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Why Qinghai Tibet Railway

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Yangpachen Geotherm


Why was the Qinghai - Tibet Railway built?  

The answer is quite simple, that is, to improve transportation on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and to boost the development of this region. In China, there is a proverb that states: "If people want to be rich, they must first build roads."

Before 2006, most people could only travel into or out of Tibet by road, and it usually took a few days to make the journey. Though they could also travel by air, most people were not able to afford the one-way air ticket cost of more than 1,500 Chinese Yuan. This region was in desperate need of other means of transportation to make it easier to travel to and from Tibet badly to solve these problems, and the best solution was to build a railway.

Even before the construction of the railway, people coming to Tibet were amazed at the majesty of Tibet’s snowy mountain scenery. Cut off from the outside world, everything on the plateau - its snow-capped mountains, grasslands, lamas, prayer banners, the Potala Palace, and the Tibetan people living 4,000 meters or more above sea level were enveloped in an aura of mystery.

Although the scenery in Tibet is incredibly beautiful, the region’s development still lagged behind other areas of the world. Located in a remote area of southwest China with a harsh climate and rugged geographic environment, Tibet’s inadequate transportation facilities restricted both its economic development and its communications with the rest of the world. It was obvious that if Tibet were to further develop and catch up with the rest of the world, there would have to be a railway built. A railway to Tibet would definitely benefit its local development through many aspects.

Thus a plan to build a railway to Tibet was developed. Initially, four possible railway routes were designed. These were the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, a Sichuan-Tibet Railway, a Yunnan-Tibet Railway and a Xinjiang-Tibet Railway. After careful study and a thorough discussion of constructing the various railway options, the scientists and engineers settled on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. Although there was still the problem of the permafrost to be addressed, it was by far the best choice of the four, as it avoided avalanches, deserts, and marshlands. But even this best option required a project that is still unequalled in engineering cost, project duration, and transportation capacity.

On June 29, 2001, construction of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway began at Golmud, Qinghai Province. Problems faced the massive construction project from the very beginning, as documented in the history of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway

Milestones of the Qinghai - Tibet Railway Construction

 "It is impossible to build a railway to Lhasa across the Kunlun Mountain Range." – Railway travel expert Mr. Paul in his book “Travel around China".  Through such incredibly complex geological conditions, it is extremely difficult to build highways and railways to Tibet. Chinese leader Mao Zedong first sent a team to the Tibetan plateau to investigate the feasibility of constructing the railway in 1955. Although it took more than 50 years, Chairman Mao’s dream to build the fantastic railway to Lhasa was finally realized.

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