Expressways of China
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The expressway network of China is an integrated system of national and provincial-level expressways in the People's Republic of China, forming the world's largest expressway system by length. At the end of 2012, the total length of the network was 95,600 kilometres (59,400 mi), of which 11,000 kilometres (6,800 mi) of expressways were built in that year alone. A system of national-level expressways, officially known as the National Trunk Highway System (simplified Chinese: 中国国家高速公路网; traditional Chinese: 中國國家高速公路網; pinyin: Zhōngguó Guójiā Gāosù Gōnglùwǎng) and abbreviated NTHS, with 7 radial expressways (from the capital Beijing), 9 north-south expressways and 18 east-west expressways, forms the backbone of the expressway network in the country. This backbone is known as the 7918 network (simplified Chinese: 7918网; traditional Chinese: 7918網; pinyin: 7918 wǎng). In addition, the provincial-level divisions of China each have their own expressway systems.
Expressways in China are a fairly recent addition to the transportation infrastructure in the country. Previously, the national road network consisted of a system of at-grade China National Highways. China's first expressway, the Shanghai–Jiading Expressway, opened in October 1988.[note 1] This 17.37 kilometres (10.79 mi) expressway now forms part of Shanghai's expressway network. The early 1990s saw the start of the country's massive plan to upgrade its network of roads. In 1999, the length of the network exceeded 10,000 kilometres (6,200 mi) in length. Many of the major expressways parallel routes of the older China National Highways.
|1988||0 km (0 mi)|
|1989||147 km (91 mi)|
|1990||271 km (168 mi)|
|1991||522 km (324 mi)|
|1992||574 km (357 mi)|
|1993||652 km (405 mi)|
|1994||1,145 km (711 mi)|
|1995||1,603 km (996 mi)|
|1996||2,141 km (1,330 mi)|
|1997||3,422 km (2,126 mi)|
|1998||4,771 km (2,965 mi)|
|1999||8,733 km (5,426 mi)|
|2000||11,605 km (7,211 mi)|
|2001||16,314 km (10,137 mi)|
|2002||19,453 km (12,088 mi)|
|2003||25,200 km (15,700 mi)|
|2004||29,800 km (18,500 mi)|
|2005||34,300 km (21,300 mi)|
|2006||41,005 km (25,479 mi)|
|2007||45,339 km (28,172 mi)|
|2008||53,913 km (33,500 mi)|
|2009||60,436 km (37,553 mi)|
|2010||65,055 km (40,423 mi)|
|2011||74,113 km (46,052 mi)|
|2012||84,946 km (52,783 mi)|
|2013||95,600 km (59,400 mi)|
Prior to the 1980s, freight and passenger transport activities were predominantly achieved by rail transport rather than by road. The 1980s and 1990s saw a growing trend toward roads as a method of transportation and a shift away from rail transport. In 1978, rail transport accounted for 54.4% of the total freight movement in China, while road transport only accounted for 2.8%. By 1997, road transport's share of freight movement had increased to 13.8% while the railway's share decreased to 34.3%. Similarly, road's share of passenger transport increased from 29.9% to 53.3% within the same time period, with railway's share decreasing from 62.7% to 35.4%. The shift from rail to road can be attributed to the rapid development of the expressway network in China.
On 7 June 1984, China's expressway ambitions began when construction of the Shenyang–Dalian Expressway began between the cities of Shenyang and Dalian. The expressway is now part of the longer G15 Shenyang–Haikou Expressway. Later that year, construction began on the Shanghai–Jiading Expressway in the city of Shanghai. The Shanghai–Jiading Expressway opened on 31 October 1988, becoming the first completed expressway in China.
On 13 January 2005, Zhang Chunxian, China's Minister of Transport announced that that China would build a network of 85,000 kilometres (53,000 mi) expressways over the next three decades, connecting all provincial capitals and cities with a population of over 200,000 residents. The announcement introduced the 7918 network (simplified Chinese: 7918网; traditional Chinese: 7918網; pinyin: 7918 wǎng), a grid of 7 radial expressways from Beijing, 9 north-south expressways, and 18 east-west expressways that would form the backbone of the national expressway system. This replaced the earlier proposal for five north-south and seven east-west core routes, proposed in 1992.
