Lhasa Railway

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Lhasa Railway
Line of the Lhasa Railway
Route length: 1956 km
Gauge : 1435 mm ( standard gauge )
Top speed: 160 km / h
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0 Xining
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14th Xining-West 2280  m
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176 Haergai 3244  m
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310 Têmqên (Tianjun) 3360  m
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New Guanjiao Tunnel (32,600 m) 3380  m
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406 Ulan
Golmud – Dunhuang railway line
675 Yinmaxia
Station, station
830 Golmud 2828  m
857 Nanshankou 3080  m
881 Ganlong 3309  m
914 Naij valley 3575  m
937 Xiaonanchuan 3832  m
955 Yuzhufeng 4195  m
973 Wangkun 4484  m
Kunlun tunnel (1686 m)
1010 Budongquan 4611  m
Qumar He Bridge (11,400 m)
Bridge (2,565 m)
1056 Qumar He (Chumar Heyan) 4495  m
1100 Wudaoliang 4636  m
1138 Xiushuihe 4570  m
Fenghuoshan Tunnel (1,338 m) 4905  m
1174 Jiangkedong 4778  m
1196 Ri'achiqu 4584  m
Stop, stop
1239 Tuotuohe 4547  m
Bridge (1,389 m)
Zhiqu 4598  m
1260 Kaixinling
1309 Tanggang
1322 Yanshiping 4721  m
1356 Bumade
1380 Buqiangge 4823  m
1404 Tanggula North
Kilometers change
Tanggula pass summit 5072  m
Stop, stop
1421 Tangula 5068  m
1441 Tanggula South
1460 Za'gya Zangbo 4886  m
1499 Tuoju 4891  m
Stop, stop
1529 Amdo 4702  m
1553 Co Nag (Tsonag) 4594  m
1574 Liantonghe
1593 Diwuma 4585  m
1632 Gangxiu 4646  m
Stop, stop
1655 Nagqu (Naqu) 4513  m
1691 Tuoru 4578  m
1713 Sangshung
1735 Gulu 4673  m
1775 Wumatang (U-ma Thang) 4502  m
Stop, stop
1815 Damxung (Dangxiong) 4293  m
1845 Daqiongguo (Dhachu-go) 4327  m
1864 Yangbaling
1881 Yangbajain (Yangbajing) 4306  m
1901 Angga
1913 Maxiang 3924  m
1930 Gurong
Stop, stop
1953 Lhasa West 3664  m
Bridge over the Lhasa He
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1956 Lhasa 3641  m
Route - straight ahead
Lhasa – Xigazê railway line to Samzhubzê in Xigazê
Tibetan name
Tibetan script :
མཚོ་ བོད་ ལྕགས་ ལམ
Wylie transliteration :
mtsho bod lcags lam
Chinese name
Traditional :
青藏 鐵路
Simplified :
青藏 铁路
Pinyin :
Qīng-Zàng tiělù

The single - track , partially electrified railway line in the People's Republic of China , known in the West because of the destination station Lhasa Railway , also known as Tibet Railway , in China Qinghai-Tibet Railway , or Qingzang Railway , connects Xining , the capital of Qinghai Province , with Lhasa , the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region . The total distance is 1956 km.

It has several world records: with an apex of 5,072 meters, it is the highest railway line in the world (255 m higher than the Peruvian Central Railway ), the New Guanjiao Tunnel , at 32,600 meters, is the longest railway tunnel in the Chinese rail network and at 160 km / h permissible speed at the same time the fastest passable point on the railway line. The route from Xining to Lhasa in 2015 takes around 17 hours. The highest railway station in the world ( Tanggula , 5,068 m) and the highest tunnel in the world (4,905 m) are also located on it.

The Lhasa Railway is one of the largest railway construction projects completed in the 21st century. On August 15, 2014, a 253 km long Lhasa – Xigazê railway line went into operation as an extension to Xigazê, Tibet's second largest city .


The line was essentially built in two sections, which today still differ in their state of development: The Xining - Golmud - Nanshankou section went into operation until 1984. The technically more complex section Nanshankou – Lhasa (1100 km) through the high mountains was completed in October 2005. Trial operations began in early February 2006, and the official opening train left Beijing on July 1, 2006, the 85th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and reached Lhasa on July 3, 2006. The route has been on schedule since August 2006.



The new train station in Xining

The entire route of the Lhasa Railway begins in Xining, but Golmud is often referred to as the starting point, as the complex high-mountain route began in Nanshankou, south of Golmud. The route leads after the Kunlun Pass via the small towns of Budongquan, Wudaoliang, Tuotuoheyan (Tanggulashan municipality) to the 5072 m high Tanggula Pass . The border with the Tibet Autonomous Region also runs at this vertex. The highest tunnel in the world is at the pass and mountain peak Fenghuo Shan (5262 m), after the first third of the section between Kunlun Shan and Tanggula Pass, at 4905 m. After the Tanggula Pass, the route continues through the Tibetan plateau until it descends into the valley of the Doilung Qu River after Damxung and finally ends at Lhasa train station .

