Qinghai–Tibet Railway

At present, there is only one railway connecting Tibet: Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the longest and highest railway built atop a plateau, which is China’s first railroad to Tibet. The Qinghai–Tibet railway or Qingzang railway is a high-elevation railway that connects Xining of Qinghai Province to Lhasa of Tibet Autonomous Region of China. 

Why was the Qinghai-Tibet Railway Built?

In the past, most people could only travel to Tibet by road. While it usually took several days. Although airplane is also available, the fare is so high and most people could not afford it. So, the economic way is to travel to Tibet by train. 

Entering Tibet you feel as though you’ve entered an entirely different world. It has the famous snow-capped mountains, grassland, lamas, prayer banners, all of which make Tibet a mysterious land.  While Tibet’s inadequate transportation facilities restricted the development of Tibet’s economy and the communication with outside world. So to build a railway in Tibet would definitely benefit its local development and communication with the outside.

In fact, there are four possible railway routes were designed. These were the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, Sichuan-Tibet Railway, Yunnan-Tibet Railway and Xinjiang-Tibet Railway. At last, the scientists settled on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway after careful study and discussing the feasibility of construction.

Milestones of Qinghai-Tibet Railway Construction

The total line of Qinghai-Tibet is 1,142 kilometers long, while about 960 kilometers of it sits at 4,000 meters above sea level. There are three main challenges met in the construction: the protection of the fragile ecosystem, the lack of oxygen at high-altitude and the perennial frozen ground. Here we introduce you the milestones of Qinghai-Tibet Railway construction.

In 1956, the primary planning of the project was launched by the Ministry of Railways officially.

In 1958, the section of Xining-Golmud of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway was started construction in Xining, and the Guanjiao Tunnel at the same time. While it was stopped many times due to economic difficulties.

In 1979, the first phase of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway from Xining to Golmud was completed.

On June 29th, 2001, construction of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway officially started at Golmud, Qinghai Province.

On August 24th, 2005, track was laid at the railway’s highest point, the Tanggula Pass(5,072 m).

On October 12th, 2005, the section of Lhasa-Golmud Railway was completed.

On July 1st, 2006, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway was put into operation. 

Nine Word Records of Qinghai-Tibet Railway

The world engineering wonder has created 9 extraordinary world records. With more than 960 kilometers of the track at altitudes above 4,000 meters, and with its highest point reaching 5,072 meters at the Tanggula Mountain Pass. With a total distance of 1,956 kilometers, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway is the longest “plateau” railway in the world. It is the longest railway crossing on frozen-earth plateau with 550 kilometers built on a foundation of perennial and continually frozen ground. It has the highest-altitude railway station in the world – Tanggula Railway Station.

Moreover, there is the highest frozen-earth plateau tunnel – Fenghuoshan Tunnel(4,905 meters), the longest frozen-earth plateau tunnel – Kunlun Mountain Tunnel(1,686 meters), the longest railway bridge – Qingshuihe Bridge(11.7 km), the highest railway construction base – Amdo work(4,704 m), and the highest speed of any train on a plateau frozen-earth railway anywhere in the world(100 km per hour on frozen-earth sections and up to 120 km on other parts of the line). 

Main Stops on Qinghai-Tibet Railway

Within the Golmud to Lhasa section of the line there are 45 stations, 38 of which are unstaffed and monitored by the control center in Xining. Nine have been set up with viewing platforms. Thirteen more stations are planned. Six of the 45 stations along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway are major stations and important stops: Xining Railway Station, Delingha Railway Station, Golmud Railway Station, Amdo Railway Station,Damxung Railway Station, Lhasa Railway Station. Please see Railway Stations in Tibet for more detailed information.

Extension of Tibet Railway

On 17 August 2008, a railway spokesman confirmed plans to add six more rail lines connecting to the Qinghai–Tibet railway, including from Lhasa to Nyingchi and from Lhasa to Shigatse, both in the Tibet Autonomous Region. 

Lhasa to Nyingchi

This extension was approved on 31 October 2014. The construction was started on December 2014, and expected to open in 7 years. More about Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway.

Lhasa to Shigatse

On September 26th 2010, Lhasa-Shigatse Railway, the first extension of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, was started construction. It opened to passengers on August 15, 2014.