China has begun construction of a high-speed railway line that will connect the city of Lhasa in the Tibet Autonomous Region with the provincial capital of Sichuan, Chengdu City. The construction cost of the 1,800 km line is estimated at $ 49.4 billion (319 billion RMB), Nikkei Asia reported.
The road will be commissioned in 2030. The price of the railway project exceeds the price of the “Three Gorges Dam” (the gravity dam hydroelectric power station, located on the Yangtze River in Hubei province (China), is the largest power plant in the world in terms of design capacity of 22.5 GW), which cost 250 billion RMB, making the railway line to Tibet the largest construction project in China.
The aim of the project is to stimulate tourism and business travel to Tibet. Local media reports that Beijing is also looking to seize the region’s resources such as copper and lithium.
Currently, the journey by train from Chengdu to Lhasa takes about 40 hours. The transportation over the new direct railway line will be carried out at speed of 120 to 200 km / h, which is expected to reduce travel time to just over 10 hours.
“The railway project is of great importance for maintaining national unity, promoting ethnic unity and strengthening stability in the border areas,” Xi Jinping said.
This railway project is mentioned in China’s five-year plan to 2025 and its long-term goals until 2035. But the construction could face opposition from India, which is in a border confrontation with China. Water from Yarlung Tsangpo River flows to India, and construction works along the river can affect water level and quality downstream.
The very fact that China is ready to invest US$ 50 billion to construction of a railway in remote and desolated region is amazing. Obviously, this project will never become commercially profitable. Rather, Beijing demonstrates the eagerness to pursue its strategic interests at any cost, and maintaining full control over rebellious Tibet is probably a worthy goal.