China’s expansion of strategic border railway network continued to speed up with the building of an extension of the world’s highest rail link near Mount Everest in Tibet starting on Sunday.
State-run media reported on Sunday that China has begun building a 253 km extension of the 1,956 km Qinghai-Tibet railway, the world’s highest. In four years, the new extension will connect the capital Lhasa to Tibet’s second-largest city Xigaze that neighbours India, Nepal and Bhutan. It will pass through five counties and over the 90-km canyon — one of the world’s deepest — of the Yarlung Tsangpo river that flows into India as the Brahmaputra.
Tibet and northwest Xinjiang are the centre of a building boom for critical transport infrastructure to improve links between these two remote regions with major Chinese cities and also ensure logistics in place for speedy mobilisation of troops and equipment to these borders in future.
China plans to double its high-speed rail links by 2012. This Lhasa-Xigaze rail link will be built within four years at the cost of 2 billion dollars, and designed for a transport capacity of 8.3 million tonnes per year. This will be the first extension of the Qinghai-Tibet railway since it opened in July 2006.
State media quoted railways minister Liu Zhijun saying that the link would help optimise the ‘rational use of resources’ along the line.