[China] World's highest railway completed

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David

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CHINA has announced the official completion of the controversial first railway to Tibet, which crosses mountain passes up to 16,500ft high.

The pan-Himalayan line climbs 5,072m (16,640ft) above sea level and runs across Tibet's snow-covered plateau - dubbed the roof of the world.

Nearly 1,000 miles of the 1,200-mile line, which links Lhasa to the western city of Xining in Qinghai province, is above 13,000ft.

Trains travelling on the line will have to have carriages that are sealed like aircraft to protect passengers from altitude sickness.

The line is expected to carry its first passengers next year.

The official Xinhua news agency said $3 billion (£1.7 bn) had been spent on the 1,142-km (714 miles) final section whose construction across mountain ranges began four years ago.

“About 550 km of the tracks run on frozen earth, the longest in any of the world’s plateau railways,” Xinhua said.

Other feats included boring tunnels through ice as workers breathed bottled oxygen.

But even bigger challenges may lie ahead. The National Climate Centre said in June that rising temperatures would affect operation of the railway by 2050.

China says the line will promote the development of impoverished Tibet.

Critics say it will speed up migration from elsewhere in China and dilute Tibetan culture. Its construction has also been criticised for damaging the plateau’s fragile environment.
 
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