High-speed railway opens to traffic in west China without disturbing panda habitat

Xinhua | Updated: 2023-11-28 13:22
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This aerial photo taken on Nov 28, 2023 shows a high-speed passenger train running along the Sichuan-Qinghai railway. A 238-km section of the Sichuan-Qinghai railway in western China became operational on Tuesday after 12 years of construction. [Photo/Xinhua]

CHENGDU -- A 238-km section of the Sichuan-Qinghai railway in western China became operational on Tuesday after 12 years of construction.

The first high-speed passenger train was launched at around 11 am from Maoxian county, Aba Tibetan and Qiang autonomous prefecture of Sichuan province, heading for Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan.

The railway crosses the rugged, earthquake-prone plateau region in northwest Sichuan, and takes a detour to avoid disturbing the Giant Panda National Park.

Yongqingtsu, the conductor in charge of Tuesday's train service, described the trip of about an hour as "smooth and comfortable."

Because the railway is built mostly in mountains, "more than half of the journey is in tunnels, which is like riding the subway," he said. The constant change of elevations also makes the trip, at a speed of 170 km per hour in the tunnel, like riding a super long escalator, he added.

The tunnels were drilled through the famous Longmenshan fault zone, where a lot of devastating earthquakes had struck, including an 8.0-magnitude quake on May 12, 2008.

Wang Zhigang, who is in charge of construction projects undertaken by the China Railway 12th Bureau Group Co Ltd, said engineers and builders had tackled numerous formidable obstacles with breakthroughs in technology and construction methods during 12 years of harsh work in the construction.

Another highlight of the railway construction is great attentions paid to the protection of the wild panda habitat. China officially launched the Giant Panda National Park in 2021 that covers parts of Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.

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