Qinghai–Tibet railway or Qingzang railway (Standard Tibetan:
མཚོ་བོད་ལྕགས་ལམ།, mtsho bod lcags lam;
simplified Chinese: 青藏铁路; traditional Chinese: 青藏鐵路;
pinyin: Qīngzàng Tiělù), is a high-elevation railway that connects
Qinghai Province, to Lhasa,
Tibet Autonomous Region
Tibet Autonomous Region of China.
The length of the railway is 1,956 km (1,215 mi).
Construction of the 815 km (506 mi) section between Xining
Golmud was completed by 1984. The 1,142 km (710 mi)
Golmud and Lhasa was inaugurated on 1 July 2006, by
Chinese President Hu Jintao: the first two-passenger trains were
"Qing 1" (Q1) from
Golmud to Lhasa, and "Zang 2" (J2) from Lhasa
to Beijing. This railway is the first that connects the Tibet
Autonomous Region to any other provinces. Tibet, due to its elevation
and terrain, is the last provincial level region in
China to have a
railway. Testing of the line and equipment started on 1 May 2006.
Passenger trains run from Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Guangzhou,
Shanghai, Xining, and
Lanzhou and can carry between 800 and 1,000
passengers during peak season.
The line includes the Tanggula Pass, which, at 5,072 m (16,640
feet) above sea level, is the world's highest point on a railway.
Tanggula railway station
Tanggula railway station at 5,068 m (16,627 feet)
33°00′18.50″N 91°38′57.70″E / 33.0051389°N
91.6493611°E / 33.0051389; 91.6493611 is the world's highest
railway station. The 1,338 m (4,390 ft) Fenghuoshan tunnel
is the highest rail tunnel in the world at 4,905 m
(16,093 ft) above sea level. The 4,010 m (13,160 ft)
New Guanjiao Tunnel
New Guanjiao Tunnel is the longest tunnel and the culminating point
3,700 metres (12,100 ft) between
3,345 m (10,974 ft).
Yangbajing tunnel is the longest tunnel
Golmud and Lhasa. More than 960 km (600 mi), over
80% of the Golmud–Lhasa section, is at an elevation of more than
4,000 m (13,123 ft). There are 675 bridges, totalling
159.88 km (99.34 mi); about 550 km (340 mi) of
track is laid on permafrost.
2 Trains and tickets
Oxygen supply and medical issues
3.1 Completed extensions
3.2 Future extensions
3.2.2 Proposed connection to Nepal
3.2.3 Potential link to India
4 Engineering challenges
5 Economic and environmental impact
7 Rolling stock
8 Scenery along the railway
10 See also
12 Further reading
13 External links
Main article: List of stations on Qinghai–Tibet railway
● Ordinary station
● Station with vista point
Note: stations in gray are unstaffed
Note: this image is not to scale
Golmud to Lhasa section of the line there are 45 stations,
38 of which are unstaffed and monitored by the control center in
Xining. Thirteen more stations are planned.
Trains and tickets
The trains are specially built for high elevation environments. The
diesel locomotives were built by GE in Pennsylvania, and the passenger
carriages are Chinese-made 25T carriages: on train Z21/Z22, between
Beijing West and Lhasa, Bombardier Sifang Transportation (BSP) made
carriages on the Golmud-Lhasa section in deep green/yellow or deep
red/yellow. Signs in the carriages are in Tibetan, Chinese, and
English. The operational speed is 120 km/h (75 mph) and
100 km/h (62 mph) over sections laid on permafrost.
Lhasa railway station
The railway from
Golmud to Lhasa was completed on 12 October 2005, and
it opened to regular trial service on 1 July 2006.
At the beginning, only three trains ran: Beijing–Lhasa (every day),
Chengdu/Chongqing–Lhasa (every other day), and
Lanzhou/Xining–Lhasa. Shanghai/Guangzhou–Lhasa service were added
in October 2006. In July 2010 the Shanghai–Lhasa service became
daily, and a daily service between
Xining and Lhasa was added, but the
service was then suspended for the winter season.
Since October 2006, five pairs of passenger trains run between Golmud
and Lhasa, and one more pair between
Xining and Golmud. The line has a
capacity of eight pairs of passenger trains.
