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Qinghai-Tibet Railways rolls higher and higher

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

07-05-2016 15:14 BJT

By Tom McGregor, CNTV Panview Commentator

Ten years ago on July 1, 2006, the 1,965-km. Qinghai-Tibet Railways was opened for passenger service, connecting Lhasa, capital of Tibet Autonomous Region, with China’s northwest Xining, Qinghai Province. The state-of-the-art railways traverses through high altitudes of Kunlu Mountains and Tibetan Plateau.

Completing the railways stood as a significant achievement, because many naysayers warned it would be impossible to turn this plan into reality. The mountains were too high, permafrost ground could make the rails shaky and sensitive environmental surroundings faced grave threats.

Yet, critics were proven wrong, since the Qinghai-Tibet Railways Company had maintained passenger safety and eco-friendly operations as top priorities. Such measures have boosted Tibetan tourism and regional development as well.

Linking tourism with more benefits

Tibet's tourism sector has been the biggest beneficiary. Record numbers of Chinese tourists are flocking to Lhasa this summer to visit refurbished Buddhist monasteries, eat authentic Tibetan cuisines, purchase special arts & crafts, and view gorgeous natural scenery.

"Riding on the trains, the highest in the world is a rare experience," director of Tibetan Tourism Department Wang Songping told China.Org.cn. "The train has made many unseen areas such as Yarlung Zangbo River Grand Canyon and Mt. Qomolongma accessible to visitors."

In 2015, 20.2 million tourists visited Tibet, which was 11 times more than before the railways were built. Tourism spending last year had surged 28bn. RMB ($US4.3bn), 15 times more than a decade ago.

Reportedly, more than 100,000 people in Tibet are employed in tourism, working as tour guides, restaurant owners and handicraft sellers, with per capita income averaging 10,000RMB/year. We can anticipate those figures to soar higher this year.

Ensuring eco-friendly travel

A pleasant surprise has been how well endangered species and the fragile eco-sphere had adapted to the presence of rail links.

Last month, Tibetan antelopes had started their annual migration to Zonag Lake, Hol Xil Nature Reserve to give birth. Tibetan antelope had risen from near extinction a decade ago to over 60,000 today.

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway Company had planted trees along 41 percent of the rail lines covering 7.7 million sq./m., while setting up 15 sewage processing centers on the route.

"We have held quite strict environmental protection standards in building and operating the railway," Jiang Zehai, deputy manager Qinghai-Tibet Railway Company told ECNS (English China News Service). "It is our responsibility to keep the environment clean."

Bridging connectivity with Nepal

The Qinghai-Tibet Railways can play a crucial role to enhance trade and investment ties for China-Nepal. The two countries have agreed to extend rail links to Kerung, Nepal, scheduled for completion - 2020.

Kathmandu pledged to build more highways and facilities on its side of the border and to operate a dry port in Kerung, located 25-km. north of Rasuwa-Gadi border.

"We want to be ready when the Chinese rail arrives in Kerung," Surya Prasad, director of Nepal Customs, told Nepali Times. "When the Kathmandu Rasuwa-Gadi Road is expanded, the volume of trade through the border will escalate and we will need a high-end integrated border checkpoint."

Nepal had suffered a devastating earthquake in 2014, while the country continues to struggle in its aftermath with vital transport infrastructure in much need of repair. Only 150 Chinese traders and tourists cross into Nepal daily.

Tibet's future in line with railway development

China's railway builders have demonstrated they can overcome harsh terrains, high altitudes and frigid conditions to complete their tasks. Tourists can take a train to Lhasa with added comfort and convenience, showing a testament to the organizational progress of Tibet's development path.




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( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )



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Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.


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