China has yet to see a place that it hasn’t wanted to build a railway through, and that apparently includes the world’s highest mountain range.
While some may scoff at the idea of building a railroad through the Himalayas, Chinese experts believe that they already have the technology and expertise to do just that. They say that you can expect 100 kilometer per hour train rides from Tibet to Nepal by 2030.
According to a People’s Daily report, at a forum in Beijing held earlier this month by the China Tibetology Research Center, researchers laid out an ambitious plan for a railway that would begin at Xigaze (Shigatse), a Tibetan city about 3 hours away from Lhasa by train, and extend to Gyirong on the Nepalese border, From there, the train could continue on to Kathmandu. According to the most recent five-year-plan, the Xigaze-Gyirong Railway will be in the works by 2020. Additional tracks are also planned from Xigaze to two more border towns by 2030.
Nepal is apparently open to the idea of China building a railway through its country to connect it with Tibet. In March, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met with Nepalese Prime Minister K. P. Sharma Oli, who allowed companies to conduct preliminary research into the cross-border railway project. Already, two Chinese companies have expressed interest in building a 121-km railway linking Kathmandu and Rasuwagadhi, a Nepalese land port across the border from Gyirong.
Losang Jamcan, chairman of the Tibet Automous Region Government said in July that building rail links is the best way to open up Tibet to trade from South Asian countries, particularly the large Indian market.
Of course, another potential benefit that China sees is in tourism. Here’s what Zhou Yuhui, a professor at Beijing Jiaotong University, took from his recent trip to the China-Nepal border:
There are rich tourism resources, including virgin forest, canyons and historical relics in Gyirong, which has hardly been developed. While bringing tourists and businesses to Gyirong, which will help local people to escape poverty, the China-Nepal railway will also help … to make people more willing to integrate into modern life.
Meanwhile, another part of China’s 13th Five-Year Plan is a proposed second railway linking Tibet with the rest of the country. The existing Qinghai-Tibet Railway already stands as a testament to the crazy things that China can achieve. Finished in 2006, the railway run nearly 2,000 km through frostbitten and inhospitable terrain. This new railway would be much the same thing, but departing from Sichuan’s provincial capital of Chengdu. Reports indicate that the railway would be about 1,630 kilometers in length, with a journey taking 15 hours.
This is all part of China’s 4.7 trillion yuan spending plan to provide more reliable transport to some of the country’s more remote regions.
Though, strangely, we still aren’t seeing anything in all these plans about that railway tunnel under Mount Everest. Has reality somehow got in the way?