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Rail Maintenance to Ensure Safe Winter Journeys
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The Ministry of Railways is carrying out detailed inspection and maintenance along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway to ensure trains run safely across the world's highest plateau during the winter, Xinhua reported yesterday.


Temperatures high up on the Qinhai-Tibet Plateau can drop to -45 in the winter.


The permafrost area, which sustains about 550 kilometers of track, is prone to bending upwards in the extreme cold.


"Inspection and maintenance along the railway is being carried out. And emergency measures are also being developed," Wang Yongping, ministry spokesman, was quoted by Xinhua as saying.


Wang, addressing a press conference last week, mentioned that the railway construction, though having made breakthroughs in several fields, has experienced some expected challenges.


Several sections of track bed in the frozen soil area are sinking, yaks walking along the track are posing threats to train operation, and storms are also influencing the smooth running of trains, Wang said.


The construction of the railway has overcome three major difficulties, including permafrost, lack of oxygen and a vulnerable ecosystem, according to experts.


Last week, former vice minister of the Ministry of Railway Sun Yongfu said that the track bed of the railway along the frozen area has survived the severe test of the warm season after three months.


A successive five-year test found that the subsidence rate of the track bed along the frozen portion stayed below 2 centimeters per year.


"The railway now runs in an orderly and safe manner, and its operation hasn't influenced the ecosystem," Sun told Xinhua.


The Qinghai-Tibet Railway stretches 1,956 kilometers from Xining, capital of northwest China's Qinghai Province, to Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region.


About 960 kilometers of the track is 4,000 meters above sea level, with the highest point at 5,072 meters.


(China Daily October 2, 2006)

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