China signs off $3.5bn, 825km rail project to connect north-western Xinjiang province
The Chinese National Development and Reform Commission has given the green light to a huge rail project in Xinjiang, a vast landmass in the northwest of the country.
Spanning 825km and costing $3.5bn to build over the next three and a half years, the programme will add vital connectivity to the south of the region.
The National Development and Reform Commission also said it would deliver an economic boost and contribute towards poverty alleviation projects.
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The Xinjiang region covers 1.665mn sq km and is home to a population of more than 19mn people, many of whom are from ethnic minority groups. Han Chinese people moved to the area during its economic development years, powered by its wealth in natural resources.
Countrywide, China added more than 3,000km of new rail tracks in 2017, costing $125bn. The China Railway Corporation reported that this smashed last year’s target of 2,100km of new lines.
In total, China has 127,000km of active rail lines, with high-speed rail accounting for 25,000km.
The country’s bullet train network is already the largest in the world, well ahead of Spain which stands in second with a network of just over 3,000km.
Construction of the 130km Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong Express Rail Link is almost complete, with the final section to Hong Kong all that is left to build.
This is also being accompanied by an enormous 4mn sq ft station for the futuristic ‘Vibrant Express’ trains, which can travel up to 350kmph.
217,000 extra workers needed to meet COVID-19 recovery
As the construction industry’s recovery progresses, the Construction Industry Training Board’s (CITB) Construction Skills Network (CSN) forecasts have led the organisation to believe the industry will reach 2019 levels of output in 2022.
The CSN says there will be an increase in the number of construction workers in “most English regions” by 2025, with demands forecasted at a 1.7% rise for the East Midlands, and a 1.4% rise for the West Midlands.
Scotland and Wales are also predicted to see a surge in demand for construction workers with a total increase of 1.4% and 0.7% respectively. The North East is the only region to see a slight decline in workforce demand at -0.1%.
Wood and interior fit-out trades among the most desirable during COVID-19
According to CSN’s forecast, the trades that are the most wanted are those of wood and interior fit-outs, with both requiring around 5,500 workers per year. Other in-demand trades include technical staff and other construction professionals, requiring 5,150 workers each year, construction managers at 3,600, and the electrical installation trade, which requires 3,400 staff per year.
There is also expected to be demand for 7,850 non-construction, office-based professionals and technical and IT support staff each year. Steve Radley, Policy Director at CITB, said: “It’s great to see construction coming back so strongly and creating lots of job opportunities.
“We need to adopt new approaches to meet these growing skills needs and deliver these quickly. We are working closely with the government and FE to build better bridges between FE and work and make apprenticeships more flexible. We are also making significant investments in supporting work experience that make it easier for employers to bring in new blood.
“We must also make sure that we invest in the skills that will drive change and meet new and growing needs such as Net Zero emissions and Building Safety. We will be announcing plans soon to tackle specific skills and occupations such as leadership and management, digital skills, and skills related to energy efficiency”, he said.