Both passenger trains and freight trains run in close succession on the Lhasa Railway . The NJ2 class is exclusively used as a mainline locomotive on the non-electrified upper section .

Around 960 km of the route between Golmud and Lhasa run at an altitude of more than 4000 m. Here the trains are transported by diesel locomotives . The section between Golmud and Xining, on the other hand, is electrified.

QingZang Railway.png

Naij valley
Qumar He
Zhi Qu
Za'gya Zangbo
Co Nag
Lhasa West
o  train station
o  unmanned station
 viewpoint (has been discontinued)

NB not to scale

Track construction

From a technical point of view, the upper section of the line between Golmud and Lhasa is particularly special: a quarter of the route was built on permafrost . This soil thaws briefly on the surface in summer without being stabilized by vegetation . The water cannot seep into the deep frozen ground, a layer of mud forms on the surface into which the superstructure would sink. For this reason, various techniques have been developed to prevent thawing:

At critical sections of the route, closed steel pipes were sunk into the ground, which were filled with a certain amount of ammonia in order to function as a thermosiphon around 0 ° C and lower. If the ground is too warm, liquid ammonia - in the pipe below - evaporates, light ammonia gas rises in the pipe and condenses at higher points on the pipe, which are cooled by colder air. From there, the liquefied refrigerant flows downwards, driven by gravity. As long as the air here is a good bit colder than 0 ° C, muddy, thawed soil can be cooled further down the pipe under sunlight and thus frozen. Since the heavier liquid ammonia can only flow downwards, heat from this heat pipe can only be transported upwards, so the bottom can only be cooled. If the cooling process comes to a standstill for a while during the day, it continues through the night. 10,000 such cooling rods , protruding about three meters from the ground, were inserted into the track's superstructure.

Another possibility to stabilize the route is a special form of the superstructure: The three-meter-high railway embankment was built from roughly hewn, head-sized boulders that were layered on top of each other without mortar . The constant wind of the high plateau blows through the cracks, dissipates the radiated solar heat and thus keeps the ground cold. However, due to global warming , the permafrost soil is expected to decrease by a third over the next 50 years, meaning that it will also move to greater heights.

Just a month after the line opened, the Chinese Ministry of Railways said that the permafrost under the railway line was sinking and showing the first cracks, which would destabilize the railway in some places. The concrete of some constructions also shows cracks. These problems appear to have been resolved, as scheduled traffic has been operating at the maximum speed limit without major incidents or interruptions since 2006. Trains reach 100 km / h in areas with frozen ground. This is the world's fastest speed trains travel on frozen highland ground. A speed of 120 km / h is permitted on sections of the route without permafrost.

Moving dunes and herds of yaks posed additional dangers . Against the latter, extensive barriers made of field stones were laid in the endangered places, which the animals reluctantly and voluntarily never climb over. In addition, the route is completely fenced outside of the sections that were built as bridges, tunnels or elevated.

The route is under military surveillance from the border of the Tibet Autonomous Region to Lhasa. There is a post about every two kilometers, usually on underpasses or bridges, partly in tents, and to a lesser extent in permanent guard houses.

New Guanjiao Tunnel

In 2014, the 32.645 km long New Guanjiao Tunnel between Têmqên and Ulan was completed, which shortens an existing mountain route by 36.8 km.

Route data Golmud – Lhasa

length 1,142 kilometers
including over 4,000 m above sea level 960 kilometers
of which on permafrost soil 550 kilometers
The highest point Tanggula Pass, 5072 meters
Highest station Tanggula , 5068 meters
Highest tunnel Fenghuo Shan Tunnel, height: 4,905 meters
Longest tunnel Yangbajing tunnel, length: 3,345 meters
Number of bridges 675 with a total length of 160 kilometers (from Xining)
Construction period of the Nanshankou – Lhasa section 2001-2005
opening July 1, 2006
Travel time Golmud – Lhasa about 12 hours
Estimated costs 29.46 billion yuan
(≈ € 2.9 billion, CHF 4.6 billion)
Stop at 4,513 meters in Na Qu ( Nagqu )
Double-hauled passenger train with
CNR series NJ2

Route extensions

Although the profitability of the Lhasa Railway was doubted, construction began on September 26, 2010 on the 253-kilometer route from Lhasa to the second largest Tibetan city of Xigazê . Due to the difficult terrain, 155 kilometers will run on bridges or in tunnels. The single-track line is laid out for 120 km / h, the construction costs amounted to 13.3 billion yuan (approx. 1.6 billion euros) and operations began on August 15, 2014.

