(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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.