The expressway network of China is an integrated system of national and provincial-level expressways in China. By the end of 2017, the total length of China's expressway network reached 136,000 kilometers, the world's largest expressway system by length, having surpassed the overall length of the American Interstate Highway System in 2011. 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), 11 north-south expressways and 18 east-west expressways, forms the backbone of the expressway network in the country. This backbone is known as the 71118 network (simplified Chinese: 71118网; traditional Chinese: 71118網; pinyin: 71118 wǎng). In addition, the provincial-level divisions of China each have their own expressway systems.
The first expressway recorded in China date back more than two thousand years ago to the Qin Dynasty when the first emperor Qin Shihuang built a 750km state highway, linking its capital Xianyang to the northerly border of Erdos as a defensive maneuver. The first modern at-grade China National Highways is 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||97,355 km (60,494 mi)|
|2014||104,500 km (64,900 mi)|
|2015||111,950 km (69,560 mi)|
|2016||123,000 km (76,000 mi)|
|2017||131,000 km (81,000 mi)|
|2018||136,000 km (85,000 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 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 300 billion US dollars as rate in 2016). 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 are in fact toll roads. Some time 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 are regularly composed of two characters representing start and end of expressway, e.g. "Jingcheng" expressway is the expressway between "Jing" (meaning Beijing) and Chengde.
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.
A minimum speed limit of 70 km/h is in force. 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 indicated, 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.
Many 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.
Exit numbering has been standardised in China from its inception. 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. Unlike American exit numbering systems that reset at each state line a freeway crosses, exits on Chinese expressways increase along the total length of the freeway, regardless of how many provincial boundaries the expressway crosses.
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).
Nearly all expressways are toll roads. 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 network of electronic toll collection (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.
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).
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
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" in Chinese meaning "national"), 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.
Numbered: All expressways are ordered by number. Unnumbered: All expressways are ordered by direction, starting from north or east.
|Number and Name||Chinese Name||Origin||Terminus||Length
|S01 Lihuang Expressway||溧黄高速||Liyang, Jiangsu||Huangshan, Anhui|
|S03 Ningxuan Expressway||宁宣高速||Nanjing, Jiangsu||Xuancheng, Anhui|
|S04 Sisu Expressway||泗宿高速||Siyang, Jiangsu||Suzhou, Jiangsu|
|S05 Xuantong Expressway||宣桐高速||Xuancheng, Anhui||Tonglu, Zhejiang|
|S06 Sudeng Expressway||宿登高速||Suzhou, Jiangsu||Dengfeng, Henan|
|S07 Xuming Expressway||徐明高速||Xuzhou, Jiangsu||Mingguang, Anhui|
|S0711 Siwu Expressway||泗五高速||Sihong, Jiangsu||Wuhe, Anhui|
|S0711 Xuming Expressway||盱明高速||Xuyi, Jiangsu||Mingguang, Anhui|
