(Yicai Global) May 8 -- China's top reform and development agency and other ministries have issued guidelines requiring local governments to rationally control the scale and pace of construction to prevent real estate developing without other sectors in areas around high-speed railway stations.
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development recently issued a joint advisory that seeks to avert local financial risks arising from such construction centered on high-speed rail stations and base development on actual local financial strength instead.
"Local governments nowadays often set a transportation hub as a new economic growth point," Peng Peng, vice president of the Comprehensive Reform and Development Research Institute of Guangdong Province, told Yicai Global. "They plan many airport and high-speed railroad new towns."
The trend is causing empty communities to spring up, as some small- and mid-sized cities choose to locate high-speed rail stations far from their urban centers. Such development often occurs to differing degrees in various areas, is over-large in initial scale and is thus insufficiently attractive to either the local populace or businesses.
"[The location] should be determined in accordance with the size of the city," Hu Gang, a professor at Jinan University in Guangzhou and president of a South China research institute, told Yicai Global. "At present, the location of high-speed rail stations is generally a bit far from the city center."
The foundation for sustained and healthy development is unstable and fraught with social and economic risks, the policy document noted.
In the early stage of a big city, development should focus on areas within two kilometers of newly built high-speed rail stations and suitably control the reserved long-term development area to avoid sprawling, large, inefficient development, the circular advised.
Small and mid-sixed cities must not overrate the function of high-speed routes and should avoid blindly copying the development experience of big cities and building characteristic towns, the guidelines said.
Big cities have large populations and economies so for them to locate high-speed rail stations farther away from their centers poses no problem. Smaller cities have fewer people, however, so they should build stations closer to their cores to cluster development around their old cities, Hu said.
High-speed rail routes will largely change the spatial structure and layout of Chinese cities. The benefits and impact of high-speed rail on cities have not yet been fully realized, Hu said. Big city stations will probably be downtown in the future, Hu added.
Editor: Ben Armour