The total costs of the national expressway network are estimated to be 2 trillion yuan (some 240 billion US dollars). From 2005 to 2010, the annual investment was planned to run from 140 billion yuan (17 billion US dollars) to 150 billion yuan (18 billion US dollars), while from 2010 to 2020, the annual investment planned is to be around 100 billion yuan (12 billion US dollars).
The construction fund will come from vehicle purchase tax, fees and taxes collected by local governments, state bonds, domestic investment and foreign investment. Unlike other freeway systems, almost all of the roads on the NTHS/"7918 Network" are toll roads that are largely financed by private companies under contract from provincial governments. The private companies raise money through bond and stock offerings and recover money through tolls.
Efforts to impose a national gasoline tax to finance construction of the tollways met with opposition and it has been very difficult for both the Communist Party of China and the State Council to pass such a tax through the National People's Congress of China.
Neither officially named "motorway" nor "highway", China used to call these roads "freeways". In this sense, the word "free" means that the traffic is free-flowing; that is, cross traffic is grade separated and the traffic on the freeway is not impeded by traffic control devices like traffic lights and stop signs. However, many misinterpret "free" as meaning "no cost", and this may be misleading because most of the expressways charge tolls. Sometime in the 1990s, "expressways" became the standardised term.
Note that "highways" refers to China National Highways, which are not expressways at all.
"Express routes" exist too; they are akin to expressways but are mainly inside cities. The "express route" name is a derivation of the Chinese name kuaisu gonglu (compare with expressway, gaosu gonglu). Officially, "expressway" is used for both expressways and express routes, which is also the standard used here.
The names of the individual expressways regularly are composed by two characters representing start and end of expressway, e.g. "Jingcheng" expressway is the expressway between "Jing" (meaning Beijing) and Chengde.
Expressway speed limits
The Road Traffic Safety Law of the People's Republic of China has raised the speed limit nationwide from 110 km/h to 120 km/h (75 mph), effective May 1, 2004. It may still take some time for local expressways to raise the speed limit accordingly.
A minimum speed limit is in force, of 70 km/h. On overtaking lanes, however, this could be as high as 100 km/h to 110 km/h. Penalties for driving both below and in excess of the prescribed speed limits are enforced.
Only motor vehicles are allowed to enter expressways. As of May 1, 2004, "new drivers" (i.e., those with a Chinese driver's licence for less than a year) are allowed on expressways, something that was prohibited from the mid-1990s.
Overtaking on the right, speeding, and illegal use of the emergency belt (or hard shoulder) cost violators stiff penalties.
Expressways in China are signed in both Simplified Chinese and English (except for parts of the Jingshi Expressway, which relies only on Chinese characters, and some provinces, in Inner Mongolia for example signs are in Mongolian and Chinese, and in XUAR the signs are in Chinese and Uyghur Language which uses Perso-Arabic Alphabet). This sharply reduces the language barrier; however, very few toll officials at toll gates speak English.
The signs on Chinese expressways use white lettering on a green background, like Japanese highways, Swiss autobahns and United States freeways. Newer signage places the exit number in an exit tab to the upper right of the sign, making them very similar in appearance to American freeway signs.
Exits are well signed, with signs far ahead of exits. There are frequent signs that announce the next three exits. At each exit, there is a sign with the distance to the next exit. Exit signs are also posted 3000 m, 2000 m, 1000 m, and 500 m ahead of the exit, immediately before the exit, and at the exit itself.
Service areas and refreshment areas are standard on some of the older, more established expressways, and are expanding in number. Gas stations are frequent.
