Passengers prepare for journey of a lifetime

The first group of people who travelled by train from Beijing to Lhasa are probably right now riding past snow-capped mountains and across grasslands on the "roof of the world."

The 863 passengers left Beijing at 9:30 pm Saturday evening, and are scheduled to arrive in the Tibetan capital at 8:58 pm today, after a trip of 47 hours and 28 minutes.

At the same time, more than 900 people are taking another train to Lhasa from Chengdu, capital of Southwest China's Sichuan Province, and will also arrive this evening after a trip of 48 hours.

While these travellers wind their way across the plateau, the 800 or so passengers who took the train from Xining, capital of Northwest China's Qinghai Province, on Saturday evening would have already had their first glimpse of the Potala Palace landmark of Lhasa as their train pulled into Lhasa Railway Station at 10:30 pm yesterday after a journey of 26 hours.

From now on, there will be regular trains between Lhasa and the three cities, as is shown on the new timetables at railway stations.

The passengers on the first Beijing-Lhasa train were mainly tourists.

"I went to Lhasa two years ago," said Kuang Xiaozhong, a 50-year-old Beijing resident.

"I am going there again primarily because I think I will love looking out of the window as my train climbs gradually onto the plateau and crosses the no-man's land."

Luode Pingcuo, a 16-year-old high school student in Beijing who comes from Tibet, is taking the train back home as his summer holiday began a week ago.

"I am so happy that the railway is finally open," he said. "I haven't been home for almost two years because the air tickets are so expensive."

He bought a discounted train ticket for students for 195 yuan (US$24), which is one-tenth the price of an air ticket.

The trip has been designed to be as comfortable as possible, according to Xi Yuke, driver of the train that left Lhasa Saturday morning and arrived in Lanzhou, capital of Northwest China's Gansu Province 13 hours later.

"I tried driving on the railway many times," he said. "The train always rode very smoothly. It doesn't have even the slightest bump on the long stretch of frozen earth on the plateau."

In the compartments of the train, which are enclosed, the content of oxygen will be kept at a fixed level throughout the trip, while oxygen facilities are also prepared for emergencies, according to Gu Xingfu, captain of the crew on the Beijing-Lhasa train.

"Passengers can watch pre-recorded television programmes on the train," said the captain. "The only pity is that they cannot watch the World Cup games live."

Source: China Daily

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