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Tibet Rail Plan Faces Problems

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 01/06/02; June 2, 2001.]

JOSEPHINE MA
South China Morning Post
Thursday, May 24, 2001

Construction of the ambitious Qinghai-Tibet railway looks set to be postponed until early next year because of routing problems, according to the vice-chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region, Qunpei.

Hailed as one of the three major infrastructure projects in the Go West programme, construction reportedly was set to start in July. The other two projects are to supply natural gas and electricity from western China to the east.

The proposed railway line will run from Gormud in Qinghai province to Lhasa in Tibet, becoming the first direct railway link between the Himalayan region and the rest of the country.

Mr Qunpei said railway departments were still studying ways to solve three major problems: how to lay railway tracks atop icy soil to avoid the metal bending when the ice melts; how to lay track at high altitude; and how to protect delicate local ecology.

The vice-chairman said experts were still studying several difficult sections of the railway line.

"If the study can be completed early, perhaps we can start construction this year. But if it takes more time, the construction will probably begin early next year," he said.

One obstacle to the project is the area's high altitude.

Construction workers might develop high altitude sickness because many sections of the track pass through areas as high as 4,000m above sea level.

But Mr Qunpei expressed confidence in the construction project, saying there were many experienced workers in Tibet. "It is not that difficult to find construction workers as we have a lot of experience in building roads in high-altitude areas," he said.

To ensure that work goes smoothly in harsh natural conditions, Mr Qunpei said the Government would have plenty of supplies and medical facilities at the construction sites.


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