History of Qinghai-Tibet Railway
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History of Qinghai-Tibet Railway

Update: Apr. 17th, 2013

Qinghai-Tibet Railway scenery

Qinghai-Tibet Railway stretches 1956 kilometers from Xining in Qinghai Province to Lhasa in Tibet. It is the longest and highest railway above the sea level which crosses the longest miles of tundra. The world famous railway was officially put into operation on July 1st, 2007. It provides great convenience for both local Tibetans and tourists from different corners of the world. The operation of Qinghai-Tibet Railway also greatly promotes the economical development in Tibet and enhances the cultural exchange between Tibet and the eastern parts of China.

Tibet Tour would like to make a brief introduction about the history of Qinghai-Tibet Railway for tourists planning to join the Tibet train tours.

History of Qinghai-Tibet Railway – Sprout of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway Construction Plan

At the inception of New China, there are few railways in the vast western China. The laggard transportation condition greatly affected the economic and society development. In 1953, the leaders in China realized it is necessary to complete the transportation network in western China. Since then, the expectation of building a railway to Himalay Area via the Kunlun Mountain has been displayed.

The first two highways to Tibet - Sichuan-Tibet Highway and Qinghai-Tibet Highway were opened to traffic on December 25th, 1954 with the hard working of the people's liberation army. The local Tibetans praised these highways as the Way of Happiness. After that, the central leaders start the plan to build a railway to the Roof of the World to improve the laggard transportation in Tibet. Relevant observation and survey work regarding the railway to Tibet were carried out since then.

History of Qinghai-Tibet Railway – First Period Construction of Qinghai-Tibet Railway

The survey and design plan of the Xining-Golmud Railway and the Golmud-Lhasa Railway was worked out in 1957. These two railways composed the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. The construction of the Xining-Golmud of Qinghai-Tibet Railway was started in September 1958. The line-selection scheme of the Golmud-Lhasa Section was passed in 1957 and relevant primary design and location survey were completed till 1960.

Chinese Academy of Science was appointed to take charge of the scientific research work of the three difficulties in the construction of Qinghai-Tibet Railway, including the severe cold weather, tjaele and the salt lake. The construction of the Xining-Golmud Section of Qinghai-Tibet Railway was restarted in 1974. At the same time, the scientific research, survey and design work of the Golmud-Lhasa Section was also restarted again. Sufficient preparation work for the full construction of Qinghai-Tibet Railway was going smoothly.

History of Qinghai-Tibet Railway – Second Period Construction of Qinghai-Tibet Railway

In 1977, the construction of Qinghai-Tibet Railway was stopped again due to the Yunnan-Tibet Railway Plan. The Xining-Golmud Railway was completed in September 1979 after 20 years. The construction of Golmud-Lhasa Railway was started again on June 29th, 2001. The railway laying work of Xining-Lhasa Railway was totally completed till 2006. Qinghai-Tibet Railway was opened to traffic officially on July 1st, 2006.

The complement of Qinghai-Tibet Railway is not only a magnificent feat in China but also a miracle in the railway construction history of the world. During the construction of the highest highway above the sea level, a series of technical barriers have been overcame, including the weak ecological environment, severe cold climate, high altitude and low oxygen content on Tibet Plateau.

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