China Train Reaches The Gates of Everest
With its new connection between Lhasa and Shigatse, the highest railway in the world, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, can now bring passengers from Beijing to the gateway to Mount Everest without their feet touching the snow.
The new $2.1 billion 150-mile long connection is now complete after four years of construction on what has to be the world’s most scenic train ride. The view from the train will give passengers a veritable wonderland of Himalayan splendors of the world’s highest peaks, deepest valleys and swiftest rivers.
The Kathmandu Post/Asia News Network quotes Yang Chu Lin, an official at the Shigatse Railway Service as saying, “We plan to extend the line up to Kerung in the long run.”
Shigatse is the second largest town in Tibet after Lhasa. On Aug. 16, the train made its inaugural run on the new length of track carrying more than 800 passengers on the three hour journey that traveled at an average speed of 72 miles per hour. According to the China Post the new service cuts “travel time between the two cities by half,” from the six hours the bus takes to the three hour ride by train and with a fare of 45 yuan ($7.31), it’s about half that of the bus.
Altogether, the Chinese government has invested about $2.2 billion on the Tibetan railway and considers it a marvel of modern engineering with the numerous bridges and tunnels that had to be built at the world’s highest altitudes ranging from 11,000 to 13,000 feet. According to The Telegraph, the existing train to Tibet carried 7.5 million passengers to Lhasa, a number “more than twice the population of the Tibetan Autonomous Region itself.” Six airports now operate on the Tibetan Plateau with plans for two more.
The Chinese hope in time to extend the rail line to both the Nepalese and Indian borders, talk that excites Nepal for tourism purposes but gives India anxiety over China’s intentions regarding a disputed border between the two Asian giants. Both China and India claim Arunachal Pradesh, a conflict the led to 1962’s Sino-India war. With its recent surge in economic and geopolitical clout China has been aggressively asserting its power in territorial conflicts, such as the ongoing Spratly Island conflict in the South China Sea.
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