|S11 Chaohuang Expressway||巢黄高速||Chaohu, Anhui||Huangshan, Anhui|
|S1111 Ningjing Expressway||宁旌高速||Ningguo, Anhui||Jingde, Anhui|
|S12 Chuxin Expressway||滁新高速||Chuzhou, Anhui||Xincai, Henan|
|S1211 Fuhuang Expressway||阜潢高速||Fuyang, Anhui||Huangchuan, Hunan|
|S17 Benghe Expressway||蚌合高速||Bengbu, Anhui||Hefei, Anhui|
|S1711 Wubeng Expressway||五蚌高速||Wuhe, Anhui||Bengbu, Anhui|
|S18 Benghe Expressway||岳武高速||Yuexi, Anhui||Wuhan, Hubei|
|S21 Jidang Expressway||济砀高速||Jining, Shandong||Dangshan, Anhui|
|S22 Tianqian Expressway||天潜高速||Tianchang, Anhui||Qianshan, Anhui|
|S2211 Xinyang Expressway||新扬高速||Xinyi, Jiangsu||Yangzhou, Jiangsu|
|S2212 Ninghe Expressway||宁和高速||Nanjing, Jiangsu||Hexian, Anhui|
|S23 Dangqi Expressway||砀祁高速||Dangshan, Anhui||Qimen, Anhui|
|S24 Changhe Expressway||常合高速||Changshu, Jiangsu||Hefei, Anhui|
|S27 Andong Expressway||安东高速||Anqing, Anhui||Dongzhi, Anhui|
|S28 Liwu Expressway||溧芜高速||Liyang, Jiangsu||Wuhu, Anhui|
|S32 Xuantong Expressway||宣铜高速||Xuancheng, Anhui||Tongling, Anhui|
|S35 Pushang Expressway||濮商高速||Puyang, Henan||Shangcheng, Henan|
|S36 Shidong Expressway||石东高速||Shitai, Anhui||Dongzhi, Anhui|
|S38 Dongpeng Expressway||东彭高速||Dongzhi, Anhui||Pengze, Jiangxi|
|S40 Huning Expressway||湖宁高速||Huzhou, Zhejiang||Ningguo, Anhui|
|S42 Huangfu Expressway||黄浮高速||Huangshan, Anhui||Fuliang, Jiangxi|
|S48 Jianhuang Expressway||建黄高速||Jiande, Zhejiang||Huangshan, Anhui|
|S91 Huaibei Branch Line||淮北支线||G3 Jingtai Expressway||Huaibei, Anhui|
|S92 Tongling Branch Line||铜陵支线||G50 Huyu Expressway||Tongling, Anhui|
|S95 Fengyang Branch Line||凤阳支线||S17 Benghe Expressway||Bengbu, Anhui|
|Hefei Airport Branch Line||合肥机场支线||G40 Hushaan Expressway||Hefei Xinqiao International Airport, Anhui|
|Ring||S01||Lanzhou Outer City Ring Expressway||兰州外环绕城高速||Lanzhou Outer Ring||N/A|
|Ring||S02||Pingliang City Ring Expressway||平凉绕城高速||Pingliang Ring||N/A|
|Ring||S03||Tianshui City Ring Expressway||天水绕城高速||Tianshui Ring||N/A|
|Ring||S04||Wuwei City Ring Expressway||武威绕城高速||Wuwei Ring||N/A|
|Ring||S05||Zhangye City Ring Expressway||张掖绕城高速||Zhangye Ring||N/A|
|Ring||S06||Jiujia City Ring Expressway||酒嘉绕城高速||Jiuquan-Jiayuguan Ring||N/A|
|North-south||S15||Wuping Expressway||吴平高速||Shaanxi border towards Wuqi||Pingliang||213 km|
|North-south||S25||Jingtian Expressway||静天高速||Jingning||Tianshui||225 km|
|North-south||S35||Jingli Expressway||景礼高速||Jingtai||Lixian||495 km|
|North-south||S45||Lujiu Expressway||碌久高速||Luqu||Jiuzhi||135 km|
|North-south||S55||Axi Expressway||阿西高速||Inner Mongolia border towards Alxa||Qinghai border towards Xining||300 km|
|North-south||S65||Hangjiu Expressway||航酒高速||Inner Mongolia border at Hangtiancheng||Jiuquan||220 km|
|North-south connector||S11||Jinghua Expressway||泾华高速||Ningxia border towards Jingyuan||Huating||28 km|
|North-south connector||S13||Zhongchuan Airport Liaison Line||中川机场联络线||Lanzhou||Zhongchuan Airport||N/A|
|North-south connector||S17||Ayong Expressway||阿永高速||Inner Mongolia border towards Alxa||Yongchang||N/A|
|North-south connector||S19||Lindong Expressway||临东高速||Linxia||Dongxiang||25 km|
|North-south||S10||Fenghe Expressway||凤合高速||Shaanxi border towards Fengxian||Hezuo||552 km|
|North-south||S20||Lianglang Expressway||两郎高速||Lianghekou||Langmusi||95 km|
|East-west connector||S12||Su'a Expressway||肃阿高速||Subei||Aksai||55 km|
|East-west connector||S14||Longwei Expressway||陇渭高速||Longxi||Weiyuan||39 km|
|East-west connector||S16||Maitian Expressway||麦天高速||Maiji||Tianshui||## km|
|East-west connector||S18||Zhangsu Expressway||张肃高速||Zhangye||Sunan||69 km|
