Work starts on second railway to Tibet

A train runs on Wangjiaba Bridge during a joint test of the Sichuan section of Xi’an-Chengdu Passenger Railway in Jiangyou. The first high-speed railway travelling through the Qinling Mountains with a projected speed of 250 kilometers per hour, started a joint test Monday in its Sichuan section

Work is underway on China’s second railway line to Tibet that will wind through some of the world’s most mountainous and inhospitable territory and likely take the better part of a decade to complete, state media said yesterday.

Work at the line’s two ends in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, and Tibet’s capital of Lhasa has already begun, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Other feasibility studies have been completed, but the most difficult section, through the mountains from Kangding in Sichuan to Nyingchi in Tibet, is still being designed and may take seven years to finish once construction begins, Xinhua said.

Once completed, the line will run for 1,700 kilometers, 80 percent of it consisting of tunnels and bridges. Total cost is estimated at 250 billion yuan (USD37 billion), while the travel time from Chengdu to Lhasa will be cut from 48 to about 13 hours, Xinhua said.

Likening it to a roller coaster, designers said the line will traverse eight ascents and descents, topping out at 4,400 meters, Xinhua said. Varying terrain, landslides and earthquakes are also major threats.

“It will be the most difficult super project in railway construction history,” Xia Lie, a senior engineer at China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group, was quoted as saying.

The line is the latest in a seemingly endless series of hugely ambitious construction projects that include the gargantuan Three Gorges Dam, the world’s longest bridge over water in Jiaozhou Bay and the world’s most extensive high-speed rail network.

China opened an initial line to Lhasa from Qinghai province to the northeast in 2006 that runs for 1,956 kilometers and tops out at about 4,000 meters.

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