LHASA, March 6 -- An extension of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway,the world's highest railway, will reach the residence of the Panchen Lama at Xigaze, Tibet, the contractors confirmed on Thursday.
The Lhasa-Xigaze Railway, will open before October.
With an overall length of 253 km, trains will run at a maximum speed of 120 km per hour, representing a run time of about two hours from the regional capital to the region's second city. All subgrade earthworks, bridges, culverts, tunnels, as and over 93 percent of the track are complete.
"It used to take least four or five hours on mountain roads. We are looking forward to worshipping buddha by train," said Tob Chung, 38, a lama at Tashihunpo Monastery, the traditional seat of the Panchen Lamas.
"It is the common dream of all the Tibetan faithful to worship the Buddha in Lhasa and Xigaze. The railway will make the journey safer and easier," said the lama.
Both cities are sacred for Tibetan buddhists with important religious centers such as the Potala Palace, Tashihunpo Monastery and Jokhang Monastery.
"Besides saving time, the railway will be much more safe. The current road is frequently troubled by seasonal natural disasters," said Shang Hongwei, a construction foreman on the railway.
Local residents and tourists will have a smooth trip by rail, unimpeded by landslides in summer and ice in the winter, said Shang.
The plateau railway is a particularly problematic construction with difficulties including an oxygen-poor environment, a delicate ecosystem, wildlife migrations, and many complex environmental issues.
The Qinghai-Tibet Railway began service in July 2006 and has positively impacted on Tibet's tourism, hospitality and manufacturing sectors.