|East-west connector||S22||Baixin Expressway||白新高速||Baiyin||Lanzhou New Area||52 km|
|East-west connector||S24||Lanyong Expressway||兰永高速||Lanzhou||Yongjing||38 km|
|East-west connector||S26||Zhengyu Expressway||正榆高速||Zhengning||Yulinzi||22 km|
|East-west connector||S28||Linghua Expressway||灵华高速||Lingtai||Huating||140 km|
|East-west connector||S32||Linji Expressway||临积高速||Linxia||Jishishan||60 km|
|East-west connector||S34||Linxun Expressway||临循高速||Linxia||Qinghai border at Xunhua||38 km|
|East-west connector||S36||Linguang Expressway||临广高速||Lintao||Guanghe||47 km|
|East-west connector||S38||Xiawang Expressway||夏王高速||Xiahe||Wangge'ertang||35 km|
|East-west connector||S42||Zhangyi Expressway||漳殪高速||Zhangxian||Yihuqiao||15 km|
|East-west connector||S44||Kangwang Expressway||康望高速||Kangxian||Wangguan||33 km|
|East-west connector||S46||Wenqing Expressway||文青高速||Wenxian||Qinglongqiao||32 km|
Former numbers (before 2013):
|Radial||S2||Shenkang Expressway||沈康高速||Shenyang||Kangping||92 km|
|Radial||S3||Shentao Expressway||沈桃高速||Shenyang||Taoxian Airport||12 km|
|Radial||S4||Shenbei Expressway||沈北高速||Shenyang||Inner Mongolia border at Beipiao||N/A|
|North-South||S13||Yonghuan Expressway||永桓高速||Yongling||Huanren||69 km|
|North-South||S17||Pingkang Expressway||平康高速||Siping||Kangping||84 km|
|North-South||S19||Zhuanggai Expressway||庄盖高速||Zhuanghe||Gaizhou||101 km|
|North-South||S21||Fuying Expressway||阜营高速||Fuxin||Yingkou||189 km|
|North-South||S23||Dayaowan Port Expressway||大窑湾疏港高速||Dayaowan Port||22 km|
|North-South||S27||Dalianwan Port Expressway||大连湾疏港高速||Dalianwan Port||4 km|
|North-South||S29||Liaobin Port Expressway||辽滨港疏港高速||Dawa||Liaobin Port||15 km|
|North-South||S31||Jinzhou Port Expressway||锦州疏港高速||Jinzhou||Jinzhou Port||N/A|
|East-West||S10||Futong Expressway||抚通高速||Fushun||Jilin border towards Tonghua||97 km|
|East-West||S12||Pichang Expressway||皮长高速||Pikou||Changxingdao Port||N/A|
|East-West||S14||Liaokai Expressway||辽开高速||Jilin border towards Liaoyuan||Kaiyuan||87 km|
|East-West||S20||Dengliao Expressway||灯辽高速||Dengta||Liaozhong||42 km|
|East-West||S22||Antai Expressway||鞍台高速||Anshan||Tai'an||58 km|
|East-West||S24||Dadong Port Expressway||大东港疏港高速||Donggang||Dadong Port||18 km|
|East-West||S26||Xingjian Expressway||兴建高速||Xingcheng||Jianchang||90 km|
|East-West||S28||Haiyanghong Port Expressway||海洋红疏港高速||Gushan||Haiyanghong Port||14 km|
|East-West||S30||Bayuquan Port Expressway||鲅鱼圈疏港高速||Bayuquan||Bayuquan Port||8 km|
|East-West||S32||Xianrendao Port Expressway||仙人岛疏港高速||Gaizhou||Xianrendao Port||6 km|
|East-West||S34||Changxingdao North Port Expressway||长兴岛北疏港高速||Huayuankou||Changxingdao Port||N/A|
|Ring||S51||Shenyang Outer City Ring Expressway||沈阳外环绕城高速||Shenyang Outer Ring||N/A|
|Ring||S52||Benxi City Ring Expressway||本溪绕城高速||Benxi Ring||N/A|
|North-south||S5||Yinba Expressway||巴高速||Yanchi||Inner Mongolia border towards Otog Qianqi||N/A|
|North-south||S15||Yan'e Expressway||盐鄂高速||Yanchi||Inner Mongolia border towards Otog Qianqi||N/A|
|North-south||S25||Jinghua Expressway||泾华高速||Jingyuan||Gansu border towards Huating||N/A|
|North-south||S27||Shizhong Expressway||石中高速||Yanchi||Inner Mongolia border towards Otog Qianqi||N/A|
|East-West||S20||Wulingqing North Ring Expressway||吴灵青北环高速||Wuzhong||Qingtongxia||N/A|
|East-west||S30||Guqing Expressway||古青高速||Inner Mongolia border Guyaozi||Qingtongxia||N/A|
There are 160.9 kilometres (100.0 mi) of expressways in Hong Kong. Macau has fewer than 50 kilometres (31 mi) of highways, many of which are partially controlled access.
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