Tibet’s first high-speed train line enters service

(CNN) – For the first time, travelers to Tibet can enjoy the mountainous views of the region at high speed.

A 435-kilometer (250-mile) railway line connecting the Tibetan capital Lhasa to the city of Nyingchi entered service on June 25, giving mainland China’s 31 provincial-level regions high-speed rail access.

47 tunnels, 121 bridges

About 90% of the road, which took six years to build, is over 3,000 meters above sea level.

The Lhasa-Nyingchi line includes 47 tunnels and 121 bridges, which is about 75% of the entire journey. This includes the 525-meter-long Zangmu Railway Bridge, the largest and highest arch bridge of its kind in the world.

A Fuxing high-speed train runs along the new Lhasa-Nyingchi railway line.

Jiao Hongtao / VCG / Getty Images

A staggering 36.6 billion RMB ($ 5.6 billion) was spent to build the line, which is served by the Fuxing series of high-speed electric trains developed and operated by the state-owned China State Railway.

Traveling at high altitudes, Fuxing trains are fitted with automated oxygen supply systems, which keep oxygen levels at a constant 23.6% – slightly above the 21% average found in normal atmospheres.
The train windows are fitted with a special glass layer designed to withstand the high UV levels of the region.

Fuxing trains deployed on the Lhasa-Nyingchi line at nine stations are powered by both internal combustion and electric engines. The dual-horsepower motor allows them to achieve smooth traction throughout the 2.5-hour ride on electrified and non-electrified railroads.

They run at around 160 kilometers per hour, far slower than the top speeds of 350 km / h (217 mph) that travelers experience on many other Chinese lines.

Sichuan-Tibet railway now third completed

With the opening of the Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway in Tibet, all 31 provinces of mainland China are covered by high-speed railways.

With the opening of the Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway in Tibet, all 31 provinces of mainland China are covered by high-speed railways.

Purbu Zhaxi / Xinhua / Getty Images

The new Lhasa-Nyingchi road is part of the Sichuan-Tibet railway, a 1,740 kilometer line that will eventually link Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, to Lhasa, thereby reducing travel time between the two cities of 48 hours to 1 pm.

The construction was divided into three phases. The first segment, the Chengdu-Ya’an Railway, opened in 2018. Lhasa-Nyingchi is the second segment completed. Work on the last Ya’an-Nyingchi railway started in 2020 and is expected to be completed by 2030.

The Lhasa-Nyingchi Line is Tibet’s first electrified railway. The existing Qinghai-Tibet Railway, a 1,142-kilometer route powered by diesel locomotives, launched in 2006 and is said to be the world’s highest rail route, connecting Xining, Qinghai Province, to Lhasa.

Bending China’s economic power

Stretching across a disputed area between India and China, the Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway is just a small part of China’s growing high-speed network.

Almost 40,000 kilometers of lines crisscross the country, connecting all the major megalopolis poles of China. The network is expected to expand to 70,000 kilometers by 2035.

Much like the Japanese Shinkansen high-speed trains in the 1960s, the Beijing government views its high-speed train as a symbol of the country’s economic might and growing prosperity.

For the ruling Communist Party in China and its leader Xi Jinping, the bullet train is also a powerful tool for social cohesion, political influence, and for integrating disparate regions with distinct cultures into the mainstream.

“The construction of these new railways is part of Xi Jinping’s grand plan to ‘integrate the vast national market’,” Olivia Cheung, a researcher at the Chinese Institute of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS ) from the University of London. in an interview earlier this year.

“It is also supposed to reflect its ‘new development philosophy’, of which ‘coordinated development’ is a key concept.

“His project is grandiose in that it goes beyond simply connecting existing cities, but also existing cities with new mega-cities built from the ground up. A famous example that Xi is very proud of is the new area. from Xiong’an in Hebei Province, about 100 km southwest of Beijing. “

Ben Jones and Shawn Deng also contributed to the report.

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