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Tibet Railway Construction Set to Start in July

[China Daily. May 21, 2001.]

Construction on the world's highest railroad which will link Tibet with the rest of China will start this July, bringing millions of Tibetans a step closer to a more affordable connection with the outside world. A spokesman from the Project Management Centre of the Ministry of Railways said yesterday that preparations for the building of a 100-kilometre section of the Qinghai-Tibet railway are right on track. "Everything is ready for the construction, which will kick off in July this year," the spokesman said. He did not say when the first section will be completed.

Designs, tests and examinations for the feasibility study of the first section, which will run from Golmud, a major transport hub in Qinghai Province, to Wangkun, have been completed, according to the People's Railway Daily which is operated by the Ministry of Railways. The project has involved a total of 1,680 engineers, including many senior railway and technical experts who have followed research on the study of the railway for decades. Construction of the Qinghai-Tibet railway, the elevation of which will be the highest in the world, will also be one of the most arduous projects in the history of mankind. More than 960 kilometres, or over four-fifths of the railway will be built at an altitude of over 4,000 metres. And more than half of it will be laid on earth that is frozen for long periods of the year. However, China's central authorities and experts have claimed that China is technically and financially capable of building the railway. The project will encounter three major problems, its geological impact, the permafrost and the low temperatures and oxygen shortages in the higher altitudes. But Sun Yongfu, vice-minister of railways, said earlier this year that China will pool the most talented engineers in the country to make sure the construction of the ambitious project is kept on time and in good order. "China is confident and capable of getting over all the obstacles facing the railroad project," he said. Meanwhile, China will invite open bidding on the project among domestic construction companies to keep corruption and shoddy construction at bay.

All spending for the railway project will be borne by the central authorities, Sun said. Currently, highways and air routes are the major transportation links between Tibet and the rest of China. The Qinghai-Tibet railway will span 1,118 kilometres, and start from Xining, capital of Qinghai Province, and end in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region. A 564-kilometre section of the railway will be in Qinghai and the other 554 kilometre will lie in Tibet. The railway line between Xining and Golmud, built 10 years ago, is in full operation at present. China plans to complete the whole project in six years.

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