New railway line in Tibet will reach Arunachal doorstep in 2021
China is building infrastructure at a rapid speed and encouraging wealthier provinces to make critical investments along the border areas of Tibet with Arunachal Pradesh.
On Saturday, state-owned companies completed part of a key railway bridge on the Yarlung Tsangpo, which flows into India as Siang and then Brahmaputra river, barely 30 km from the border with Arunachal Pradesh.
It is part of the 435-km railway project linking Lhasa and Nyingchi, also known as Linzhi, in southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).
Experts say once completed, it will be a “dual use” – civil and military – bridge reaching until the terminus of the line is likely to be just across the border of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims is part of south Tibet.
The Zang Mu Yarlung Tsangpo river double-lane bridge is over 525 metres long and is a key bridge in the project.
It is located across the Yarlung between mountains on both sides.
On April 7, China’s official media announced that construction work on the last two of the 47 tunnels on the 435-km railway was completed.
At least 75 percent of the Lhasa-Nyingchi railway comprises bridges and tunnels, and over 90 percent of the railway is on the Tibetan plateau at over 3,000 metres or more than 15000 feet above sea level.
“As Tibet’s first electric railway, it has a designed speed of 160 km per hour.
Over 20,000 builders have been working on the railway since the end of 2014. It is expected to be completed and put into operation in 2021.
China has also built a network of highways across TAR with links to Nyingchi.
In 2018, it opened a 409-km new expressway costing about $5.8 billion linking Lhasa with Nyingchi.
The expressway cuts Lhasa-Nyingchi travel time from eight to five hours at a speed limit of 80 km per hour.
The TAR’s airport infrastructure has rapidly improved as well.
By the end of 2019, the region had five airports and 11 airlines operating a total of 101 routes, enabling convenient connections between Tibet and 51 cities.
As part of a broader policy, Beijing has also begun to encourage wealthier Chinese provinces to invest in TAR, especially in border areas like Nyingchi.
Less than two weeks ago, 26 construction projects in sectors like infrastructure, public services and tourism were officially launched in Nyingchi to be sponsored by southern China’s industrial powerhouse, the province of Guangdong.
For 2020, Guangdong has planned 51 projects in Nyingchi with a total investment of 543 million yuan or around $78 million.
Poverty alleviation is part of President Xi Jinping’s plan to encourage Tibetan herders to settle down in remote locations close to the Arunachal Pradesh border.
Xi had written a letter to a herding family in Lhunze County in southwest China’s TAR to set down roots in the border area, safeguard the Chinese territory and develop their hometown in 2017.
In the letter, Xi thanked them for the loyalty and contributions they have made to safeguard the border area. “Without the peace in the territory, there will be no peaceful lives for the millions of families,” he wrote.