Oxygen supply and medical issues
The passenger carriages used on Lhasa trains are specially built and
have an oxygen supply for each passenger. Every passenger train has a
A Passenger Health Registration Card is required to take the train
Golmud and Lhasa. The card can be obtained when purchasing the
ticket. Passengers must read the health notice for high-elevation
travel and sign the agreement on the card to take the train. On 28
August 2006, a 75-year-old
Hong Kong man was reported to be the first
passenger to die on the train, after he had suffered heart problems in
Lhasa but insisted on travelling to Xining.
Liuwu tunnel (柳梧隧道), near Lhasa station.
Tanggula railway station, located at 5,068 m (16,627 ft), is
the highest station in the world
The capital of the
Qinghai Province, Xining, became connected with the
rest of the country by rail in 1959, when the Lanqing
Lanzhou was completed.
The 815 km section of the future Qingzang
Qinghai opened to traffic in 1984. But the
remaining 1,142 km (710 mi) section from
Golmud to Lhasa
could not be constructed until technical difficulties of building
railroad tracks on permafrost were solved. This
section was formally started on 29 June 2001, finished on 12 October
2005, and signalling work and track testing took another eight months.
It was completed in five years at a cost of $3.68 billion.
Track-laying in Tibet was launched from both directions, towards
Tanggula Mountain and Lhasa, from
Amdo railway station
Amdo railway station on 22 June
2004. On 24 August 2005, track was laid at the railway's highest
point, the Tanggula Pass, 5,072 m (16,640 feet) above sea
There are 44 stations, among them Tanggula Mountain railway station,
at 5,068 m (16,627 ft) the world's highest. Peru's Ticlio
railway station at 4,829 m (15,843 ft) is the highest in the
Americas (Cóndor station; at 4,786 m or 15,702 ft, on the
Rio Mulatos-Potosí line, Bolivia, and La Galera station at
4,777 m or 15,673 ft, in Peru, being the next highest). The
Railway project involved more than 20,000 workers and over
6,000 pieces of industrial equipment, and is considered[who?] one of
China's major accomplishments of the 21st century.
Bombardier Transportation built 361 high-altitude passenger carriages
with special enriched-oxygen and UV-protection systems, delivered
between December 2005 and May 2006. Fifty-three are luxury sleeper
carriages for tourist services.
The construction of the railway was part of the
Development strategy, an attempt to develop the western provinces of
China, which are much less developed than eastern China. The railway
will be extended to
Shigatse (日喀则) to the west, and
Nyingchi (林芝) to the east. A further extension is planned
Yadong near the China-
India border  (Map
). The railway is considered one of the greatest feats in modern
Chinese history by the government, and as a result is often mentioned
on regular TV programs. Chinese-Tibetan folk singer Han Hong has a
song called Tianlu (Road to Heaven; 天路) praising the Qingzang
The bridge on permafrost horizon
Further information: Lhasa–Xigazê
Railway and Lhasa–Nyingchi
On 17 August 2008, a railway spokesman confirmed plans to add six more
rail lines connecting to the Qinghai-Tibet railway, including from
Nyingchi and from Lhasa to Shigatse, both in the Tibet
Autonomous Region. Three lines will originate from
Golmud in Qinghai
province and run to
Dunhuang in Gansu
Korla of the
Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The sixth
will link Xining, the capital of Qinghai, with
Zhangye in Gansu. The
six lines are expected to be in operation before 2020.
Construction work of the Lhasa–
Shigatse extension began on 26
September 2010; it was opened in August 2014.
Main article: Golmud–
In October 2012, the beginning of the construction of a 506-km
Dunhuang railway line was announced. This single-track
electrified rail line will run from
Gansu Province) to
the Yinmaxia station on the Qinghai–Tibet
Railway north of Golmud.
The project is expected to take five years. Since Dunhuang,
located in the westernmost part of Gansu, is connected to the Lanxin
Railway, the Golmud-
Dunhuang link will allow a fairly direct
connection between Tibet and Xinjiang.
