To travel by train between Sichuan’s capital Chengdu and Lhasa in Tibet takes around 40 hours. But an ambitious new railway line will see the 1,600km journey cut to just 15 hours. The Economist magazine calls the line the most remarkable of all China’s railway-building feats of recent years, noting it will cross “14 mountains, two of them higher than Mont Blanc” and make a “cumulative ascent of 14,000 metres”. Having to traverse permafrost the railway needs “ingenious heat-regulating technology to keep the track from buckling,” the magazine adds.
By Chinese standards it’s an expensive line, with the cost estimated at roughly $16 billion. But given the challenges involved in the railway – as well as its length – it only serves to make Britain’s proposed HS2 line look even more exorbitant. The Daily Telegraph reports that the latest UK government figures put the cost of the northbound bullet train at a whopping £56 billion, or $81.8 billion. Featuring six stations and traversing just 543km of England, HS2’s second phase is planned for completion in 2033. The Chengdu-Lhasa line is expected to be completed in 2030.
In other rail-related news, Chinese giant CRRC (the train manufacturer created from the merger of CSR and CNR) announced on Sunday that it had completed a test run of a monorail train powered by permanent magnetic synchronous motors. It is the first such train developed in China and can travel at speeds of up to 70km/h, making less noise than a car. China Daily noted that 95% of the train’s parts are made in China and that the train will make its debut in Shandong.
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