The Qinghai – Tibet railway is a high-altitude railway that connects Xining, Qinghai Province, to Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, in People’s Republic of China.
The total length of Qingzang railway is 1956 km (1215 mi). Construction of the 815 km (506 mi) section between Xining and Golmud was completed by 1984. The 1142 km (709 mi) section between Golmud and Lhasa was inaugurated on 1 July 2006 by President Hu Jintao: the first two passenger trains were “Qing 1” (Q1) from Golmud to Lhasa, and “Zang 2” (Z2) from Lhasa. This railway is the first to connect China proper with the Tibet Autonomous Region, which, due to its altitude and terrain, is the last province-level entity in mainland China to have a conventional railway. Testing of the line and equipment started on 1 May 2006. Passenger trains run from Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Xining and Lanzhou.
The line includes the Tanggula Pass, which, at 5,072 m (16,640 feet) above sea level, is the world’s highest rail track. The 1,338 m Fenghuoshan tunnel is the highest rail tunnel in the world at 4,905 m above sea level. The 4,010-m Guanjiao tunnel is the longest tunnel from Xining to Golmud and the 3,345-m Yangbajing tunnel is the longest tunnel from Golmud to Lhasa. More than 960 km, or over 80% of the Golmud-Lhasa section, is at an altitude of more than 4,000 m. There are 675 bridges, totaling 159.88 km, and about 550 km of the railway is laid on permafrost.
The trains are specially built for high altitude environment. The diesel locomotives used on Golmud-Lhasa section were made by GE in Pennsylvania, and the passenger carriages are Chinese-made 25T carriages: on train T27/T28, between Beijing West and Lhasa, BSP carriages are from Bombardier. Carriages used on the Golmud-Lhasa section are either deep green/yellow or deep red/yellow. Signs in the carriages are in Tibetan, Simplified Chinese and English. The operational speed is 120 km/h, 100 km/h over sections laid on permafrost.
The 1,142-km Qinghai – Tibet railway from Golmud to Lhasa was completed on 12 October 2005. It opened to regular trial service on 1 July 2006.
Apart from hard seat tickets, there is an extra charge for forward-facing seats and berths. Compared with standard pricing for the same class, the soft seat, hard sleeper and soft sleeper tickets have an added charge of 0.09, 0.10 or 0.16 Yuan per kilometer per person respectively.
A Passenger Health Registration Card is required to take the train between Golmud to Lhasa. The card can be obtained when purchasing the ticket. Passengers must read the health notice for high-altitude travel and sign the agreement on the card to take the train. On 28 August 2006 a 75-year-old Hong Kong man was reported to be the first passenger to die on the train, after he had suffered heart problems in Lhasa but insisted on travelling to Xining.
This is BIG: It is now possible to go to Tibet by train via the Qinghai-Tibet railway, the world’s highest altitude railway. While traveling to Tibet by train takes much longer than by plane, you will be witness to thousands of miles of the most stunning landscapes in the world, rolling by outside your window.