Line con­nects Xin­jiang, Qing­hai En­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion is top con­cern in rail­road con­struc­tion

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By ZHANG YI in Urumqi zhangyi1@chi­

En­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion is a top con­cern in the on­go­ing con­struc­tion of a 1,213-kilome­ter rail­way link­ing the Xin­jiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion with neigh­bor­ing Qing­hai prov­ince, lo­cal rail­way au­thor­i­ties said.

The rail­way, which will con­nect Korla in Xin­jiang with Gol­mud in Qing­hai, is the first di­rect rail link be­tween Xin­jiang and the Qing­haiTi­bet Plateau and the third link­ing the re­gion with neigh­bor­ing prov­inces.

The train passes along ar­eas boast­ing abun­dant an­i­mal and plant re­sources, in­clud­ing the Tarim River, China’s long­est in­land river; and the Lop Nur Wild Camel Na­tional Na­ture Re­serve, the largest dry desert re­serve in Xin­jiang.

Lo­cated in a lake and wet­land area, the Taitema Lake rail­way bridge, a key sec­tion of the Gol­mudKorla rail­way, was de­signed to avoid harm­ing the frag­ile ecol­ogy. Con­struc­tion be­gan in May 2016 and the two sec­tions of the bridge were joined in Au­gust.

Pass­ing above Taitema Lake, a lake and wet­land of about 510 square kilo­me­ters, the rail­way bridge was ex­panded from its orig­i­nal de­signed length of 7 km to 24.6 km, mak­ing it the long­est rail­way bridge in the re­gion, ac­cord­ing to Huang Ke­jun, man­ager of the bridge project.

The 752 bridge piers are made of en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly ma­te­ri­als, and con­struc­tion waste was all trans­ported out of the lake area in a timely man­ner, Huang said.

“The bridge does not block the flow of wa­ter and also al­lows for the pas­sage of an­i­mals liv­ing there,” he said. “From the bridge, the land­scape is in full view.”

The 13.2-km Al­tun Moun­tain Tun­nel, the long­est tun­nel on the line, is an­other ma­jor en­gi­neer­ing project that passes through the Al­tun Moun­tains at an aver­age alti­tude of 3 to 4 kilo­me­ters.

Ac­cord­ing to Wang Xushen, chief se­cu­rity di­rec­tor of the tun­nel, “We aban­doned the orig­i­nal de­signed route and by­passed the habi­tat of wild camels, moun­tain sheep and the source of the an­i­mals’ drink­ing wa­ter to avoid harm­ing the ecosys­tem.”

The seam­less rails are used to guar­an­tee the de­signed speed can be achieved, as well as to re­duce noise pol­lu­tion, he said.

Con­struc­tion of the rail­way be­gan in 2014, with a planned in­vest­ment of 37.6 bil­lion yuan ($5.42 bil­lion). The project is sched­uled to be wrapped up in 2020. About 708 km of the new line are in Xin­jiang, and about 476 km have been com­pleted.

Cur­rently, the dis­tance be­tween Gol­mud and Korla by rail is about 4,000 km, in­clud­ing a de­tour to Lanzhou, Gansu prov­ince. The new line will cut the jour­ney by more than 1,000 km.

The line will cut travel time be­tween Gol­mud and Korla from 26 hours to just 12 hours. It will carry pas­sen­gers at a speed of 120 km/h, as well as freight.

Xin­jiang al­ready has two rail­ways con­nect­ing the re­gion with other parts of China. One links Urumqi with Lanzhou; the other con­nects Ejin Ban­ner in the In­ner Mon­go­lia au­ton­o­mous re­gion with Hami in east­ern Xin­jiang.

Con­tact the writ­ers at zhangyi1@chi­

Ay­bek Askhar con­trib­uted to this story.

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