Click on a label to read posts from that part of the world.
China's controversial train route to Tibet has finally been completed. The pan-Himalayan railway stretches from the Tibetan capital of Lhasa north to the Qinghai province.
Besides the fact that it crosses through remote snow-covered regions of Asia, this railway is noteworthy for several reasons. For one thing, it was in the planning phase for decades. The project began in 1958, eight years after Chinese troops invaded Tibet. The first section, from Xining to Golmud, was finished in 1984. In 2001, China's central government allocated $3.1 billion to begin construction on the second section, from Golmud to Lhasa.
Although the railway is an engineering marvel that will improve the flow of transportation in and out of the impoverished region, some worry that Tibetan culture is now in grave danger, and will become diluted with this new development and access. (Here's one opinion arguing against that fate.) Furthermore, there are environmental concerns about global warming and the high altitude of the rail line. This is the highest up a train has ever gone (higher than Peru's Andes railway), and as the world's most elevated train route, it is equipped with special airplane-like insulated cars to insure safety at high altitudes. Scientists fear that global warming could cause serious problems fifty years from now, if land that is normally frozen begins to melt around the rail line.
Despite the announcement that construction is complete, trial operation with locomotives will not begin for at least another eight months, in the summer of 2006, with an official opening slated for sometime in 2007.