The Qinghai-Tibet Railway will undoubtedly bring benefits to the Tibetan people, said the 11th Panchen Lama on Saturday while visiting the Lhasa railway station.
"It's apparent that the railway will promote the economic and social development of Tibet," said the 11th Panchen Lama, or Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu.
The 17-year-old leader of Tibetan Buddhism was enthroned in 1995 after being approved by the central government as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama.
Escorted by railway officials, the high monk visited the two-story railway station Saturday morning, which stands on the south bank of the Lhasa River, 30 kilometers from the holy Potala Palace.
Standing at an altitude of 3,600 meters, the terminal station of the 1,956-kilometer Qinghai-Tibet Railway is located in Doilungdeqen County, southwest of Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region.
The station sees an average of 2,300 passengers each day since the railway began operation on July 1, according to station managers.
"It's very, very beautiful," said the Panchen Lama upon arriving at the traditional Tibetan-style architecture in red, white and yellow.
Describing the railway as a link for national unity, the young lama said that he believes the railroad will help promote exchanges between Tibetans and other ethnic groups in China.
"I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the builders of the railway, who left their homes and overcame tremendous hardship for the benefit of people in Tibet," he said.
The Panchen Lama once visited a railway construction site in neighboring Qinghai Province in 2003.
The Qinghai-Tibet Railway runs across the frozen tundra of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau from Lhasa to Xining, capital of Qinghai Province. The section between Golmud and Lhasa, completed last October, measures 1,142 kilometers.
The railway is the highest and longest highland railroad in the world and the first to connect the Tibet Autonomous Region with other parts of China.
(Xinhua News Agency August 27, 2006)