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Qinghai-Tibet railway to get six new lines

Plans are afoot to add six more rail lines to the Qinghai-Tibet railway to boost the region's economy, a railway spokesman said yesterday at the Beijing International Media Center.

Included in the country's medium- and long-term railway network plan, the six lines are expected to be completed and put into operation before 2020, Wang Yongping, spokesman of the Ministry of Railways, said in Beijing. Detailed plans and cost of construction have yet to be finalized, he added.

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The six new tracks include one from Lhasa to Nyingchi and one from Lhasa to Xigaze, both in the Tibet autonomous region. Three tracks will originate from Golmud in Qinghai province and run to Chengdu in Sichuan province, Dunhuang in Gansu province, and Kuerle of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. The sixth will link Xining, capital of Qinghai, with Zhangye in Gansu.

Construction on the Golmud-Dunhuang section is likely to begin first. The official said experts have already been dispatched to the region to work on the route design.

Work on the lines from Lhasa to Nyingchi and Xigaze is likely to begin before 2010, he said.

Earlier reports suggested the Lhasa-Xigaze railway would be extended to link it with neighboring countries, but Wang said the ministry has no such plans as of now.

The ministry is now working to enable trains to run at 200 kph on the Qinghai-Tibet railway's Xining-Golmud section in the near future, said Wang Zhongyu, deputy general manager of Qinghai-Tibet Railway Company, yesterday.

Work to make the Golmud-Lhasa section - 550 km of which is built across a frozen swathe - any faster is unlikely. "At 100 kph, it is already very fast, compared with those in Canada and Russia, which were also built in icy areas but run at 60 to 80 kph," he said.

"In two years of operation, our train service has not been suspended even once due to the ice," he added.

In the wake of the May 12 earthquake, which also shook the Tangula Mountains region through which the track passes, the railway has upgraded its contingency plans.

"In the event of an earthquake in the region, we will stop trains and send maintenance teams along the route to make sure everything is fine," he said.

In two years, the 1,956-km railway has moved 5.56 million passengers and 4.05 million tons of cargo, lowering prices of daily necessities and other consumer goods.

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