Proposed connection to Nepal
In a meeting between Chinese and Nepalese officials on 25 April 2008,
the Chinese delegation announced the intention to extend the Qingzang
Zhangmu (Nepali: Khasa) on the Nepalese border.
requested that the railway be extended to enable trade and tourism
between the two nations. On the occasion of the Nepali premier's visit
China it was reported that construction will be completed by
2020. The section Lhasa-
Shigatse opened in August 2014.
Potential link to India
A Chinese Ministry of Railways spokesman announced that it would be
extending the Qinghai–Tibet
Railway southward to Shigatse, but it
has yet to confirm an extension to India, Bangladesh and other railway
The extension to the
Shigatse region and
Nyingchi has been confirmed
by the relevant government departments in Tibet. The Qinghai–Tibet
Railway will be connecting close to India. An official in charge of
Tibet Autonomous Region
Tibet Autonomous Region Development and Reform Commission had
pointed out: "Tibet
Railway is completed, with Lhasa as the basis,
will be built east of Lhasa to
Nyingchi line from Lhasa to Shigatse
west building line of the south building of the Qinghai-Tibet Shigatse
to East Asia and other three
Railway Line. These extensions will be
opened to traffic within a decade. then, the three railway extension
will form a large Y-shape, the length will be over two thousand
Although the Chinese government never planned an extension to India,
many people have embarked on the possibility of this.
Congress Vice Secretary General Liu Palit is one of them. In an
interview, 21st Century Business Herald interview, he supported a
motion to establish a connection between the Pacific and Indian
railway bridge on land, possibly linking the east coast port city of
Lianyungang, eastern China, Xi'an, Lanzhou, Xining, Lhasa, Shigatse,
through Nepal, and finally arriving in Patna, India, New Delhi, Mumbai
and Karachi (Pakistan),
India and Pakistan to achieve rail
Liu Palit thinks has stated regarding the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in
South Asia continental bridge, "The past is not the Qinghai-Tibet
Railway, which route is the only choice, now, starting from Tibet, a
land bridge political more meaningful". If the idea of the railway
arrived in Nepal's plains region of Nepal, it is very easily connected
with the Indian railway network. Experts said that "if the railway
opened in Nepal, but also enable the railway system in
China through connectivity, all countries will
There are many technical difficulties for such a railway. About half
of the second section was built on barely permanent permafrost. In the
summer, the uppermost layer thaws, and the ground becomes muddy. The
heat from the trains passing above is able to melt the permafrost even
with a small change in temperature. The main engineering challenge,
aside from oxygen shortages, is the weakness of the permafrost. For
areas of permafrost that are not very fragile, an embankment of large
rocks is sufficient. Meanwhile, in the most fragile areas, the rail
bed must be elevated like a bridge. The engineers dealt with this
problem in the areas of weakest permafrost by building elevated tracks
with pile-driven foundations sunk deep into the ground. Similar to
the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, portions of the track are also
passively cooled with ammonia-based heat exchangers.
Due to Climate change, temperatures in the
Tibetan Plateau may be
considered to increase by an estimated two to three degrees
Celsius. This change is sufficient to melt the
permafrost and thereby affect the integrity of the entire system. The
effects of climate change have yet to be seen.
The air in Tibet is much thinner, with oxygen partial pressure being
35% to 40% below that at sea level.
Special passenger carriages are
used, and several oxygen factories were built along the railway. Each
seat in the train is equipped with an oxygen supply outlet for any
possible emergency. The Chinese government claimed that no
construction workers died during the construction due to altitude
sickness related diseases. The railway passes the Kunlun
Mountains, an earthquake zone. The 7.8 Mw Kunlun earthquake struck in
2001 (but caused no fatalities). Dozens of earthquake monitors have
been installed along the railway.
Economic and environmental impact
With limited industrial capacity in Tibet, the Tibetan economy heavily
relies on industrial products from more developed parts of China.
Transport of goods in and out of Tibet was mostly through the Qingzang
Highway connecting Tibet to the adjacent
Qinghai province, which was
built in the early 1950s. The length and terrain have limited the
capacity of the highway, with less than 1 million tons of goods
transported each year. With the construction of the Qingzang railway,
the cost of transportation of both passengers and goods should be
greatly reduced, allowing for an increase in volume—the cost per
tonne-kilometer will be reduced from 0.38 RMB to 0.12 RMB. It is
projected that by 2010, 2.8 million tons will be carried to and from
Tibet, with over 75% carried by the railway. This is expected to
help support the Tibetan economy.
