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Full steam ahead for world's highest railway
Construction of the world's highest railway which links the Tibet Autonomous Region and Qinghai Province is on track with all technical preparations close to being completed.
Fu Zhihuan, minister of railways, said his ministry is building four trial projects along frozen areas in Tibet which will provide them with first-hand information ahead of large-scale construction next year.
"With those live tests and thorough geographic research conducted in the plateau over past decades, we are confident we will finish the huge railway project with high quality and on time," Fu said at a news conference held by the Information Office under the State Council yesterday.
His ministry has organized a construction team of 11,000 workers to lay the track along the roof of the world with some local people also involved in the project. After professional training, they will lay the track close to their home towns.
The ministry has dispatched fully-equipped professional medical teams to ensure workers' health and safety at high altitudes where the air is thin.
Fifty people who suffered altitude sickness were taken to hospitals at lower elevation while the rest adapted to the plateau environment.
The ministry had invested a total of 770 million yuan (US$93 million) in the project by October, starting the construction of 55 bridges and three tunnels.
Fu said his ministry attached great importance to the environment protection of the plateau, and protective measures to preserve vegetation and wildlife had been detailed to construction units.
Wang Yuqing, vice-director of the State Environmental Protection Administration, said his administration has kept close eye on the impact the railway project is having on local ecology, and was satisfied with the work so far.
"Construction must be in line with all the related environmental, ecological and animal protection laws and regulations, and we will supervise their work around the clock," Wang said.
Responding to questions about the investment in the railway, Zhang Guobao, vice-minister of the State Development Planning Commission, said the central government would foot the entire 26 billion yuan (US$3.1 billion) investment, and no foreign loans or special treasury bonds would be required.
He said the railway would provide an economic, fast and convenient transport line for the Tibetan people, which will ultimately promote the social and economic development of the region.
"A reduction in travelling costs will enable more people to enjoy the natural beauty and ancient culture of Tibet," he said.
The Qinghai-Tibet railway project was started this June and will involve 1,142 kilometres of track. It is due to be completed by 2007.
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