China will build a second railway line connecting remote Tibet with the southwestern part of the country, expanding connectivity and increasing its options for rapidly moving troops to the area.
The government announced the new line on Saturday as part of plans to rapidly expand the railway network. The new 1,629-km line will connect Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), to Chengdu, the capital of southwestern Sichuan province.
TAR now has only one line – the 1,956-km Qinghai-Tibet railway – connecting it to the rest of the country.
The new line is part of the draft of the 13th Five Year Plan for 2016-20 on national economy and social development.
According to state media, trains will take 15 hours to travel from Lhasa to Chengdu.
“We hope that the railway will be completed as early as possible. It will provide new momentum for our development, especially the tourism,” said Wangdui, a national lawmaker and mayor of Tibet’s Nyingchi City, through which the new line will pass.
The Qinghai-Tibet line, which was opened in July 2006, is the world’s highest and longest plateau railroad.
The TAR borders India, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar. China’s rapidly growing road, rail and air networks in the region have been a worry for India.
In late 2014, the Chinese government had extended the Qinghai-Tibet railway to Xigaze or Shigatse, hometown of the Beijing-backed Panchen Lama and located close to the border with India’s Sikkim state.
China has maintained that its efforts to link Tibet to the rest of the country are part of its plan to develop the economically poor region.