of bridges and tunnels reached advanced level in China. Over 150 expressway bridges on Yangtze River, Jinshajiang River, Daduhe River, Minjiang River, Fujiang River and Jialingjiang River were built. Large tunnels through Jinji Pass, Mingyue Valley, Huaying Mountain, Erlang Mountain and Zhegu Mountain were completed in succession. Among them, the highway bridge over the Yangtze River in Wanxian County completed in 1997 was an arch bridge made of steel reinforced concrete with the largest span (420 meters) in the world at that time and therefore won the First Class of the National Award for Scientific and Technological Progress in 2000. The tunnels of Huaying Mountain and Erlang Mountain won the Luban Award, the highest award in architecture in China. The small-radius double spiral tunnel in Ganhaizi on the Ya’an-Xichang Expressway which is still under construction will be the first tunnel of this kind in the world. The reconstruction project of Chuanzhusi-Jiuzhaigou highway, a national exemplification project, won the Zhan Tianyou Award, the highest award in civil engineering in China, and caused significant influence in the whole country, for its successful example of maximum preservation in design, minimum impact in construction, and greatest efforts in restoration after completion. Sichuan Highway Planning, Surveying and Design Institute affiliated to the Department of Communications of Sichuan Province completed the survey and design of more than 50 thousand kilometers of highways, over 200 large-sized bridges and 100 highway tunnels. Sichuan Communication Surveying and Design Institute affiliated to the Department of Communications finished the survey and design of large and medium water transport projects and highways with a length of over 6,000 kilometers. Furthermore, Sichuan Vocational and Technical College of Communications was appointed as a national exemplifying higher vocational college in construction by the Ministry of Education.
Seventh, there was obvious enhancement in emergency response ability in transportation
After the 5.12 Wenchuan earthquake in 2008, Sichuan province involved over 30 thousand people into the rescue and relief, devoted 13 thousand pieces of machines, equipment and vehicles, and rehabilitated over 3,600 kilometers of national and provincial trunk highways, town highways in all the 254 towns and village highways in 2,114 villages. Though the highways in quake areas were blocked for more than 1,600 times after the quake, the blockages were all removed in about two hours. The Yingxiu-Wenchuan highway was successfully rehabilitated within a hundred days, which was considered impossible even in three years, and this won the high praises from Premier Wen Jiabao. At the same time, more than 20 thousand passenger vehicles and 46 thousand cargo vehicles were involved, transporting 1.1 million people and 470 thousand tons of goods and materials, setting a new record of transportation emergency response since the founding of the PRC both in terms of cross-province-and-municipality dispatch of passenger and cargo vehicles and transportation of people and materials. In post-quake reconstruction, thanks to external aids, the whole province included 476 projects and 29,345 kilometers of rural highways into the reconstruction of transportation infrastructure after the earthquake, and the planned total investment was 85.93 billion yuan. As of September 10th, 2009, 42.465 billion yuan of investment for post-quake reconstruction was executed, 49.4% of the planned total investment.
Given the arrangements of the CPC Sichuan Provincial Committee and Sichuan Provincial Government in quickening the development of a comprehensive transportation hub in West China, Sichuan has a glorious mission, though the tasks are burdensome. Standing on a new historical starting point and with the firm leadership of the provincial Party committee and the provincial government, we will follow the general principles of “opening passageways, building a transportation hub, perfecting road networks, improving the functions, and supporting the province’s development”, base ourselves on enlarging project investment and accelerating project progress, further speed up post-quake reconstruction in communications and the development of the comprehensive transportation hub in West China, and make our best efforts to make more contribution to the economic and social development of Sichuan province.