At 8.55 pm on July 3rd, the T27, the first ever passenger train from Beijing, pulled into Lhasa Station. History shows the construction of a railway line often changes the economic and social life of a region. In what way will the full operation of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway alter and influence the daily life of local people?
100 Yuan increase in annual income for farmers and herdsmen
Farmers and herdsmen on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau often suffer badly from a low slaughter rate when livestock including yak die in great numbers from heavy snow and drought in winter and spring, as the region is mostly cut off from outside markets.
The construction and operation of the railway will bring Qianghai and Tibet closer to other regions and help them merge into markets nationwide, said professor Zhu Guoren with the China National School of Administration. Better conditions in transport and information will help decrease the number of risks and disasters. Every 1 percent rise in the slaughter rate alone would increase the per capita annual income by more than 100 Yuan. The rail will also boost road transportation, benefiting farmers and herdsmen on this vast stretch of land.
Tibet residents to have great purchasing power
Commodity prices in Tibet have been much higher than in other provinces and autonomous regions because of the high costs of transportation. In Lhasa markets, for example, coal and cement are priced at 700 to 800 Yuan a ton, including a 600 Yuan transit cost. Nearly half of the annual national fund for local construction is spent on transportation. Their purchasing power is only half that of the eastern coastal areas.
The railway is expected to carry 75 percent of the entire region's cargo. It boasts a single-way capacity 40 times that of auto transport and can reduce the cost by half. It would completely break the transportation bottleneck and ease the tension significantly. As more and more low-price and high-quality goods enter Tibet via the line, the purchasing power of local residents will be greatly enhanced, said officials with the Ministry of Commerce.
Traveling to and from Tibet more affordable
Restricted by transportation options, the huge tourism potential of Tibet is yet to be tapped. Traveling as part of an agency group, a Beijing-Lhasa return ticket would cost more than 4,000 Yuan after discount. When other costs and expenditure are considered, an organized tour to Tibet may be even more costly than an overseas trip.
Happily, the railway line has made it possible to travel 4,064 kilometers from Beijing to Lhasa in 47 hours. A hard seat ticket costs 389 Yuan, and a hard or soft sleeper is only around 1,000 Yuan. This is an enchanting line that passes such mysterious scenic spots such as the Qinghai Lake, Kunlun Mountain, Hoh Xil and the Northern Tibet Prairie.
According to a study done by the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences and the Institute of Industrial Economies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the railway is likely to boost annual tourist arrivals by 30 percent. By 2010, the number may reach 5.28 million, leading to a direct tourism income of 5.8 billion Yuan.
More Tibetan people to come to the outside world
Tibet has had an enormous imbalance in personnel entry and exit. In 2005, 1.8 million tourist arrivals were registered, but the number of people going out was below 1/10 of that figure during the same period.
Local residents will have more opportunities to leave home for study, business and work, therefore enjoying closer ties with other parts of the country, said Professor Zhou Tianyong with the Party School of the CPC Central Committee.
More farmers and herdsmen to enjoy benefits of urbanization
The urbanization level of Tibet is only 40 percent of the national average. Many farmers and herdsmen cannot enjoy the conveniences of urbanized life, production and education.
The railway presents a golden opportunity for towns to be constructed along it, said experts from the Ministry of Construction. It would link up various towns of rich resources and unique features.
It is predicted that passengers transferring in Xining will exceed 600,000 each year. Authorities of both Qinghai and Tibet have vowed to build more towns with a larger population and on a bigger economic scale.
Keep the blue sky and white clouds forever
Currently, household fuel at the plateau comes chiefly from cow manure and a kind of short pine, the latter usually having a growth period of decades. Another threat to the vulnerable ecology is the tail gas discharged by the huge motorcade running on the Qinghai-Tibet road.
The 1.54 billion Yuan of additional funds have made the line a huge green project. Now rich coal and oil resources in northwestern areas will be transferred into Tibet economically and conveniently to meet the local demand for energy. This will help preserve ecology by reducing damage to forest and grassland.
The railway will serve as the major means of transportation for passengers and cargo which will reduce the amount of road traffic and therefore improve air quality. As China's first eco-friendly plateau railway, officials with the State Environmental Protection Administration said it serves as an example for environment efforts in the construction of future infrastructure.
By People's Daily Online