Signs indicate exits, toll gates, service/refreshment areas, intersections, and also warn about keeping a fair distance apart. "Distance checks" are commonplace; the idea here is to keep the two-second rule (or, as Chinese law requires, at least a 100 m distance between cars). Speed checks and speed traps are often signposted (in fact, on the Jingshen Expressway in the Beijing section, even the cameras have a warning sign above them), but some may just be scarecrow signs. Signs urging drivers to slow down, warning about hilly terrain, banning driving in emergency lanes, or about different road surfaces are also present. Also appearing from time to time are signs signaling the overtaking lane (which legally should only be used to pass other cars). Although most English signs are comprehensible, occasionally the English is garbled.
Some, if not most, expressways have digital displays. These displays may advise against speeding, indicate upcoming road construction, warn of traffic jams, or alert drivers to rain. Recommended detours are also signaled. The great majority of messages are only in Chinese.
Expressway exit numbering
Exit numbering has been standard in China from virtually day one, while some other nations are just catching on (e.g. Switzerland only in 2002). Most Chinese expressways, especially those in the national network, use distance-based exit numbering, with the last three numbers before the decimal point taken used as the exit number. Hence, an exit present at km 982.7 would be Exit 982, whereas an exit at km 3,121.2 would be Exit 121.
Mostly regional expressways still use sequential exit numbering, although even here, new signage feature distance-based exit numbering. Before the 2009–2010 numbering switchover, nearly all of China's expressways used sequential numbering, and a few expressways used Chinese names outright.
The exit is written inside an oval in green letters to the immediate right of the Chinese word for exit, "出口" (chukou).
Expressway tolls and financing
Nearly all expressways charge tolls. Tolls are roughly around CNY 0.5 per kilometre, and minimum rates (e.g. CNY 5) usually apply regardless of distance. However, some are more expensive (the Jinji Expressway costs around CNY 0.66 per kilometre) and some are less expensive (the Jingshi Expressway in Beijing costs around CNY 0.33 per kilometre). It is noteworthy that cheaper expressways do not necessarily mean poorer roads or a greater risk of traffic congestion.
Expressway planning is performed by the Ministry of Transportation of the People's Republic of China. Unlike the road networks in most nations, most Chinese expressways are not directly owned by the state, but rather are owned by for-profit corporations (which have varying amounts of public and private ownership) which borrow money from banks or securities markets based on revenue from projected tollways. One reason for this is that Chinese provinces, which are responsible for road building, have extremely limited powers to tax and even fewer powers to borrow.
Expressway construction has also been one of the rare instances in which the Communist Party of China and the State Council has had to back down on a major policy initiative. During the late-1990s, there were proposals to fund public highways by means of a fuel tax, but this was voted down by the National People's Congress.
Most expressways use a card system. Upon entrance to an expressway (or to a toll portion of the expressway), an entry card is handed over to the driver. The tolls to be paid are determined from the distance traveled when the driver hands the entry card back to the exit toll gate upon leaving the expressway. A small number of expressways do not use a card system but charge unitary fares. Passage through these expressways is relatively faster but it is economically less advantageous. An example of such an expressway would be the Jingtong Expressway.
China is increasingly deploying a system of ETC systems, and in the latest edition of expressway toll gate signage, a new ETC sign is now shown at an increasing number of toll gates. ETC networks based around Beijing , Shanghai  and Guangdong province  all feature either mixed toll passages supporting toll card payment or full-service dedicated ETC lanes. Beijing, in particular, has a dedicated ETC lane at almost all toll gates.
City transit cards are not widely used; one of the first experiments with the Beijing Yikatong Card on what is now the Jingzang Expressway (G6) went live for only a year before a new national standard replaced it in early 2008.
Numeric System and List by number
A previous system, the 1992 "five vertical + seven horizontal expressways" system, was used for arterial expressways and were, in essence, G0-series expressways (e.g. G020, G025). This was replaced by the present-day new numeric system (see below).
New Numbering System
A new system, which dates from 2004 and began use on a nationwide level beginning late 2009 and early 2010, integrates itself into the present-day G-series number system. The present-day network, termed the 7918 Network (also known as the National Trunk Highway System (NTHS)), uses one, two or four digits in the G-series numbering system, leaving three-figured G roads as the China National Highways.
