China on Saturday opened the world's most elevated railroad with the first pair of passenger trains traveling across the "roof of the world".
Two trains set off at Golmud and Lhasa, the two start-up points of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway that is dubbed an "engineering marvel" that has linked Tibet with the rest of China for the first time.
Chinese President Hu Jintao attended a launching ceremony of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway in Golmud, northwest China's Qinghai Province, and made a keynote speech.
"The opening to traffic of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway is another magnificent accomplishment we have achieved in our socialist modernization drive. Construction of the Qinghai-Tibet railroad is a long-cherished dream of generations of the Chinese people," said Hu, who is also General Secretary of Chinese Communist Party (CPC) Central Committee and Chairman of the Central Military Commission.
"The project is not only a magnificent feat in China's history of railway construction, but also a great miracle of the world's railroad history," according to the president.
Hu said this successful practice has made it clear again to the people at large that diligent and intelligent Chinese people are ambitious, self-confident and capable of continuously making extraordinary achievements, and they are ambitious, self-confident and capable of standing amongst the world's advanced nations.
The feat of completion will be recorded forever into the history of the People's Republic of China, he added.
Hu said the construction of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway has brought forth four enlightenments.
Firstly, we must stick to development, which is the top imperative task for our Party to govern and rejuvenate our country, so as to continuously enhance the country's overall strength.
Secondly, we must rev up scientific and technological progress so as to greatly improve our capability of innovation.
Thirdly, we must bring into full play the political advantage of the socialist institution, so as to realize a situation that the entire nation is united to jointly accomplish feats.
Fourthly, we must carry forward the spirit of arduous struggle and unceasingly strife in order to dauntlessly create historic feats.
President Hu required railway authorities to do a good job in management and use of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway and to establish awareness of the principles of putting the people first and of safe development.
He said that labor security for railway workers and physical health of passengers should be ensured. He emphasized the extreme importance of environmental protection of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
Hu noted railway workers and passengers traveling on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway should consciously treasure waters and mountains as well as grass and woods on the Plateau, and they should help conserve the eco system and environment along the railway.
According to Hu, launching of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway will provide a historic opportunity for the economic and social development in Qinghai Province and Tibet Autonomous Region.
The two should take the wonderful opportunity to carry out the conception of scientific development, design industrial distribution in a scientific way, optimize the distribution of resources and push forward the economic restructuring, so as to speed up the formation of economic patterns with regional advantages and ethnic characteristics.
Hu said that efforts should be made to explore in a scientific manner the tourism resources along the railway, to create tourist brands with the plateau characteristics and to rev the development of local tourism industry.
Upon the operation of the railroad, endeavors should be exerted to develop advantageous resources and provide more jobs to help increase income of local farmers and herdsmen and improve the living standards of various ethnic groups along the transport line, according to Hu.
He required related governmental departments to team up with railway authorities and the governments of Qinghai and Tibet to gradually build the areas along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway into booming economies with social harmony and beautiful environment.
After his speech, the President then cut the ribbon for the launching of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. A passenger train coded "Qing 1", carrying officials and model workers on the project, pulled out from the Golmud station at 11:05 AM for Lhasa where it was due to arrive on Saturday night.
Some 1,142 kilometers away, Tibet's regional capital Lhasa saw off a train bound for Lanzhou, capital of northwest China's Gansu Province, at 11:12 AM. The train, coded "Tibet 2", carries about 700 passengers in 16 compartments and is expected to arrive in Lanzhou in 30 hours.
Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan presided over the launching ceremony, which was also attended by Party chiefs of Tibet and Qinghai, as well as 2,600 people from various circles, including exemplary workers who have made special contributions to the railway construction.
Zhou Yongkong, State Councilor, cut the ribbon at another ceremony held at the Railway Station of Lhasa, and saw off the inland-bound train.
Liu Zhijun, Minister of Railway, said at the Golmud ceremony that the construction of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway was a strategic decision made by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council, and it is an unprecedented difficult job in human's history.
Norbu, a 28-year-old Tibetan farmer from Gonggar, left home before daybreak to join the celebrations at Lhasa railway station and to catch a glimpse of the train. "I'll board a train myself sometime to visit the inland areas."
Xie Yuke from Qinghai provincial railways administration, 35, a Han ethnic, is piloting the train's maiden trip on the plateau. Among the passengers are Tibetan herdsmen, farmers, retired governmental officials, builders of the railway and journalists.
Trains traveling across the roof of the world, with extra oxygen pumped into the cabins to prevent passengers from suffering altitude sickness, will traverse a mountain pass sitting 5,072 meters above sea level as it rises up to the Tibetan plateau, and will drive through the Hoh Xil, China's largest area of uninhabited land.
The cars were installed with environment-friendly toilets, wastewater deposit tank and garbage treatment facilities to protect environment along the railroad.
All the Chinese characters that appear on the electronic screen in each railway car have been translated into Tibetan and English.
The Qinghai-Tibet railway is 1,956 kilometers long. It stretches from Xining, capital of Qinghai Province, to Lhasa. The section of 814 km from Xining to Golmud began operation in 1984 and the Golmud-Lhasa section started construction on June 29, 2001.
The railway is the world's highest and longest plateau railroad and also the first railway connecting the Tibet Autonomous Region with the rest of China.
The railway is projected to help double tourism revenues by 2010 and reduce transport costs for goods by 75 percent in Tibet, officials said.
(Xinhua News Agency July 1, 2006)