China launches first bullet train in Tibet, close to Indian border


ON THE WEB, 25 June 2021

China on Friday operationalised its first fully electrified bullet train in the remote Himalayan region of Tibet, connecting the provincial capital Lhasa and Nyingchi, a strategically located Tibetan border town close to Arunachal Pradesh.

The 435.5-km Lhasa-Nyingchi section of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway has been inaugurated ahead of the centenary celebrations of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) on 1 July.

The first electrified railway in Tibet Autonomous Region opened Friday morning, linking Lhasa with Nyingchi as “Fuxing” bullet trains enter official operation on the plateau region, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

It has a designed speed of 160 km per hour and operates on a single-line electrified railway. It stops at nine stations, including Lhasa, Shannan and Nyingchi and can handle passenger and freight transportation, the report said.

Compared to roads, the Lhasa-Nyingchi railway reduces the travel time from Lhasa to Nyingchi from 5 hours to approximately 3.5 hours, and cuts the travel time from Shannan to Nyingchi from 6 hours to approximately 2 hours, it said.

The rail line passes through 47 tunnels and 121 bridges and crosses the Brahmaputra river locally called Yarlung Zangbo 16 times. It passes through the Yarlung Zangbo River 16 times and 90 per cent of it are 3,000 metres above sea level.

Tunnels and bridges account for approximately 75 per cent of the total length of the railway track.

Also, it has an annual freight transport capacity of 10 million tonnes which provides strong support for the flow of goods, will promote economic development and improve people’s lives, the report said.

The Sichuan-Tibet Railway will be the second railway into Tibet after the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. It will go through the southeast of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, one of the world’s most geologically active areas.

The Fuxing train now reaches all 31 mainland provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, the Global Times newspaper reported, noting that the rail line will better connect Tibet to other provinces and regions and will boost the local economy.

Tourism, culture, religion and other natural and cultural resources along the Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway are rich, and they contain huge potential for economic development. But in the past, due to traffic constraints, the development of tourism resources along the line was limited, the report noted.

The Lhasa-Nyingchi railway will help to further narrow the development gap between the east and west of China, unleashing a greater potential for the development of the west, Hong Tao, director of the Institute of Business Economics at the Beijing Technology and Business University, said.

In November, Chinese President Xi Jinping had instructed officials to expedite construction of the new railway project, connecting Sichuan Province and Nyingchi in Tibet, saying the new rail line would play a key role in safeguarding the border stability.

The Sichuan-Tibet Railway starts from Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, and travels through Ya’an and enters Tibet via Qamdo, shortening the journey from Chengdu to Lhasa from 48 hours to 13 hours.

Nyingchi is the prefecture-level city of Medog which is adjacent to the Arunachal Pradesh border.

China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of South Tibet, which is firmly rejected by India. The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488-km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the official daily Global Times earlier that “If a scenario of a crisis happens at the China-India border, the railway will provide a great convenience for China’s delivery of strategic materials.

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