The new 7918 Network is composed of
- 7 radial expressways leaving Beijing (G1-G7)
- 9 vertical expressways going north to south (double digit G roads with numbers ending in an odd numeral)
- 18 horizontal expressways head west to east (double digit G roads with numbers ending in an even numeral)
The network is additionally composed of connection expressways as well as regional and metropolitan ring expressways.
On a nationwide basis, expressways use the G prefix (short for "guojia" or "nation" in Chinese), as well as the character "国家高速" (National Expressway, white letters on a red stripe on top of the sign). For regional expressways, the prefix S (short for "shengji" or "province-level") is used instead, as well as the one-character abbreviation of the province and "高速" (expressway, black letters on an orange-yellow stripe on top of the sign.) The same numbering system is used for both national and regional expressways.
- All expressways in this network begin with the letter G. (For regional expressways, the letter S is used instead.)
- All expressways have a thin band on top of the sign. For national expressways, this will be red; for regional expressways, it will be orange-yellow.
- For radial expressways leaving from or ending in Beijing, use a single digit from 1 to 9 (e.g. G1, G2).
- For north-south expressways, use an odd number from 11-89 (e.g. G13, G35).
- For west-east expressways, use an even number from 10-90 (e.g. G30, G46).
- For regional expressways in the 7918 network, use numbers from 91-99 (e.g. G91, G93)
- Note: G99 or the Taiwan Ring Expressway is currently a theoretical expressway based in Taiwan Province, which is claimed by the People's Republic of China, but is actually administered by the Republic of China. (In additional, the ROC has not built the eastern half as an expressway.) See Political status of Taiwan. See also Highway System in Taiwan for the current Republic of China-maintained Taiwan freeway system, which uses a different numbering system.
- For the parallel expressways running alongside primary expressways, add the direction signal "W", "E", "N", "S" after the primary expressway number (e.g. G4W).
- For connection expressways, use "1" plus an order number after the main line (e.g. G1511).
- For city ring expressways, use "0" plus an order number after the main line number, starting from the smallest possible number.
|This section's factual accuracy may be compromised due to out-of-date information. (March 2013)|
Municipalities: All expressways are ordered by direction (starting from the north, in west-to-east direction).
Other Regions: All expressways are ordered alphabetically.
- S01 Lihuang Expressway
- S04 Suzhou-Sixian Expressway
- S06 Sudeng Expressway
- S12 Chuxin Expressway
- S17 Benghe Expressway
- S27 Anqing-Dongzhi Expressway
- S12 Airport Expressway
- S28 Northern Airport Expressway
- S32 Beijing-Pingu Expressway
- S50 5th Ring Expressway
- S51 2nd Airport Expressway
Old naming conventions
Old naming conventions
- S10 Xiuyu-Putian Expressway
- S10 Puyong Expressway
- S0311 Pujian Expressway
- S1521 Fuzhou Connecting Line
- S1531 Airport Expressway
- S1551 Yuping Expressway
- S1572 Douwei Shugang Expressway
- S1 Lanying Expressway
- S2 Lanlang Expressway
- S14 Longxi-Weiyuan Expressway
- S17 Jinchang-Yongchang Expressway
- Guangqing Expressway
- S2 Guanghe Expressway
- S3 Guangshen Yanjiang Expressway
- S4W Guang'ao Expressway Zhuhai Branch Line
