China is planning to increase its rail freight capacity by raising the volume of goods delivered by train by 30%, an environment minister has announced.

The plan, which the country aims to achieve by 2020, is the government’s latest strategy to tackle growing vehicle pollution, and was announced by Ding Yan, vice-director of the vehicle emissions control centre at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.

In a statement published on Thursday, Ding explained that trucks produce 13 times more pollution per unit of cargo than trains, adding: “Motor vehicles have become the primary source of pollution in many large and medium-sized cities.”

According to Ding, the number of vehicles on China’s roads reached 310 million last year, with figures showing that car ownership rises by around 20 million per year, making vehicles responsible for approximately 45% of the smog surrounding the Chinese capital of Beijing.

The government has previously attempted to discourage road freight, especially in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, where it recorded the highest levels of pollution. However, road freight still accounts of 76.8% of total cargo deliveries in the past year.

Ding claimed that, despite the government’s efforts to restrict the transportation of coal by road, rail’s share in total freight volumes only grew by 0.1% to 7.7% in 2017. For this reason, the government is aiming to boost rail freight by 30% by the end of the decade. In a bid to discourage road deliveries, Ding said that higher fees will be introduced and stronger monitoring procedures will come into place.

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The Chinese Government is also planning to crack down on fraudulent emissions inspection agencies, as well as raise fuel standards, especially for diesel. A document setting out new National VI fuel standards – similar to the Euro VI that was introduced in Europe in 2014 – is to be rolled out at the start of 2019.