July 6,2017--Breathtaking scenery and breathtaking dangers -- both will face Chinese engineers as they embark on building the world's most difficult railway.
The Sichuan-Tibet Railway will be the second railway into southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region after the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. The line will go through the southeast of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, one of the world's most geologically active areas.
"The construction and operation of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway must overcome the biggest risks in the world," said You Yong, chief engineer of the Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), who is leading a scientific and technological support team to avoid disasters in the mountains.
China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group Co. Ltd., which is designing the line, said it will run from Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province, through Ya'an and Kangding, and enter Tibet via Qamdo. It will then go through Nyingchi and Shannan prefectures before arriving at Lhasa, capital of Tibet. The total construction length will be about 1,700 kilometers and it will cost 250 billion yuan (about 36.88 billion U.S. dollars)
Already dubbed an epic journey, the Sichuan-Tibet Railway is a key project for China's 13th Five-Year Plan from 2016 to 2020. It will climb from the Sichuan Basin several hundred meters above sea level to the "Roof of the World", at an altitude of more than 4,400 meters.
Xia Lie, a senior engineer at China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group, described it as a huge "roller coaster" through risky terrain of mountains and canyons.
It will go through eight ascents and descents, and more than 80 percent of the line will be tunnels and bridges.
"The cumulative ascent of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway will exceed 16,000 meters, which is equivalent to double the height of Qomolangma, the world' s highest mountain," said Xia.
"It will be the most difficult super project in railway construction history."
Construction has begun on the two ends of the railway. The section between Chengdu and Ya'an is expected to open in June 2018. The feasibility study on the section between Ya'an and Kangding has been completed. The section between Lhasa and Nyingchi is under construction.