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15:15 Mar 27 2009

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English>>Tibet Online
China to build railway to northwestern Tibetan prefecture
08:53, March 19, 2009  

A railway linking the Gannan Tibetan Prefecture in northwestern China's Gansu province to its capital Lanzhou is to be built, announced local authorities on Wednesday.

Construction of the 174.2 kilometer long railway will cost 8.75 billion yuan (about 1.3 billion U.S. dollars).

Work will begin at the end of this year and is expected to be complete in three years, said Li Zhiyong, an official with the Gannan Prefecture Commission of Development and Reform.

"We hope the railway could finish earlier," he said.

According to Li, the exact route of the railway will be decided before this May. It is expected to handle trains with speeds of 160 kilometers per hour after its completion.

With a population of 680,000, 54 percent of whom are Tibetans, the prefecture in southern Gansu covers 45,000 square kilometers.

"We have no railways, flights and water carriages," said Mao Shengwu, head of the prefecture. Mao noted that road traffic was the only mode of transportation they had.

"Poor transportation has hampered development in the prefecture," he said.

Li Zhiyong said the aim of the new railway was to boost the local economy where stock breeding is the main industry.

Li listed some numbers: if local people wanted to carry out beef and mutton by roadway, cost for each ton per kilometer was 0.8 yuan. When the railway opens, the cost should drop to 0.1 or 0.15 yuan.

The railway could also help develop tourism, he added.

Gannan boasts the 300-year-old Labrang Monastery, a center of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It also has a swamp on the national protection list, Li said.

Jigshegya, a 25-year-old Tibetan man living in Luqu county, had never traveled by train.

"There is a song called 'heavenly route' on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway," he said. "It described the happiness of people in Lhasa when the railway opened to traffic in 2006. Now the 'heavenly route' is coming to my home."

Source: Xinhua

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