Qingzang Railway

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The Qinghai-Tibet railway, or Qingzang Railway (Simplified Chinese: 青藏铁路; Traditional Chinese: 青藏鐵路; pinyin: Qīngzàng Tiělù), is a railway which connects Xining, Qinghai Province, to Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, in the People's Republic of China. This railway is the first to connect China proper with Tibet Autonomous Region, which due to its altitude and terrain is the last province-level entity in China with no railways.

The line includes the Tanggula Mountain Pass, which at 5,072 meters (16,640 feet) above sea level is the world's highest rail track. The line will also include the 3,345-metre Yangbajing No. 1 tunnel, which is 4,264 metres above sea level and located 80 kilometres NW of the regional capital, Lhasa.

More than 960 km, or over 80% of the railway, is built at an altitude of more than 4,000 meters, and over half of it is laid on frozen earth.

Contents

Construction

The 815 km section from Xining, Qinghai to Golmud, Qinghai opened to traffic in 1984. Construction of the remaining 1,080 km (670 mile) section from Golmud to Lhasa started on 29 June 2001. Though the this section was finished in mid-October 2005, signalling work and track testing requires a further 6 to 12 months.

Rail-laying in Xizang was launched from both directions, towards Tanggula Mountain and Lhasa, from Anduo Railway Station on 22 June 2004. On 24 August 2005, track was laid at the railway's highest point, the Tanggula Mountain Pass, which is 5,072 metres above sea level.[1]

Thirty railway stations are to be built, among them Tanggula Mountain railway station, which at 5,068 m will be the world's highest (Cóndor station, at 4,786 m, on the Rio Mulatos-Potosí line, Bolivia, and La Galera at 4,781 m in Peru being the next highest).

Bombardier Transportation is to provide 361 high-altitude passenger carriages with special enriched-oxygen and UV-protection systems, to be delivered between December 2005 and May 2006. Of these, 53 will be luxury sleeper carriages for tourist service[2]. When signalling and track testing is complete, trains travelling in the frozen earth areas are expected to attain maximum speeds of 100 kilometres per hour. On the non-frozen earth areas, speeds are expected to reach 120 kilometres per hour.

The construction of the railway is part of the China Western Development strategy, an attempt to develop the western provinces of China, which are much less developed than eastern China. When the line is opened, it will be possible to travel from Lhasa to Beijing in 50 hours. The railway will later be extended to Zhangmu via Shigatse (Xigaze) to the west, and Dali via Nyingchi (Linzhi) to the east.

Criticism

It is believed this railway will further increase immigration from the rest of China, reducing the proportion of Tibetans in Tibet. It is also believed that the Chinese government will use the railway to strengthen its military presence in Tibet as well as increase exploitation of natural resources and further damaging Tibet's environment.

As a result of these fears, Bombardier Transportation have faced criticism from the western media and from its own shareholders for its involvement in the project. These fears were founded on experiences from European emigration to the Americas, Australia & New Zealand over the past 500 years.

See also

References

  1. ^  M.W.H., Railroad in the clouds, Trains March 2002
  2. ^  Xinhua News Agency (August 24, 2005). New height of world's railway born in Tibet. Retrieved August 25, 2005.
  3. ^  Bombardier (February 25, 2005). Bombardier Awarded A Contract For High Altitude Passenger Rail Cars In Tibet. Retrieved August 25, 2005.

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