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US$660m poured into Qinghai-Tibet railway
Updated: 2004-12-01 14:20

The cost of building the high-altitude Qinghai-Tibet railway has blown out with China forced to pump another 5.5 billion yuan (US$660 million) into the project.

China had originally earmarked 3.1 billion dollars for the 2,040 kilometer (1,264 miles) line that will link Lhasa in Tibet with Golmud in Qinghai Province, making it the longest railway at the highest elevation in the world.

The extra investment was needed to ensure the rail link could open to the public on schedule in 2007.

So far, 738 kilometers (457 miles) of track have been laid since China began construction in 2001.

It is the centerpiece of China's ongoing "develop the west program" which envisions bringing economic development to China's most impoverished and least densely populated regions of Tibet, Qinghai and the Xinjiang autonomous region.

Thousands of workers are employed on the project, which has been criticised by Tibetans' rights advocates. They say that while it could bring economic benefits, it was part of an effort to encourage Han Chinese migrants to settle in Tibet.

Most people currently travel to Tibet by air or car.

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