New railway laid to quicken Xinjiang’s exchanges with Qinghai and beyond

August 21 00:18 2020

The 1,213.7-km Golmud-Korla railway, linking the city of Golmud in Qinghai and the city of Korla in Xinjiang. The operation of the Golmud-Korla Railway will boost the regional economy in the country’s western region and facilitate exchanges along the Silk Road Economic Belt thanks to enhanced connectivity.

The laying of railway tracks for a new line linking northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region with Qinghai Province and beyond was completed Tuesday, paving the way for accelerating development in the country’s western region.

The 1,213.7-km Golmud-Korla railway, linking the city of Golmud in Qinghai and the city of Korla in Xinjiang, is the third railway for exchanges between Xinjiang and other regions.

The railway crosses a variety of landscapes including deserts, plateaus and mountains as well as natural reserves, and boasts an altitude difference of up to 2,500 meters, according to China Railway First Group Co., Ltd. (CRFG), the railway’s developer.

A string of steps such as building railway bridges have been taken to minimize the impact on the local environment and wildlife, the company said.

Taitema Lake in southeast Xinjiang’s Ruoqiang County is one of the ecologically sensitive areas that the railway crosses. The longest railway bridge in Xinjiang, about 25 km long, is built to cross the lake where reeds and birds abound. Its piers are made of environmentally friendly materials and leave enough space for wild animals to pass through.

The construction of the railway is divided into two sections, with the length of the Xinjiang section topping 708 km. It took about three years to finish laying railway tracks for the section.

“It’s an arduous project as railway workers had to overcome sandstorms, cold weather, lack of oxygen and other tough natural conditions,” said Huang Kejun, a CRFG official who oversees the track-laying.

With a tunnel of over 13 km, the railway is the first to cross the Altun Mountains, a no-man’s-land in southeast Xinjiang. “This is the most challenging part of the whole Xinjiang section,” Huang said, citing the harsh working environment and complex geological structures.

The line, which is slated to be put into operation later this year, will cut the travel time between Golmud and Korla from about 26 hours to roughly 12 hours.

A railroad switch was made in April at Golmud Station to connect the Qinghai-Tibet Railway with the Golmud-Korla Railway. The railway connection will thread Qinghai’s provincial capital of Xining, Korla in central Xinjiang and Lhasa, capital of Tibet Autonomous Region.

The operation of the Golmud-Korla Railway will boost the regional economy in the country’s western region and facilitate exchanges along the Silk Road Economic Belt thanks to enhanced connectivity, said Tang Qingshan, a senior official from China Railway Urumqi Group Co., Ltd.

New railway laid to quicken Xinjiang's exchanges with Qinghai and beyond

The Golmud-Korla Railway is a key national railway project. China issued a guideline in May to accelerate and upgrade the development of the country’s western region and Silk road economic belt countries, covering an array of measures including improving transportation infrastructure.

China has accelerated the resumption of railway projects amid anti-epidemic measures as one way to shore up the economy.

Fixed-asset investment in railways reached 325.8 billion yuan (about 46.6 billion U.S. dollars) in the first half of 2020, and a total of 4,400 km of new rail lines are expected to be launched this year, according to China State Railway Group.

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