The Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway in the Tibet autonomous region has begun operations linking Lhasa, the regional capital, with Nyingchi and Lhokha, China State Railway Group said on Friday.
The newly opened single-line electrified railway provides southeastern Tibet with access to railway services for the first time and brings the Fuxing bullet train series to the last remaining provincial-level region on the Chinese mainland, according to Zhang Qiang, head of the Lhasa Station of the China Railway Qinghai-Tibet Group.
With a length of 435 kilometers and a design speed of 160 km per hour, the line launched four pairs of passenger trains between Lhasa and Nyingchi, and one passenger train between Shigatse and Nyingchi, Zhang said.
Thanks to the line, The travel time between Lhasa and Lhokha will be cut from more than two hours by road to about 60 minutes by rail. The travel time between Lhasa and Nyingchi will be reduced from about five hours to three and a half.
"The opening of the railway is good for locals. They will be proud to have such a good service," Zhang said.
According to He Niangzhe, head of general design for the Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway at the China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group Co, the Fuxing trains will be powered by both electric and internal-combustion engines – a first for the plateau region.
With its nine stations, the new line will have more than 90 percent of its length in areas with an average altitude of over 3,000 meters. It crosses the Yarlung Zangbo River 16 times.
Backed by an investment of 36 billion yuan ($5.5 billion), construction started in March 2015. The line includes 47 tunnels and 121 bridges.
"The rail line will further improve the railway network in the Tibet autonomous region," said He, adding that it will help improve local livelihoods and promote personnel, economic and trade exchanges.
"It will also help to boost exchanges between Tibet and other parts of China, and it will contribute to the prosperity of rural areas and to national unity."
The Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway connects the Lhasa-Shigatse Railway and the Qinghai-Tibet Railway and is a major part of the ongoing construction of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway.
Samdrub, from the region's Gyatsa county, said he was pleased with the opening of the new railway service.
"It is the first time for my home city to get railway service, and I believe it will cause our economy and social development to boom," he said.
Railway engineer Sonam Wangdrak, from the eastern city of Chamdo, said he was proud of the opening of a railway near his hometown, more than 1,000 km from Lhasa.
"I have been working as an engine driver for eight years and have a safe driving record of more than 540,000 km, with more than 2,000 safe trips," he said. "My dream of driving a train home is getting closer."
He added: "My hometown is still not connected with railway service, but it is much closer now. I hope more people in the region will benefit from trains in the near future."
Luo Wangshu contributed to the story.