- S5 Guangming Expressway
- S10 Shaogan Expressway
- S12 Meilong Expressway
- S20 Chaoguan Expressway
- S21 Guanghui Expressway
- S25 Changshen Expressway Huizhou Branch Line
- S26 Shenluo Expressway
- S28 Shuiguan Expressway
- S30 Huishen Coastal Expressway
- S31 Longda Expressway
- S32 Western Coastal Expressway
- S33 Nanguang Expressway
- S39 Dongxin Expressway
- S41 Airport Expressway
- S43 Guangzhu West Expressway
- S47 Jiangzhu Expressway
- S49 Xintai Expressway
- S51 Luoyang Expressway
- S81 Guangzhou Ring Expressway
- S82 Foshan 1st Ring Expressway
Old naming conventions
- Guangfo Expressway
- Guangshen Expressway
- Guangsan Expressway
- Guangzhan Expressway
- Guangwu Expressway
- Shenshan Expressway
- Haikou-Wenchang expressway (Haiwen Expressway)
- Baojin Expressway
- Jinghu Expressway
- Jingjintang Expressway
- Jingshen Expressway
- Jingshi Expressway
- Jingzhang Expressway
- Shian Expressway
- Shicang Expressway
- Tangjin Expressway
- Tanggang Expressway
- Xuanda Expressway
Expressways under construction
- Airport Expressway (Jianghan District, Wuhan - Huangpi District, Wuhan)
- G70 Fuyin Expressway (Huangmei County, Huanggang - Yunxi County, Shiyan)
- Hanshi Expressway (Huangpi District, Wuhan - Zhangwan District, Shiyan)
- Huangxiao Expressway (Huangmei County, Huanggang)
- Shiman Expressway (Zhangwan District, Shiyan - Yunxi County, Shiyan)
- Wuhuang Expressway (Hongshan District, Wuhan - Huangshigang District, Huangshi)
- Hancai Expressway (Hanyang District, Wuhan - Caidian District, Wuhan)
- Han'e Expressway (Qingshan District, Wuhan - Hongshan District, Wuhan)
- Hanhong Expressway (Hanyang District, Wuhan - Hannan District, Wuhan)
- Hanhuang Expressway (Jiang'an District, Wuhan - Huangpi District, Wuhan)
- Hanma Expressway (Huangpi District, Wuhan - Hong'an County, Huanggang)
- Hanyi Expressway (Caidian District, Wuhan - Xiling District, Yichang)
- Huanghuang Expressway (Huangshigang District, Huangshi - Huangmei County, Huanggang)
- Jingdong Expressway (Jingzhou District, Jingzhou - Gong'an County, Jingzhou)
- Jingxiang Expressway (Jingzhou District, Jingzhou - Xiangyang District, Xiangfan)
- Jingzhu Expressway (Dawu County, Xiaogan - Chibi City, Xianning)
- Qingzheng Expressway (Hongshan District, Wuhan - Jiangxia District, Wuhan)
- Wuhan Middle Ring Expressway
- Wuhan Outer Ring Expressway (some parts concurrent with G4 Jinggang'ao Expressway, G42 Hurong Expressway, G50 Huyu Expressway, G70 Fuyin Expressway)
Expressways under construction
- G45 Daguang Expressway (Macheng City, Huanggang - Tongshan County, Xianning)
- G42 Hurong Expressway (Yingshan County, Huanggang - Badong County, Enshi)
- Hanying Expressway (Jiang'an District, Wuhan - Yingshan County, Huanggang)
- Suiyue Expressway (Zengdu District, Suizhou - Jianli County, Jingzhou)
- Jilao Expressway
- Huji Expressway
- Hubao Expressway
- Baoli Expressway
- Liwu Expressway
- Inner Mongolia section of Jingxin Expressway
- Inner Mongolia section of Suiman Expressway
- Inner Mongolia section of Hunwu Expressway
- Chida Expressway
- G109 Highway
- Chitong Expressway
- Baijifeng Expressway
- Baodong Expressway
- Dongsu Expressway
- Tonglu Northwest Ring
- Inner Mongolia section of Ji'a Expressway
- Hohhot City Ring Expressway
- Huzhun Expressway
- Huning Expressway (Shanghai - Nanjing)
- Yanjiang Expressway (Taicang - Changzhou)
- Ningtong Expressway (Nanjing - Nantong)
- Ningma Expressway (Nanjing - Maanshan)
