The Chinese government expects high-speed rail to foster the creation of a new megacity around Beijing that will defy conventional urban planning limitations.
The Chinese government has made provisions for a new megacity whose official ambit will be six times greater than the area of metropolitan New York.
The proposed megacity will involve the conversion of the national capital of Beijing and its surrounding urban conurbation into a single gigantic metropolitan entity, in order to foster better planning decision and improved economic growth.
“The supercity is the vanguard of economic reform,” said Liu Gang, a professor at Tianjin’s Nankai University and adviser on regional growth.
The new megacity will go by the moniker of “Jing-Jin-Ji” – with “Jing” referring to the national capital of Beijing at its core, “Jin” the nearby port city of Tianjin, and “Ji” to the adjacent urban parts of surrounding Hebei province.
The creation of Jing-Jin-Ji is intended to fully integrate the urbanized parts of what are currently three disparate jurisdictions, producing an economic hub comparable to the Yangtze River Delta surrounding Shanghai, and the Pearl River Delta, which has Guangzhou and Shenzhen as its cores.
The proposed megalopolis will be far more ambitious and considered than China’s other urban conurbations, however, entailing deliberate integration between its constituent parts on a much greater scale.
Jing-Jin-Ji will host a population of roughly 130 million – over five times that of Australia, as well as cover an area six times that of the Big Apple in America.
Urban integration on this scale will require huge accompanying infrastructure works, chief amongst them the expansion of the region’s high-speed rail network, in order to reduce commuting time within the megacity to an hour at the upper threshold.
The creation of this high-speed rail network will enable Jing-Jin-Ji to expand beyond the conventional size threshold for maintaining acceptable commuting times, and flout the long-established planning principle that the maximum distance within all parts of given urban area should be kept under 100 kilometres due the limitations of driving speeds.
The Chinese government is already forging ahead with the expansion of its high-speed rail network, opening up a line between Beijing and Tangshan in Hebei this year, as well as commencing work on another link between the national capital and the mountain town of Zhangjiakou.
In addition to the use of the latest transit technology to dramatically expand the functional scope of single metropolis, the creation of Jing-Jin-Ji will also requires major reform of the intangible “software” of urban governance – chief amongst them the creation of property taxes that subordinate jurisidctions will be able to retain.