Qinghai-Tibet Railway in 10 years: Rising capacity, record number of passengers

June 27th, 1pm, another fully-loaded train rode past the Qangtang Prairie to reach Tibet on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. June is the most beautiful season on the plateau, and also the busiest for trains heading in and out of Tibet. 

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway travels past many stunning sights of China, such as the Qinghai Lake, Jin Yintan Prairie in Qinghai, Kunlun Mountains, Hoh Xil, and Qangtang Prairie in Northern Tibet, etc. In recent years, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway company collaborated with the tourism agencies in Qinghai and Tibet to cultivate tourism packages such as the “Grand Qinghai-Tibet Experience,” and launched many dedicated tourism routes such as the Xining- Tsaka  Salt Lake line, the Xining-Qinghai Lake line, etc.

The power and convenience of trains have made tourism on the plateau even more popular. There are more tourists, business travelers, and worshippers going to Qinghai and Tibet than ever before. In the summer of 2015 alone, there have been 598 trains and 2.01 million passengers in and out of Tibet, an increase of 67% in passengers from the previous period, and achieving a historical record of 64 thousand passengers in one day.

Dong Guiqi, chief engineer of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway Company’s statistics department, said that in order to better serve the economy and social development of Qinghai and Tibet, in the 10 years since the railway was built, they have developed multiple dedicated-freight trains with coverage throughout the major regions of Xining, Delingha, Golmud, Lhasa, and Shigatse. The new trains have built a low-carbon and ecological logistical corridor for all nearby industries and businesses.

In August of 2009, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway’s Nagqu Logistics Center, a modern logistics center at the world’s highest altitude, and a crucial companion project for the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, was completed and put in operation. More logistics centers are being built right now in Golmud, Western Lhasa, and Shigatse. In addition, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway will renovate its current freight stations, increase investment in loading-unloading machines and container-loading equipment to continuously meet the demands of a modern logistics market. Since 2006, 75%of Tibet’s freight capacity was sustained by the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, whose freight capacity is more than 40 times the capacity of all trucks in Tibet.

According to data from the Qinghai-Tibet Railway Company: as of the end of May in 2016, the railway has delivered a total of 115million passengers and 448million tons of freight. The passenger and freight transport volume grew from 6.48 million passengers and 24.91 million  tons in 2006 to 23.38 million passengers and 44.05milliontons in 2015.

Recently, China has stepped up its construction of the South-Asian transportation corridor and a Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor. To meet growing demands of the international freight market, China’s first train in its combined road-rail network reached Shigatse’s West Railway Station after first traveling on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway and the Lhasa-Shigatse Railway. The freight was then transported by trucks out of China to reach Katmandu, the capital of Nepal.

According to Yang Haijiang, director of the transportation planning office in Qinghai-Tibet Railway Company’s statistics department, the “South Asia International Freight Train” is China’s first international freight train on the combined road-rail network to South Asian countries. The delivery takes 10 days, which is 35 days faster than freight by sea, not only reducing logistic cost, but creating a convenient and efficient corridor for “Made in China” goods to reach South Asia. The Qinghai-Tibet Railway Company will continue to operate international freight trains on the combined road-rail network to support China’s strategic initiative for international development.