China launches bullet train in Tibet, close to Indian border: All you need to know about high-speed rail project

The Lhasa-Nyingchi section of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway has been inaugurated ahead of the centenary celebrations of the ruling Communist Party of China on 1 July

China launches bullet train in Tibet, close to Indian border: All you need to know about high-speed rail project

Representational image. AFP

China on Friday began operations of its first fully electrified bullet train, connecting Tibet’s provincial capital Lhasa with Nyingchi. Nyingchi is a strategically located Tibetan border town close to Arunachal Pradesh.

The 435.5-kilometre Lhasa-Nyingchi section of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway has been inaugurated ahead of the centenary celebrations of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) on 1 July.

The electrified railway that opened in the Tibet Autonomous Region is the first of its kind. The “Fuxing” bullet trains entered official operation on Friday morning in the plateau region.

What are the specifications of the train?

The bullet train has a designed speed of 160 kilometres per hour and operates on a single-line electrified railway. It stops at nine stations, including Lhasa, Shannan and Nyingchi, and can handle passenger and freight transportation, state-run Xinhua reported.

Compared to road travel, the Lhasa-Nyingchi railway reportedly reduces the travel time between the two places from 5 hours to approximately 3.5 hours. It also cuts the travel time from Shannan to Nyingchi from 6 hours to approximately 2 hours.

The rail line passes through 47 tunnels and 121 bridges and crosses the Brahmaputra river, locally called Yarlung Zangbo, 16 times. Tunnels and bridges account for approximately 75 percent of the total length of the railway track.

It has an annual freight transport capacity of 10 million tonnes, which provides strong support for the flow of goods, will promote economic development and improve people’s lives, the Xinhua said.

The Sichuan-Tibet Railway will be the second railway into Tibet after the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. It will go through the southeast of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, one of the world’s most geologically active areas.

In November, Chinese President Xi Jinping had instructed officials to expedite construction of the new railway project, connecting Sichuan Province and Nyingchi in Tibet, saying the new rail line would play a key role in safeguarding the border stability.

The Sichuan-Tibet Railway starts from Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, and travels through Ya’an and enters Tibet via Qamdo, shortening the journey from Chengdu to Lhasa from 48 hours to 13 hours.

Nyingchi is the prefecture-level city of Medog, which is adjacent to the Arunachal Pradesh border.

Why is India’s attention on the new bullet train?

India is following the development of the new railway closely because of it’s proximity to Arunachal Pradesh.

China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of South Tibet, a claim which is firmly rejected by India. The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488-kilometre-long Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the official daily Global Times earlier that, “If a scenario of a crisis happens at the China-India border, the railway will provide a great convenience for China’s delivery of strategic materials.”

An analysis of the project by Hindustan Times supports Feng’s opinion. The railway route will enable China to quickly mobilise personnel iokm ,of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and other defence resources in the event of a border escalation with India, like the border standoff in eastern Ladakh in May 2020.

“Thus, on completion in 2030, it (the train) will enhance the PLA’s mobility and connectivity on the border with India, especially in the eastern sector,” the report said.

It added that Chinese president Xi Jinping has sought to empower ‘border villages’ in the areas bordering India’s Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim states, especially after the Doklam standoff in 2017.

A total of 624 border defence villages in 21 border counties will be the “first line of defence”, the report said, adding, “The Sichuan-Tibet railway line runs close to Nyingchi, Cona, Yadong, Lhunze and Medog counties bordering India’s Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. On completion, the railway line will enable better control, consolidation and logistics supply to these border villages. Chinese scholars have already hailed this network as vital for delivering ‘strategic material’ on the border.”

With inputs from PTI

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