ZHENGZHOU, May 17 (Xinhua) -- Xiao Feng used to ride a bike from her town to visit friends in nearby villages.
"It was a long trip under the hot sun or in the rain, and the road was not safe," said Xiao, a resident of Renhe Township of Huangchuan County, in central China's Henan Province. "But now, with public buses, the trip has become safer and more convenient."
For local residents like Xiao taking public buses costs just one yuan (0.16 U.S. dollars) per trip.
The improvements to transport infrastructure are the result of a new local government program aimed at connecting all villages using public buses.
According to an eigth-year service purchasing contract signed between the county government and the bus company, the government provides a subsidy of 4.98 million yuan annually for the company to run services for the county's 500,000 rural residents.
"It means the government spends around 10 yuan per rural resident annually, while all rural residents can enjoy high-quality public transport at the cost of one yuan each trip," said Shen Wei, deputy head of the county.
However, buses need good road conditions to operate, and the roads in many villages were inadequate. In Liangang Village, for example, there was only one 3.5-meter-wide road in the whole village ten years ago.
Since 2014, the county has allocated around 400 million yuan to build and extend roads in its rural areas. In 2017, the only road in Liangang was widened to 7 meters and 80 percent of the village roads in the county are now at least 4.5 meters wide.
While enhancing traffic safety, the improvement of transport infrastructure has improved the flow of rural labor.
Ye Xianqin, a resident of Liuwa Village, now travels by bus to her job in a supermarket at Shuangliushu Township. "I feel like a city resident now," she said.
Better road conditions also revived failing rural businesses.
"I opened a poultry farm 20 years ago, but the bad road conditions at that time made it difficult to receive fodder deliveries and transport eggs to the markets because eggs were often broken due to the bumpy road," said Xiong Yongming of Yangang Village. Xiong decided to close the farm and become a migrant worker.
He reopened his poultry business in 2016 and the annual revenue now exceeds 100,000 yuan.
"I can transport the fodder in and the eggs out to the markets easier as the road conditions are so much better," he said.
Improved infrastructure has also increased rural tourism. Liu Feng, from Liangang Village, said his speedboat business generates revenue of up to 3,000 yuan on weekends as more and more tourists are traveling to the countryside.
At the end of 2017, the total distance covered by the buses in 272 villages of Huangchuan County stood at 1,294 km, which was recognized by the Ministry of Transport.
Over the past five years, the central government has earmarked 400 billion yuan and mobilized 1.6 trillion yuan of public investment in rural road construction as part of a campaign to reduce rural poverty.
A total of 1.27 million km of roads were built in the countryside during the period, bringing the total length of rural roads to 4 million km, government figures showed.
More efforts will be made to ensure asphalt roads lead to all qualified townships and villages, those that already have road access, by 2019 and to guarantee public transport services to all qualified villages by 2020, according to the plans by the ministry.