Hundreds of Chinese servicemen demobilized in Tibet boarded the Qinghai-Tibet Railway to go home at the weekend, marking a milestone in military transportation history on the plateau.
The ex-soldiers took train T24, which left Lhasa, regional capital of Tibet, on 9:05 AM on Saturday for Chengdu, capital of the southwestern Sichuan Province.
Liu Hanbin, an ex-soldier from Yunnan Province, said the train was the most economical transport off the plateau.
"It costs more than 400 yuan (US$50) and takes four days to go from Lhasa to Chengdu by bus and a flight can cost 1,650 yuan (US$206). But a train hard seat costs just 300 yuan (US$37.5)," he said.
In the past, the People's Liberation Army stationed in Tibet relied on road and air transport for personnel and materials.
The 1,956-km railway, which has cut transport costs by 70 percent for local trades, is expected to play an important role in national defense.
Liu said he felt quite comfortable on the train as he could breathe fresh air and appreciate the scenery.
Trains on the railway are all equipped with oxygen dispersion systems and inhalers. The former adds oxygen to the air gradually and the latter is used to overcome altitude sickness.
The men were also provided with meals, games, books and magazines.
The Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which runs from Xiing, capital of northwest China's Qinghai Province, to Lhasa, was opened to traffic on July 1.
Tibet received 2.25 million visitors in the first 10 months, up 31.8 percent from the same period last year, which experts attributed to the attraction of the first railway to Tibet.
(Xinhua News Agency December 3, 2006)