Beijing said this week that in order to ensure construction of the railway by October, the authorities are planning an additional investment of 5.5 billion yuan ($0.6 bn), indicating the high priority of the project to the Chinese state (14 April).
The construction of the 1,118 km railway from Golmud in Qinghai to Lhasa in the TAR is an important part of the Beijing government’s campaign to develop the western regions of China, including the TAR and Tibetan areas in Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan and Gansu provinces. The rail link and stations in Tibetan areas will facilitate increased exploitation of Tibet’s mineral and natural resources and will generate both large and small-scale opportunities for employment and enterprise. The construction of the railway is intended to accelerate the integration of Tibetan areas into the national economy.
The new images provide the first confirmation that local residents in the Ne’u area, on the south bank of the Kyichu river and opposite the western area of Lhasa, will be resettled in order to make way for the new development. Land prices in the Ne’u area have been on the increase over the past few years. The resettlement is unlikely to have been voluntary, in accordance with other reports from Tibetan areas of relocations linked to urban or infrastructural development projects.
Lhasa town plans show the railway crossing the river into Lhasa, with a smaller passenger terminal on the city side of the river, about 2.5 km south of Drepung monastery. Construction of the Ne’u township terminal is likely to entail significant reclamation of land from the river’s seasonal flood plain. The Chinese press has announced recently that the design for the train station at Ne’u has now been confirmed as “a combination of large-scale architecture and Tibetan traditional architecture”.
The railway will approach Lhasa from the northwest, first descending from the Qinghai-Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) border to Nagchu (Ch: Naqu) and Damshung (Ch: Dangxiong), then following the Toelung River from Yangpachen through Toelung Dechen county and into west Lhasa. The latest Chinese press reports indicate that there will be trial operation of the railway in July 2006.