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The Qinghai-Tibet Railway: 50 Years in the Making
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The Qinghai-Tibet Railway finally went into operation on July 1, ending the history of Tibet having no rail linkage to the other parts of China. But prior to this tremendous achievement China has actually come a long way in the face of many difficulties and setbacks.


China began building the Sichuan-Tibet and Qinghai-Tibet highways on May 25, 1951 just three days after the central government and the local Tibetan authorities signed the Agreement on Peaceful Liberation of Tibet.


In 1956, two years after the two roads were completed, the Ministry of Railway started to plan the rail link with Tibet since highway transportation had limits in freight volume and was expensive. For the first time the Qinghai-Tibet Railway was put on the central government's agenda.


In 1960 a full preliminary design and partial survey of the Xining-Golmud section of the new link was completed. The track-laying of the 97-kilometer-long section between Xining-Haiyan was finished in November that year.


However, the project had to be suspended due to natural disasters which occurred between 1959-61 and involved widespread famine throughout China.


In December 9, 1973, the late Chairman Mao Zedong (1893-1976) said China was going to build the Qinghai-Tibet Railway when he met the then Nepal King Birendra. In March 1974, construction on the Xining-Golmud section resumed.


The laying of track was completed in 1979 and the Xining-Golmud stretch went into operation in 1984.


However, the Golmud-Lhasa section of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway was suspended again in August 1978 as a result of technical problems caused by frozen ground on the high plateaus. Meanwhile building a railway into Tibet from Yunnan or Sichuan provinces was also under discussion.  


But in 1994 the Third National Conference on Work in Tibet was held in Beijing and the call went out for the nation to make ready for a return to Qinghai-Tibet Railway project.


The Ministry of Railway undertook a vast survey on different routes to Tibet from Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces. In 2000 it was felt that the Qinghai-Tibet route was the best option and a recommendation went to central government.


In December 2000, the Ministry of Railway submitted the Qinghai-Tibet Railway project to the then State Planning Commission – now the National Development and Reform Commission. Soon after the commission submitted an official report to the State Council for approval.


In February 8, 2001, the State Council held the 105th premiers' work meeting and listened to a report by the State Planning Commission on the construction of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. The meeting gave their approval to the project.


( July 7, 2006)



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