At present, the quickest way to get between the two cities is by ferry. (Photo/CNS)
Preliminary planning is underway for a tunnel linking Dalian in Liaoning province to Yantai in Shandong province under the Bohai Sea.
Once completed, the current 12-hour rail trip or 24-hour car journey between the two cities will be cut to one hour via an undersea train.
The distance in a straight line between the two cities is 156 kilometers over the Bohai Sea, but to drive over land means a 1,680 kilometer journey on a route that goes around the bay and through the Shanhai Pass.
The sea route is a six to eight hour voyage by ferry, but this option is closed off in the winter months when the sea freezes over.
The government first considered the idea of an undersea rail tunnel linking the two cities in 2005, and made it part of a long-term plan for the railways ministry.
Zhao Riqiang, the deputy party chief of Dalian, recently said that the National Development and Reform Commission and other related ministries had begun preparing for the construction of the tunnel after the annual meetings of China's national parliament and political advisory body in March.
Wang Mengshu, a member of both the National People's Congress and the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said he and a team of experts will present a report on the project to the State Council in June.
In an interview with Guangzhou's 21st Century Business Herald, Wang said trains traveling through the tunnel at 250 kilometers per hour could connect the two cities in roughly one hour.
The tunnel will not only link Shandong province with China's northeast, but will also complete the railway network linking all Chinese coastal provinces, said Wang.
He estimated that the project will cost 200 billion yuan (US$32 billion), which is far beyond the financial scope of Shandong and Liaoning provinces' resources, and will have to be funded with money from the central government and the private sector.
Mu Fanmin, an entrepreneur in Shandong and a member of the National People's Congress, said the tunnel will be a vital part of the traffic artery linking the nation's four economic zones of the Pearl and Yangtze river deltas, the Bohai Economic Rim and northeastern China, and would facilitate their overall economic integration.
Zhao Jin, a professor at Beijing Jiaotong University, is opposed to the plan, however, saying the volume of passengers and goods between Dalian and Yantai is not large enough to justify such an expensive project.