Construction work on the final section of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway will start shortly, said Southwest China’s Sichuan Province Party chief during a press conference at the State Council Information Office (SCIO) on Monday.
Analysts said the railway will serve as a major transportation artery linking China and South Asia. The Chengdu-Ya’an section of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway has started operations, said Peng Qinghua, Party chief of Sichuan Province.
“The completion of the railway will not only drive the regional economy and strengthen the link between Tibet with the inland areas, but it also can serve as a major transportation artery linking China and South Asia,” Zhao Jian, an expert on railway economics at the Beijing Jiaotong University, said.
“The Sichuan-Tibet railway will make it possible to build a railway connecting China, Nepal, India and other countries, which will boost the regional economy with convenient transportation,” Zhao said.
“Sichuan was the starting point of the southern silk road in history. Now it is the pivot of the Belt and Road Initiative economy belt, linking land and sea,” said Peng.
The Sichuan-Tibet Railway will be the second line linking Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region to other parts of China after the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.
The line is designed to start from Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, passing through Ya’an and entering Tibet via Qamdo. It will then go through Nyingchi prefecture and end at Lhasa, capital of Tibet.
The Lhasa-Nyingchi section is under construction, said Peng. “The 1,000-kilometre Ya’an-Nyingchi section is part of the plan. Bridges and tunnels will cover over 90 percent of the line, that is to say, nearly 800 kilometres of tunnels and 100 kilometres of bridges.”
“It is far more difficult to build the Sichuan-Tibet Railway than the Qinghai-Tibet Railway since geological conditions are complex along the Sichuan-Tibet line, with severe geological conditions and disasters such as permafrost, alpine hypoxia, landslides, earthquake zones, and geothermal and rock bursts,” Zhao added.
The planned route will go through the Sichuan basin, Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau and Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, climbing from several hundred meters above sea level to the “Roof of the World,” at an altitude of more than 4,400 meters.
The railway will cut the travel time from Chengdu to Lhasa from 48 hours to 13 hours.