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Guangzhou-Tibet Passenger Train to Run
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The Guangzhou-Lhasa express passenger train will open to the public from July 1, according to Wednesday's Guangzhou Daily.

The rail journey between the two cities will take around 58 hours, covering 4,980 kilometers. The rail line has nine designated sightseeing platforms on the Golmud-Lhasa section to give passengers the opportunity to view the plateau landscape, the Daily said.

However, the section will be designed with only three stations as it is an express train, an unnamed railway source was quoted as saying.

The nine sightseeing platforms are at Yuzhong Peak, Kunlun Mt., Chuma'er River, Tuotuo River, Danggula Mt., Amdo Cuona Lake, Nakchu, Dangxiong, and Yambajan. Tickets to Tuotuo River, Nakchu and Dangxiong are available, the source, who declined to be named, said.

The newspaper said the trains running on this line are all specially designed and equipped for the unique plateau conditions. Trains are all equipped with fixed-pane windows to maintain the oxygen level, which is kept at least 23 percent higher than that outside the train, and each seat is equipped with an oxygen pipe.

Each passenger is allowed to carry a bottle of oxygen up to two liters in volume, according to the newly compiled Management Regulations of Guangzhou-Lhasa Passenger Trains. In addition, the regulations require that each train have one doctor onboard to handle emergencies.

Each Guangzhou-Lhasa train will have a capacity of about 1,000 passengers, including eight sleeper carriages with hard berths (60 people to each carriage), two sleeper carriages with soft berths (32 people per carriage) and four chair cars (98 people per carriage). All berths and seats on the line will be reserved, the regulations say.

At present people can travel to Lhasa either by air or road, each with its own disadvantages. “It's very time- and energy-saving to fly to Lhasa when traveling in Tibet, but you will miss a lot of beautiful landscape by taking a flight,” a Guangzhou tourist guide was quoted by the Daily as saying.

Many young backpackers opt to travel to Lhasa by long-distance buses, saying the unique scenery alongside the road to Lhasa is also part of the attraction of visiting Tibet. However, it is risky to take a bus to Lhasa due to poor road conditions and unpredictable weather. Mudslides often occur during the rainy season while the roads are closed in winter. There are now four roads to Lhasa from Sichuan, Yunnan, Qinghai and Xinjiang.

The opening of the Guangzhou-Lhasa railway will provide another option for travelers. Trains will depart Guangzhou in the morning and arrive in Lhasa in the evening two days later. Train attendants are being trained in Xining on traditions and food of different minority nationalities living in the region. They will speak Mandarin, English and Tibetan.

While package tours to Tibet by rail are yet to be offered by local agents, many Guangzhou residents are already inquiring at the city's tourism bureau about the trip. On Tuesday, about 200 people reserved seats on the first train, the Daily said.

The train fares and train number are yet to be set. Some tourist guides estimate that the expenses of a round trip to Tibet could reach 6,000 to 8,000 yuan (US$744-992) for every backpacker.

(Shenzhen Daily March 23, 2006)

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