The environmental impact of the new railway is an ongoing concern. The
increase in passenger traffic will result in greater tourism and
economic activity on the Tibetan Plateau.
Wood is the main fuel source for rural inhabitants in certain regions
of Tibet. The damage to the ecosystem caused by cutting trees for fuel
takes years to recover due to slow growth caused by Tibet's harsh
environmental conditions. The railway would make coal, which is not
produced in Tibet, an affordable replacement. However, the increase in
fuel combustion due to increased human activity in an already-thin
atmosphere may affect the long term health of the local
Before the railway, the purchasing power of 100 RMB in Lhasa was only
commensurate with 54 RMB in coastal regions of China, mainly due to
high transport costs. The railway could elevate the living standards
along the railway. 
Trash and excrement are collected into two sealed containers in each
car (not thrown on the tracks), they are taken out at the big
The effects of this railway on wild animals such as Tibetan antelope
and plants are currently unknown. Thirty-three wildlife crossing
railway bridges were constructed specifically to allow continued
animal migration. Here is the Google Maps satellite image of one such
There are concerns from the
China Meteorological Administration that
melting, due to global warming, of the permafrost in Tibet on which
part of the railway is placed could threaten the railway within this
China has been criticized by Tibetan Independence groups for having
built the railway to strengthen its political control over Tibet.
In particular, groups such as the International Campaign for Tibet
have alleged that the railway will marginalize Tibetans in the Tibet
Autonomous Region by encouraging further Han migration from the rest
Specially built plateau coaches at
Beijing West railway station,
arriving from Lhasa as Z22
361 Bombardier Sifang Power (Qingdao) Transportation Ltd./Power
Corporation of Canada/
Locomotive and Rolling Stock
Industry (Group) Corporation High-Grade Coach – 308 standard cars
and 53 special tourist cars
GE Transportation NJ2 locomotive (78 GE designation C38AChe
locomotives were built)
Locomotive Factory DF8CJ 9000 series locomotive – similar
to the Bombardier Transportation-
GE Transportation Blue Tiger diesel
Scenery along the railway
Since the opening of Qingzang Railway, scenery as viewed from the
railway has become internationally famous:
Xining to Golmud：
Golmud to Lhasa：
Kunlun Pass, the east part of
Kunlun Mountains (
Hoh Xil Mountains to
Bayan Har Mountains),
Yuzhu Peak and its Glacier
Tuotuo River Bridge
Tanggula railway station, Tanggula Mountains
Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains
Lhasa River Bridge
Xining railway station
Golmud railway station
Tanggula railway station
5,068 meters above sea level
Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains
Lhasa railway station
^ The Official website of Yunnan province Report of inauguration.
Retrieved 1 July 2006.
^ Shanglin, Luan, editor (13 April 2006). "Tibet's 1st railway to
start unmanned operation". Xinhua. Archived from the original on 15
April 2006. Retrieved 14 April 2006. CS1 maint: Multiple names:
authors list (link) CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
Shanghai strives for straight train to Lhasa". Access Tibet Tour.
Retrieved 28 June 2009.
^ "The Train to Lhasa, Tibet - What You Can Expect on the Ride".
^ Retrieved from Google Earth
China rolls out railway", BBC News.
Archived from the original on 28 July 2007. Retrieved 28 August
2006. Missing or empty title= (help)
^ Goodman, David S. G. (June 2004). "
Qinghai and the Emergence of the
West: Nationalities, Communal Interaction and National Integration".
China Quarterly. 179: 379–399. doi:10.1017/S0305741004000220.
^ First train rumbles on highest railway // Xin Dingding (China
Daily), Updated: 1 July 2006
Xinhua News Agency
Xinhua News Agency (24 August 2005). New height of world's railway
born in Tibet. Retrieved 25 August 2005. Archived 25 April 2009 at
^ Bombardier (25 February 2005). Bombardier "Awarded A Contract For
High Altitude Passenger Rail Cars In Tibet". Retrieved 25 August 2005.
