The first train from the Chinese capital of Beijing started its journey of 4,060 kilometers for Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous region Saturday evening.
The train, carrying some 800 passengers, started at 9:30 PM from the Beijing West Station and will arrive in Lhasa at 8:58 PM on Monday. It will pass Shijiazhuang, Xi'an, Lanzhou, Xining, Golmud and Nagqu before reaching its destination.
Before setting out, passengers took pictures with the train to mark their first trips to Tibet by rail.
"I am excited because it is my first trip to Lhasa," said train attendant Fan Guojun. "I only reached the Tanggula Mountain while being trained for rides to Tibet."
With its highest point, the Tanggula Mountain Pass, at 5,072 meters above sea level, the railway has replaced Peru's Lima- Huancayo line, which boasts a topnotch of 4,800 meters, to make a new record of the world's highest rail track.
The basic coach ticket, called a hard seat, sells for 389 yuan (US$48.6 ) from Beijing to Lhasa, while the price for hard sleeper or bunk costs 813 yuan (101.6 dollars), and the price for a shared compartment or soft sleeper is 1,262 yuan (157. 75 dollars).
Earlier on, a passenger train rolled out of the Railway Station of Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province at 6:18 PM, heading for Lhasa with more than 900 passengers.
It was followed by another train leaving Xining, capital of the northwestern Qinghai Province, for Lhasa at 8:07 p.m.
China has solved three major difficulties including frozen tundra, high altitude and plateau environmental protection to rewrite the world's history of railway construction with the completion of Qinghai-Tibet Railway.
About 550 kilometers of the tracks run on frozen earth, the longest in the world's plateau railways, posing great challenges for designing and construction.
The oxygen content along the railway is only 50-60 percent of that at sea level as 960 km of tracks are located at more than 4, 000 meters above sea level.
The annual average temperature on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is below zero degree Celsius with the minimum temperature at 45 degree Celsius below zero.
None of the hundreds of thousands of workers died of altitude sickness in the past five years, making a medical miracle, said Professor John West with the School of Medicine, University of California, San Diego.
Chinese President Hu Jintao on Saturday attended a launching ceremony held at Golmud, a start-off point of the landmark Qinghai- Tibet Railway in Qinghai Province, and cut the red ribbon for the railway's opening.
He delivered a keynote speech at the gala held at the Golmud Railway Station, saying that the opening to traffic of the Qinghai- Tibet railway is another magnificent accomplishment the country has achieved in socialist modernization drive.
Construction of the Qinghai-Tibet railroad is a long-cherish dream of generations of the Chinese people, Hu said.
Hu said that 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 Qinghai-Tibet railway is 1,956 kilometers long, with 960 km of the track located 4,000 meters above the sea level and the highest point at 5,072 meters. 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.
It 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 2, 2006)