CRC general manager Mr Sheng Guangzu told journalists at a press conference in Beijing much of the focus for 2016 will be on developing links to central and western regions.

CRC says it invested Yuan 823.8bn last year, compared with Yuan 809bn in 2014, and opened 9531km of new railway, including 3306km of high-speed lines, taking the total length of the high-speed network to more than 19,000km.

However, while CRC has maintained a consistently high level of investment, losses have begun to rise. In the first three quarters of last year losses reached Yuan 9.4bn, more than three times the deficit in the corresponding period in 2014. CRC's freight business has been struggling with volumes dropping 10.5% to 3.4 billion tonnes last year. This follows a 4.7% drop in 2014.

Nonetheless, the rate of investment in the expansion of the network looks set to remain steady or even increase. According to a report in the Economic Information Daily at the end of November, Yuan 2.8 trillion will be invested in new line construction between 2016 and 2020 as part of Beijing's 13th economic plan, close to the total for 2011-2015. However, with economic stimulus money thrown in, the final total is likely to be closer to Yuan 3.5 trillion, and the Beijing-based business publisher Caixin Media reported on January 4 that the final figure could be as high as Yuan 3.8 trillion.

More than 23,000km of new lines will be added to the network, which will grow to around 150,000km with the high-speed network set to reach 30,000km.