Finished expressway connects isolated Xinjiang prefecture

People living in Hotan prefecture in the southern Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region can travel to other parts of China along a newly opened expressway connecting the last prefecture in Xinjiang to the modern transportation infrastructure in the rest of the country.

The expressway, linking Shule county in Kashgar prefecture and Moyu county in Hotan, stretches 434 kilometers and is a subsection of the G30 National Expressway, which links Lianyungang in East China’s Jiangsu province with Horgos on the China-Kazakhstan border.

Construction of the expressway began in July 2017 and it opened on July 31. It has a designed speed of up to 120 kilometers per hour.

The Hotan prefecture had its first expressway linking Moyu county and Hotan city in August last year, but the expressway was not connected with those in other parts of Xinjiang.

Hotan is located in southern Xinjiang, which is known for its hostile environment and complex geological conditions. It is also one of the poorest regions in China.

Pan Feng, president of a logistics company in Hotan, said the opening of the new expressway is great news for logistics companies as it can shorten the travel time from Kashgar to Hotan from eight hours to just more than four hours.

“The opening of the expressway will improve traffic infrastructure and benefit the economic development and poverty alleviation of Hotan,” said Lu Jun, head of the construction team for the expressway.

Extra efforts were taken to overcome construction difficulties and extreme weather, such as sandstorms, rainstorms and flooding and to protect the local ecosystem, he said.

The total length of expressways in Xinjiang is expected to reach 5,234 km by the end of 2019, with an additional 434 km being built this year, according to the Xinjiang transport department.

To ensure better services for tourists, the region has implemented 53 projects to improve expressway service areas, upgraded service facilities at 16 stations on national and provincial highways, and added 1,118 tourist signs, the department said.

Xinjiang has invested 10.5 billion yuan ($1.52 billion) in highway construction in the first five months of this year. The region plans to invest 52.6 billion yuan in highway construction in 2019, which includes constructing and renovating 841 km of national and provincial highways, 12,000 km of roads in rural areas, and 434 km of expressways, it said.

MAO WEIHUA in Urumqi and ZOU SHUO in Beijing

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