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The Tibet Railway (Qinghai - Tibet Railway) is a high-altitude railway that connects Qinghai Province's Xining to Tibet Autonomous Region's Lhasa. As a symbolic project of China's West Development Strategy, it plays a significant role in accelerating the social and economic development of Qinghai Province and Tibet Autonomous Region.

The total length of Qingzang railway is 1,956 kilometers (1,215 miles). The 814 kilometer-long (506 miles) stretch from Xining to Golmud was built in 1979 and started operation in 1984. The 1,142 kilometer (710 miles) stretch between Golmud and Lhasa runs south along the Qinghai-Tibet Highway and was constructed by rebuilding the original 32-kilometer-long (20 miles) line from Golmud to Nanshankou and laying 1,110 kilometers (690 miles) of new track. This railway is the first to connect the central plains of China with Tibet Autonomous Region, which due to its altitude and terrain is the last province-level entity in mainland China to have a conventional railway. Testing of the line and equipment started on 1 May 2006.

The work started on June 29, 2001. Up to March 25, 2006 investment in the project stood at 28.5 billion yuan (about US$3.6 billion) - 1.2 billion yuan (US$150 million) of which was spent on environmental protection projects. Trial operations will begin on July 1, 2006 with a total investment of 6.5 billion yuan (US$812 million) being made in this part of the project.
The railway construction was complex and highly demanding for those involved. They confronted a range of challenges including perennial frozen ground, severe cold, a lack of oxygen because of the altitude and care had to be taken with the fragile ecology which was all round the construction work. The railway covers 960-kilometers (597 miles) at an altitude of more than 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) and over 550 kilometers (342 miles) within the 'frozen earth' area.

The line includes the Tanggula Pass, at 5,072 meters (16,640 feet) above sea level the world's highest rail track. The 1,338 m Fenghuoshan tunnel is the highest rail tunnel in the world, at 4,905 m (16,093 feet) above sea level. The 4,010-m (4,385 yards) Guanjiao tunnel is the longest tunnel from Xining to Golmod and the 3,345-m (3,658 yards) Yangbajing tunnel is the longest tunnel from Golmod to Lhasa. More than 960 km (597 miles), or over 80% of the Golmud-Lhasa section, is at an altitude of more than 4,000 m (13,123 feet). There are 675 bridges, totalling 159.88 km (99 miles), and about 550 km (342 miles) of the railway is laid on permafrost.

Passenger trains run from Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Xining and Lanzhou. The trains are specially built for high altitude environment. The diesel locomotives used on Golmud-Lhasa section were made by GE in Pennsylvania, and the passenger carriages are Chinese-made 25T carriages: on train T27/T28, between Beijing West and Lhasa, BSP carriages are from Bombardier. Carriages used on the Golmud-Lhasa section are either deep green/yellow or deep red/yellow. Signs in the carriages are in Tibetan, Chinese and English. The operational speed is 120 km/h (75 miles per hour), 100 km/h (62 miles per hour), in sections laid on permafrost.

The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau has long been described as 'the Roof of the World' and the third polar region. It's the starting point of many of China's rivers. In building the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, great care has been taken to protect the unique, fragile and sensitive geographical environment of this plateau.   

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Questions & Answers on Tibet Railway
  • hello i am from india and want to come to china for my bussiness purpose is it possible that
    from tibet i take train for china is it possible for foreigner that they can use the train to enter
    in china if is it possible can u tell me the procedure i heard about the trains that they go to various destination i want to reach shenzhen city which is in guang dong mainly to shenzhen city and also to hangzhou and i can also one or more destination but earlier is it possible for foreigner to go by train route.

    anil raheja

    Asked By anil raheja (India) | Apr. 20, 2013 09:57
    1 AnswerAnswer Question
  • can i take the train all the way from Shanghai to Lhasa? i heard that the scenery on the way is really gorgeous.

    Asked By Sussan (Kenya) | Dec. 16, 2010 03:59
    1 AnswerAnswer Question
  • Hi there,
    I'm planning to travel by train from Guangzhou to Lhasa by train no T264. Would you please tell me which days in a month this train leave Guangzhou for Lhasa? Thanks a lot in advance!

    Asked By Dan (Georgia) | Nov. 29, 2010 03:46
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  • I have been advised that because it's the busy season, tickets from Golmud to Lhasa are about 200$US for a hard sleeper. I arrive in Golmud the day before I wish to travel to Lhasa. IS this price too high and will I be able to get a ticket on the train?

    Asked By Joey (Australia) | Nov. 28, 2010 03:20
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