China / Ground level

New high-speed railway reaches Xinjiang

(China Daily/Agencies) Updated: 2014-12-27 07:32

Service will substantially cut times between Urumqi and Gansu province

China tied the far-western region of Xinjiang closer to the rest of the country on Friday, opening a high-speed rail line between its capital, Urumqi, and Lanzhou, in neighboring Gansu, nearly 1,800 kilometers away.

A bullet train departed from Lanzhou West Railway Station at 10:49 am, with female attendants in Uygur and other ethnic clothing serving 622 passengers.

The line, the first high-speed railway in China's remote and poor northwest, stretches through the high-altitude Qilian Mountain range, an ancient section of the Great Wall and five strong-wind zones, slashing travel time between the two cities by half to less than 12 hours, China Central Television said.

Another train left Urumqi for Lanzhou two minutes later, according to the report.

The trains are designed to travel at a maximum speed of 250 kilometers per hour.

The line was one of several being opened this month, including one that cut train travel times between the commercial hubs of Shanghai and Guangzhou from 16 hours to only seven.

Completion of another high-speed line linking Beijing and Lanzhou in 2017 will cut train travel times between the Chinese capital and Urumqi from 41 hours to just 16.

Other new lines that opened Friday include destinations in some of China's more remote and poor provinces and regions, among them Guiyang in Guizhou and Nanning in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

China has long had an extensive rail network, but in recent years has emphasized the development of high-speed trains that have slashed travel times between major cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai, and made rail travel competitive with flying.

Only begun in 1999, China's high-speed rail network has quickly become the largest in the world, with more than 11,000 kilometers of track in service in 2013, with the total expected to reach 16,000 km by 2020, media reported.

In late 2012, China opened what it hailed as the world's longest high-speed train line linking Beijing with Guangzhou, near Hong Kong.

The Lanxin high-speed railway linking Lanzhou and Urumqi comes as China is pushing the Silk Road Economic Belt to boost commercial ties with countries in Central Asia and beyond.

Last month, Xinhua News Agency quoted He Weigang, vice-principal of the Communist Party school of Urumqi, as saying that convenient and efficient transportation was needed for Xinjiang as a bridgehead for the plan.

"The high-speed rail, by connecting Xinjiang with the rest of China and Eurasian countries, will play an important role in regional development and economic integration in the larger picture," he said.

Zhao Kai in Guiyang and Su Qiulan in Nanning contributed to the story.

AFP - China Daily

New high-speed railway reaches Xinjiang


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