^ Extension plans. Retrieved 28 June 2006.
^ "Sun Bin:
Qinghai Tibet railway videos"
^ "Qinghai-Tibet railway to get six new lines".
China Daily. 17 August
2008. Retrieved 17 August 2008.
Archived 29 September 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
^ "Tibet railway opens to Xigaze".
Railway Gazette. 15 August 2014.
Retrieved 16 August 2014.
^ 格尔木至敦煌铁路开工, Renmin Tielu Bao, 20 October 2012
^ "Qinghai-Tibet railway to reach
Nepal in 2020". 7 April 2015.
^ "World's highest railway Qinghai-Tibet
Railway to be extended to
Xigaze from Lhasa", Apple Travel
^ CRI: “中印铁路连接渐露曙光” (Google Translate)
^ David Wolman, "Train to the Roof of the World", Wired, Vol. 14,
No. 7 (July 2006).
^ "News on Chinese government website", (in Chinese). Quotation: The
vice president of
Qinghai Medical University, Dr Gerili, said "Because
of proper preventions and treatments, among tens of thousands of
workers from low altitude, no one died due to altitude sickness. You
cannot deny that it's a miracle."
^ "Qingzang railway transported .73M passengers, boosts Tibet
economy", CN Radio, (In Chinese).
^ News – 修建青藏铁路 造福各族人民 Archived 5 May 2010
at the Wayback Machine.
^ News – 青藏铁路使西藏100元不再等于54元[dead link]
^ News – 旅客“三急”排泄物会熏臭青藏高原吗？
^ China, Reuters (6 May 2009). "
Global warming threatens Tibet
railway: report". Beijing: Reuters. Retrieved 10 April 2010.
^ International Campaign for Tibet: Tibet News: New ICT Report Finds
Railway Built for Political, Not Economic Reasons; Under Current
Framework of Chinese Rule,
Railway Stands to Benefit Chinese Military
and Migrants – Not Most Tibetans Archived 21 July 2008 at the
^ However, it cannot be denied that with this railway, goods can be
brought in or out of Tibet much easier .Tracking the Steel Dragon: How
China's economic policies and the railroad are transforming Tibet.....
BUT HAVE REMAINED VERY SILENT ABOUT THE POPULATION AND CULTURAL
INUNDATION BY INDIAN NATIONALS. Archived 3 October 2009 at the Wayback
^ The Good Views of Qingzang
Golmud to Lhasa (in
^ The Good Views of Qingzang Railway[permanent dead link]Qingzang
Railway (Baidu Encyclopedia) (in Chinese)
Railway (Hudong Encyclopedia) (in Chinese)
M.W.H., Railroad in the clouds, Trains March 2002
Forbes – The Tibet Train: Rocket To The Roof
Brunn, Stanley D. (Editor) (6 April 2011). Engineering Earth: The
Impacts of Megaengineering Projects Engineering Earth: The Impacts of
Megaengineering Projects (Hardcover) (2011th ed.). New York: Springer.
p. 2466. ISBN 978-9048199198. ISBN 9048199190.
Retrieved 17 December 2014. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list
Lu, Ming; Li, Charlie C. (19 June 2006). In-situ rock stress:
measurement, interpretation and application: proceedings of the
International Symposium on In-situ Rock Stress (Hardcover). Trondheim,
Norway: Balkema; Taylor & Francis. p. 552.
ISBN 0415401631. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
Oberlander, Christian (2008). Die Quinghai-Tibet-Bahn und ihre
China und die tibetische Minderheit (Print) (in
German). Studienarbeit, München: GRIN-Verl. p. 40.
Wikinews has related news: World's highest railway links Tibet to rest
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Qinghai–Tibet Railway.
Environmental Protection Along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, U.S. Embassy
The Guardian, 20 September 2005, "The railway across the roof of the
"Around the World in 80 Trains: Tibet", The Sunday Telegraph, 12
Tibet railway videos
CCTV report regarding the railroad
"The train to Tibet", The New Yorker, 16 April 2007
Life on the Tibetan Plateau: Train to Lhasa
Beautiful scenery on the way to Lhasa
Tibet: key projects boost leapfrog development of society
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