Horses traversing rugged paths used to be main transportation mode in the Tibet Autonomous Region decades ago, due to its complicated topography. Yet, noticeable achievements have been made since the peaceful liberation of Tibet half a century ago. Highways now link Tibet with, and opened up the region to, the rest of the country and helped propel rapid development of the local economy, according to a high official with the regional transportation department.
The region has formed a modern transport framework of highways, airports and pipelines thanks to large input from the central government. By the end of 2000, 1,000 permanent bridges with a length of 30,000 meters had been built in Tibet and total highway length had reached 22,500 km.
The highway network, with the capital city, Lhasa, at its core, has linked major parts of Tibet dominated by inaccessible plateaus, high mountains and deep valleys. Among these are the world-famous Qinghai-Tibet and Sichuan-Tibet highways, which were opened to traffic in 1954. So far, 72 Tibetan counties have been connected by highways, with the sole exception of Medog County.
State input has contributed much to transportation progress in Tibet. A total of 500 million yuan was earmarked for railway construction from 1952 to 1980, with another 6 billion yuan since.
Despite rapid growth, gaps still exist in terms of highway quality, which should be narrowed in the near future to meet the social and economic development needs, urged the official.
Highways in Tibet feature weak transport capacity due to poor technological content. Many were built in the 1970s without scientific investigation and topographical survey. Some highways disappeared after being hit by flood. When natural disasters broke out, traffic was inevitably blocked. In addition, many villages and frontier stations still have no access to highways. More financing channels, including utilizing foreign investment, should be introduced for the construction of transport facilities in the region.
Fortunately, the official revealed that many problems would be tackled during the 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-05) period. By 2005 the region is expected to have 27,000 km of highway, so that 90 percent towns and 77 percent administrative villages will have access to highways. Apart from highway construction, the airport highway linking Lhasa to Gonggar will be renovated in November this year, which will reduce transportation costs.