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China?s railways ministry to be dismantled

<span class="" id="parent-fieldname-description"> China is looking to break up its Railways Ministry and rebuild it into two arms – operations and commercial – following several scandals and suggestions that the ministry has become bloated. </span> <p>The split is to be part of an overhaul of the bureaucracy as new leaders take charge in Beijing, two sources told Reuters.</p><p>The restructuring is aimed at ending long-standing inefficiencies and addressing the ministry’s reputation for insularity and corruption, they said.</p><p>“The Railways Ministry will be demoted (in status),” one of the sources told Reuters.</p><p>Back&nbsp in February 2011 then Minister for Railways Liu Zhijun was dismissed from his post for alleged corruption, particularly in regard to contracts for the Beijing to Shanghai high-speed rail line. Press reports suggested at the time that US$28.5m was embezzled from this project. Subsequent investigations unearthed even larger sums, with former deputy chief engineer at the Ministry of Railways, Zhang Shuguang, and “father” of the HSR dream, alleged to have siphoned off US$2.8bn into overseas bank accounts.</p><p>The changes to the Ministry of Railways are set to be approved at the annual full session of the National People’s Congress, or parliament, which begins on Tuesday. A cabinet reshuffle is expected as Xi Jinping takes over formally as president and Li Keqiang as premier.</p><p>“Part of the Ministry of Railways will be merged with a super-Ministry of Transport,” said a second source who has leadership ties, requesting anonymity to avoid repercussions for speaking to foreign reporters. The source was referring to the operations of the railways.</p><p>A state-owned enterprise will absorb the ministry’s commercial arm, which has responsibility for passenger ticketing and freight operations, the sources added.</p><p>The Railways Ministry has faced numerous problems over the past few years, including heavy debts from funding new high-speed lines, waste and fraud. The government has pledged to open the rail industry to private investment on an unprecedented scale.</p>