- Ningjingyan Expressway (Nanjing - Jingjiang - Yancheng)
- Yanlian Expressway (Yancheng - Lianyungang)
- Yinchuan City Ring Expressway
- Ningxia section of Jingzang Expressway
- Ningxia section of Qingyin Expressway
- Ningxia section of Qinglan Expressway
- Ningxia section of Fuyin Expressway
- Ningxia section of Dingwu Expressway
- Xiyu Expressway
- Xihan Expressway
- Hanning Expressway
- Wuzi Expressway
- Zijing Expressway
- Jingwang Expressway
- Shaanxi section of Qinglan Expressway
- Xitong Expressway
- Xibao Expressway
- Xilan Expressway
- Shanmeng Expressway
- Yujing Expressway
- Jingan Expressway
- Huangyan Expressway
- Xihuang Expressway
- Xizha Expressway
- Xilan Expressway
- Yongxian Expressway
- Yongchang Expressway
- Shaanxi section of Dingwu Expressway
- Xi'an City Ring Expressway
- Shaanxi section of Shitian Expressway
- Xi'an Airport Expressway
- Tongfeng Expressway
- Huhang Expressway (G60) (Xinzhuang Interchange - Hangzhou)
- Huning Expressway (G2/G42) (Zhenbei Road Interchange - Nanjing)
- A9 Expressway (G50) (Waihuan Huqingping Interchange - Qingpu - Zhujiajiao)
- A12 Expressway (S5) (Wenshui Road - Jiading - Taicang)
- A4 Expressway (S4) (Xinzhuang Interchange - Fengxian - Jinshan)
- A5 Expressway
- A30 Expressway (G1501) (Suburb circular expressway, partly G010 National Highway)
- Jinji Expressway
- Tangjin Expressway
- Jinghu Expressway
- Baojin Expressway
- Jingjintang Expressway
- Jinbin Expressway
- Tibet section of Jingzang Expressway
- Xinjiang section of Jingxin Expressway
- Tuwu Expressway
- Wuda Expressway
- Wukui Expressway
- Kuisai Expressway
- Saihuo Expressway
- Tuhe Expressway
- Heku Expressway
- Xinjiang section of Tuhe Expressway
- Xinjiang section of Kuia Expressway
- Xinjiang section of Kuita Expressway
- Xinjiang section of Qingyi Expressway
- Wuda Expressway
- Ürümqi/Wulumuqi Airport Expressway
- Wenzhou Ring Expressway (Wenzhou)
- Shaozhu Expressway (Shaoxing - Zhuji)
- Zhuyong Expressway (Zhuji - Yongjia)
- Taijin Expressway (Taizhou - Jinhua)
Hong Kong and Macau
There is 160.9 kilometres (100.0 mi) of expressways in Hong Kong. Macau has less than 50 kilometres (31 mi) of highways and are partially controlled access.
- The Shanghai–Jiading Expressway was the first expressway to be built in Mainland China, excluding Taiwan (see Political status of Taiwan), as well as Hong Kong and Macau, which were under British and Portuguese control respectively at the time. If Taiwan is included, the first expressway to open in China was Taiwan's National Highway 1, known as the Zhongshan Expressway, which opened in 1974.
- Length of network as of 1 January of the respective year.
- "过去五年新增铁路里程1.97万公里 新增高速公路4.2万公里". xinhuanet.com.
- Li, Si-ming and Shum, Yi-man. Impacts of the National Trunk Highway System on accessibility in China. Journal of Transport Geography.
- 国家高速公路网规划 (National Trunk Highway System Planning). 13 January 2005. (Chinese)
- 国内首条取消收费高速公路改建工程启动. News.cn. (Chinese)
- National Bureau of Statistics of China.
- Wang, Chongxu; Yuancheng Peng, Yinbo Liu (January 2009). "Crossing the Limits". Civil Engineering (Reston, Virginia: American Society of Civil Engineers) 79 (1): 64–69, 79–80. ISSN 0885-7024.
- "365条ETC车道开通，基本实现全市收费站点全覆盖". 北京快通高速路电子收费系统有限公司. 2010-04-29. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
- "北京八达岭高速"速通卡"将停止使用". 京华时报. 2008-01-03. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
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