Wednesday, April 20, 2011

China to extend the Tibet railway up to the Nepal border

China has started the extension of Qinghai-Tibet railway line from Lhasa to the Nepalese border. The 253-km long railway project that aims to link the Tibetan capital of Lhasa to the region’s second largest city, Xigaze, will take about four years to complete, according to Chinese media. Xigaze, located southwest of Lhasa, lies at the foot of Mt Everest and borders Nepal.

China says the extension of the railway is a key project in the country’s long and medium-term railway network expansion and will speed up Tibet’s social and economic development. A railway project that will link Lhasa to the eastern Tibet city of Nyingchi and another route to Nepal border are currently in the planning phase.

In October 2009, Nepal had urged China to extend the Beijing-Lhasa railway line till Kathmandu. Nepal and China share more than 1,400 kilometers of border.

When completed this will mean people could travel by rail from the Nepalese border to Moscow.

The existing line is impressive: the total length of Qingzang railway is 1,956 km (1215 miles). Construction of the 815 km (506 mile) section between Xining and Golmud was completed by 1984. The 1,142 km (709 mile) section between Golmud and Lhasa was inaugurated on 1 July 2006. This railway is the first to connect the Tibet Autonomous Region to any other province, which, due to its altitude and terrain, was the last province-level entity in mainland China to get a conventional railway.  Passenger trains run from Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Xining and Lanzhou.

The line includes the Tanggula Pass, which, at 5,072 metres (16,640 feet) above sea level, is the world's highest railway track. The 1,338 metre Fenghuoshan tunnel is the highest rail tunnel in the world at 4,905 metres above sea level. The 4,010-metre Guanjiao tunnel is the longest tunnel from Xining to Golmod and the 3,345-metres Yangbajing tunnel is the longest tunnel from Golmod to Lhasa. More than 960 km, or over 80% of the Golmud-Lhasa section, is at an altitude of more than 4,000 metres. There are 675 bridges, totalling 159.88 km, and about 550 km of the railway is laid on permafrost.  Website

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