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Luxury Beijing-Lhasa train 'postponed indefinitely'
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The launch of a "five-star" tourist train service from Beijing to Tibet set for Monday has been called off indefinitely, the operator announced on Saturday.

A senior engineer of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway Corporation (QTRC) said he had received no notice that the tourist train would begin running in September.

He also denied the service would be as "luxurious" as some media reported. Some reports had speculated that the "luxury train" would be reserved for overseas tourists.

"There is no detailed schedule yet, but I can confirm it won't start in September," said Li Shunping, chief engineer of the company.

QTRC announced through the media in March that the train, with carriages on a par with a five-star hotel, would be launched on Sept. 1.

Zhu Mingrui, QTRC general manager who made the announcement, said the train would accommodate just 96 passengers. The fare would be about 20 times the normal price and also more expensive than a flight between Beijing and Lhasa.

No reason for the delay was given by QTRC, which is based in Xining, capital of Qinghai Province neighboring Tibet.

Some local media speculated the delivery time of the carriages could be a factor.

The carriage manufacturer, Bombardier Sifang Power, based in east China's Shandong Province, told the Qingdao Morning Post on Aug. 21 that the carriages would be delivered in February as scheduled. The company had not been informed that the service would be operating in September.

The newspaper report said the train would have 12 passenger cars, two dining cars and a sightseeing car. Each passenger car would have four 20-square-meter suites with double beds and bathing facilities.

Wang Yongping, a spokesman of the Ministry of Railways, wrote in his personal blog saying the train should be called a sightseeing train, rather than a luxury train.

"The biggest difference between the train and other trains would be the special sightseeing car, where commodious windows and comfortable chairs allowed passengers a better view of the scenery," he said in the blog.

The train would serve travelers from home and from abroad, he wrote.

The 1,956-kilometer Qinghai-Tibet section of the rail line, running from Xining to Lhasa, which started operation in July 2006, was Tibet's first rail link with the outside world.

(Xinhua News Agency August 31, 2008)

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