Another connection, the Sichuan-Tibet Railway , which is to run from Chengdu via Nyingchi to Lhasa from southeast China , has been under construction since 2014. Completion is planned for 2030. A route to Yadong on the Sino- Indian border and an extension to Nepal are also planned.

passenger traffic

The passenger trains consist of two locomotives (originally three, but this was given up) with 16 cars of a special design for the Tibet Railway. Trains offer space for 930 passengers each. As a rule, they each have a 1st  class sleeping car ("soft sleeper"), a dining car and a baggage car . The remaining carriages consist of about half each of sleeping and seating cars in 2nd class. An electronic display in the car shows the current altitude and the speed of the train. However, this system is not always activated, as is the on-board video program. There are central washbasins and a squat toilet in the passage area for each car . The equipment of the car is also differently comfortable:

  • "Soft Sleeper": four-bed compartment (two bunk beds) with an oxygen nozzle at one end of the bed, reading lamp and a small screen at the other end. In addition, pillows, bed linen, central table and cabin door.
  • "Hard Sleeper": Six-bed compartment (two three-bunk beds) with narrower beds and sockets only in the corridor.
  • "Seat": seats in the arrangement 2 + 3.

There is a high risk of altitude sickness (AMS) due to a trip at over 5,000 m . For this reason, from a height of around 3,000 meters, nozzles are switched on, which additionally blow oxygen into the carriages in the aisle and compartments - but this only partially reduces the risk of developing AMS, which is why it is advisable to take an appropriate route beforehand to altitude acclimatization . According to official statements, the trains will also be accompanied by medical staff. Every passenger must sign a form before the journey stating that they are physically and mentally healthy.

Train between Yangpachen and Lhasa, nearing completion of the route

The drive from Golmud to Lhasa takes fourteen hours (driving time twelve). Coming from Beijing , the train takes 43 hours. The train stops at several stations between Golmud and Lhasa.

Economical meaning

The Lhasa Railway has served 5.95 million passengers from its opening on July 1, 2006 to December 31, 2007. Thus, in 2007, 43% of all tourists entered the Tibet Autonomous Region via the Lhasa Railway. The Lhasa Railway helped tourism to grow by 60.4% in 2007. About 75% of all goods are transported to and from Tibet via the Lhasa Railway. In 2015, tourism in the Autonomous Republic of Tibet exceeded the 20 million mark for the first time and a further substantial increase is planned.

In China, the railway, which was built at a cost of 29.46 billion yuan (approx. 2.9 billion euros or 4.6 billion Swiss francs), is a project of great national importance, comparable only to the Great Wall of China or the Three Gorges -Dam , consider.

Thanks to the railway, Tibet's mineral resources should be transported more easily and basic materials such as coal, steel or building materials can be transported to Tibet at a fraction of the previous costs.

The criticism, also from Tsering Woeser , says above all that for the Tibetan people, the railway brings another interference into their own culture, which the Communist Party of China wanted, and that it increases political control by China. An increase in immigration from the rest of China is also expected, which is an undesirable interference for the population of Tibet. Some human rights organizations also expect the railway to be used for military purposes, as the transport time for soldiers from Golmud to Lhasa will be reduced.

These fears are countered by the fact that immigration has already taken place with very well developed and comparatively cheap bus transport, whereas the logistics of the military are based on more effective and more flexible truck transports on the road.

In addition, the railway should also provide decisive impulses for the development of the tourism industry. In the Tibet Autonomous Region, over 30,000 Tibetans already make a living from tourism. According to current plans, this number is expected to multiply in the next few years. This is part of Tibet's strategy to relieve the high steppes, some of which are heavily burdened by cattle breeding, by creating new jobs for cattle breeders.

Freight train with CR series HXD1 on the lower section between Xining and Golmud


Web links

Commons : Lhasa Railway  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f g NN: With the Tibet Railway .
  2. ^ Zhenhua Chen, Kingsley E. Haynes: Chinese Railways in the Era of High-Speed. Emerald Group, Bingley 2015, ISBN 978-1-78441-985-1 , p. 104.
  3. ^ Tunnel breakthrough in the longest railway tunnel in the world. In: german.china.org.cn. Retrieved March 11, 2016 .
  4. Description (german.china.org.cn, English, accessed on December 16, 2012)
  5. Description, details (german.china.org.cn, English, accessed on December 16, 2012)
  6. ^ A b Xin Dingding: First train rumbles on highest railway in China Daily, July 1, 2006, accessed September 12, 2016
  7. a b Exchange rates as of September 1, 2006, finanzen.ch
  8. In the film “The Tibet Railway. By train to the roof of the world. ”“ Western ”calculations are quoted, which come to an amortization period of 300 years.
  9. ^ Work starts on Tibet railway extension. Railway Gazette International, September 30, 2010, accessed October 3, 2010 .
  10. railway between Lhasa and Xigaze (sic!) Opens in Tibet. ORF.at, August 15, 2014, accessed on August 15, 2014 .
  11. Tour in May / June 2013.
  12. http://www.chinabahn.com/zug-nach-tibet/reisevorschlag/hoehenkrankheit.html
  13. ChinaTibetOnline of February 9, 2016
  14. Lindsey Hilsum: Tibet: Preparing Tibet for the Olympics ( English ) channel 4. 2007-08-28. Retrieved on December 17, 2012. with a link to the video with Tsering Woeser
  15. Andreas Lorenz: Train on the roof of the world . The mirror . 2001-09-28. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  16. Tourism in Tibet