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Qinghai-Tibet Luxury Trains to Roll

People will get to see the beautiful scenery of mysterious Tibet on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau aboard a luxury train by the end of 2007.

According to an agreement signed on Saturday in Beijing, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway Corporation and the Railpartners Inc of the United States will set up a joint venture to operate the tour business.

The train will run 2,040 kilometres from Xining, capital of northwest China's Qinghai Province, to Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region in Southwest China. The tour will be part of the nation's gigantic Qinghai-Tibet Railway project.

It will take three days to complete the one-way travel, and rail stations are built near scenic spots, a Qinghai-Tibet Corporation release said.

With the railway open to traffic from July 1 next year, scenic spots on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau such as Qinghai Lake, the Kekexili Nature Reserve, Potala Palace and the Taer Lamasery the sacred place of Tibetan Buddhism will be linked together.

Zhang Shuguang, director of the transport bureau of the Ministry of Railways, said it will take only 48 hours to travel from Beijing to Lhasa once the railway is open next year.

"Given that the railway is located at an average altitude of 4,500 metres above sea level, trains including sleeping carriages, a dining carriage and domed carriages will be equipped with an oxygen system to combat the thin air," Zhang told reporters.

He added that an oxygen mask would be available for every passenger to avoid altitude sickness.

"A rubbish disposal system will also be installed in trains running on the route to prevent the local environment from being polluted," Zhang said.

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which connects Tibet with the rest of China, was completed in October after four years of construction. It is the track with the highest elevation in the world.

China has hailed the railway as an important project in contributing to the balance of the nation's as well as the region's development.

It will certainly help the region's tourism industry as Tibet is an attractive tourist destination to domestic and international travellers.

Besides Beijing, major cities such as Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province, and Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province, will also start rail traffic to Lhasa from July 1.

The luxurious rail travel line will target high-end customers from both home and abroad, particularly train devotees from Europe and North America, the Ministry of Railways said. Travel agencies will sell tour packages that include the train ride.

Also on Saturday, Railpartners Inc signed an agreement on purchasing luxury tourist trains with the train producers Bombardier-Sifang-Power (Qingdao) transportation Ltd and the CSR Sifang Locomotive and Rolling Stock Co Ltd.

(China Daily December 12, 2005)

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