China to access southern Tibet by railway this year

China has completed the track-laying work for the Lhasa-Shigatse extension of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway and will begin operating it later this year. China’s online Tibet news service eng.tibet.cn Jan 1 said the news was released by Economic Working Conference of Tibet Autonomous Region and reported by the country’s party newspaper People’s Daily.

Work for the 253-km Lhasa-Shigatse extension line was begun in 2010. The railway will have stations at county towns such as Toelung Dechen, Chushur, Nyemo, Rinpung and Panam. These are not only some of the places with histories of major political disturbances but also where some of China’s socio-economically and environmentally controversial large-scale mining works go on.

The report did not say when exactly this year the new railway line will open for traffic.

And although China justifies the building of such high-cost infrastructure in a scarcely populated, geographically hostile region on economic development reasons, strategic thinkers have underlined their underlying geopolitical importance for China, including for consolidating control over Tibet.

Another eng.tibet.cn report Jan 2 cited Chen Quanguo, secretary of the Tibet Regional Committee of the Communist Party of China, as saying at the same conference that the region had set a goal of receiving 15 million tourists in 2014 – two million more than in 2013. Income from tourism in 2014 is expected to be 20 billion yuan.

source: Tibetan Review, 04 Jan 2014

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