State-owned mining and energy company Shenhua Group is building the new railway, which will link a major coal-producing region in Inner Mongolia with Shanxi Province, where the company's existing railway infrastructure provides a direct link to Huanghua port on China's east coast and Wanjia Terminal in Tianjin. The company is expected to invest $2.17bn in the project, with the line anticipated to have capacity for 200 million tonnes of coal per year.
The Commission says the Zhunchi Railway is its first attempt to liberalize the rail freight market in China, following similar moves in the aviation industry to allow carriers to charge as little as they want for tickets on certain domestic routes.
Shi Lixin of the NDRC's Institute of Economic System and Management described the move as a "milestone" in railway reform which will have a positive and far-reaching impact on the investment and financial reform of China's railways.
"The move will boost the confidence of social capital to invest in railways and help stabilize expectations," Shi says.