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Explore the Long-term Railway Network In Tibet, Popular Train Routes

Tibet’s Ambitious Railway Expansion Plan Unveiled

The Development and Reform Commission of the Tibet Autonomous Region recently unveiled the “Fourteenth Five-Year Plan” and the Medium- and Long-term Railway Network, signaling a transformative phase for the region’s infrastructure. The plan outlines an extensive expansion of the railway network, significant improvements in road quality, wider network coverage, and effective reduction of spatiotemporal distances. These initiatives are poised to enhance Tibet’s role in implementing national strategies and fostering high-quality development in the regional economy and society.

Extensive Railway Expansion:

The “Fourteenth Five-Year Plan” outlines a substantial expansion of Tibet’s railway network, promising increased connectivity and accessibility. With new railway lines and strategic upgrades, Tibet aims to bolster its transportation infrastructure, facilitating smoother movement of goods and people within and beyond the region.

Significant Road Network Improvements:

In addition to railway expansion, the plan prioritizes enhancing the quality of Tibet’s road network. By improving road infrastructure, the region seeks to overcome geographical barriers, ensuring efficient transportation and connectivity across diverse terrains and landscapes.

Widening Network Coverage:

A key objective of the plan is to widen the coverage of Tibet’s road network, reaching previously underserved areas and remote communities. By extending road infrastructure to every corner of the region, Tibet aims to foster inclusive development and reduce disparities in access to essential services and economic opportunities.

Effective Reduction of Spatiotemporal Distances:

Through comprehensive infrastructure development, Tibet aims to effectively reduce spatiotemporal distances, facilitating faster and more convenient travel. By minimizing travel times and enhancing accessibility, the region seeks to promote economic growth, tourism, and social integration.

Enhanced Role in National Strategy Implementation:

By strengthening its transportation infrastructure, Tibet aims to enhance its role in implementing national strategies, particularly in promoting economic development and ensuring national security. The region’s improved connectivity will enable it to better integrate into national networks and contribute to broader socioeconomic goals

Tibet Railway line Planning 2025 - 2035
Planning of Tibet Railway line by 2025 to 2035

Transforming Tibet: A Vision for Enhanced Railway Connectivity

Tibet’s railway infrastructure is undergoing a significant transformation, aiming to boost connectivity and spur economic development. By 2025 and 2035, strategic objectives are set to expand the railway network extensively, linking Tibet with neighboring provinces and regions.

  1. Vision for 2025: By 2025, significant progress is expected in railway development across Tibet. Key sections like Ya’an-Nyingchi, Shigatse-Palkor, and Bomi-Ranwu of the Sichuan-Tibet, Xinjiang-Tibet, and Yunnan-Tibet railways respectively are set to be operational. This expansion will extend the total railway length in the region to approximately 4,000 kilometers, enhancing regional connectivity.
  2. Vision for 2035: Looking ahead to 2035, the railway network in Tibet aims for further expansion, with the total length projected to exceed 5,000 kilometers. This includes about 1,000 kilometers of double-track rail, ensuring efficient transportation. The network will radiate from Lhasa, covering all prefecture-level administrative regions and facilitating seamless travel to neighboring provinces like Xinjiang, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Yunnan.

Medium- and Long-Term Planning Program:

The development plan revolves around constructing the main channels of the “two horizontal and three vertical” railway network, aiming to connect Tibet internally and externally.

  1. Construction of Main Channels: The “two horizontals” consist of routes like Shigatse-Lhasa-Shannan-Nyingchi-Changdu-Chengdu and Ali-Narge-Changdu. The “three verticals” include Hetian-Ali-Shigatse-Lhasa-Shannan-Nyingchi-Shangri-La-Lijiang, Xining-Golmud-Nakqu-Lhasa, and Xining-Yushu-Qamdo. This extensive layout spans approximately 5,948 kilometers, focusing on enhancing regional connectivity.
  2. Planned Railway Projects: Several new railway projects are on the horizon, such as the New-Tibet Railway from Shigatse to Palkor, Yunnan-Tibet Railway from Bomi to Shangri-La, and Yushu-Changdu Railway, among others. These projects aim to connect border areas, prefecture-level administrative regions, and neighboring provinces efficiently.

The envisioned railway expansion in Tibet is not just about laying tracks; it’s about unlocking the region’s economic potential and ensuring seamless connectivity with the rest of China. Through strategic planning and execution, Tibet’s railway network is poised to become a catalyst for sustainable development and national security.


Building an International Railway Corridor to South Asia: Tibet’s Strategic Vision

Tibet’s ambitious plans include accelerating the construction of port railways to connect mainland ports along the border, facilitating the establishment of an international railway corridor between China and South Asian nations. Leveraging the New Tibet Railway as a foundation, initiatives like the Kyirong Port Railway and the Dromo Port Railway aim to foster connectivity and bolster the Belt and Road Initiative, driving border area development.

Development of International Railway Corridor:

The focus lies on constructing key port railways such as the Kyirong Port Railway (Palkor Tso to Kyirong) and the Dromo Port Railway (Shigatse-Dromo). These initiatives pave the way for an international corridor to South Asia, enhancing regional integration and facilitating trade between China and South Asian countries.

Orderly Expansion of Road Network:

Anticipating future economic and social needs, efforts are underway to expand the road network, particularly in resource-rich and densely populated areas. Projects like the Lhasa-Maldro Gongkar Railway, Saga-Gerze Railway, and others totaling approximately 2,514 kilometers are slated for completion by 2035. These developments aim to enhance accessibility and promote balanced regional development.

Renovation and Upgrading of Existing Railways:

In tandem with new construction, existing railway channels are set for renovation and upgrading. Plans include electrification and transformation of the Golmud-Lhasa section of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, double-track transformation of the Lhasa-Nyingchi section of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway, and electrification of the Lhasa-Shigatse Railway. These upgrades pave the way for a modern, interconnected railway network, enhancing efficiency and capacity.

Tibet’s strategic initiatives to develop an international railway corridor to South Asia are poised to reshape regional connectivity and drive economic growth. Through coordinated efforts in railway construction, road network expansion, and upgrading existing infrastructure, Tibet is poised to play a pivotal role in advancing regional integration and fostering mutual prosperity.

Creating Modern Comprehensive Hubs for Seamless Transportation in Tibet

Tibet aims to revolutionize its transportation infrastructure by building modern comprehensive hubs for both passengers and freight. By leveraging strategic locations like Lhasa, Naqu, and Shigatse, the region seeks to integrate various modes of transportation, including railways, civil aviation, highways, and urban transit. These initiatives aim to enhance connectivity, streamline operations, and accelerate the development of a national transportation hub in Lhasa.

Modern Passenger Hub Development:

The focal point of this initiative is the establishment of a modern railway passenger hub in Lhasa, with Lhasa Station serving as the core. Surrounding railway passenger stations will be supplemented to create a seamless, multi-level integration of transportation services. By integrating civil aviation, highways, and urban transit, Tibet aims to enhance passenger service levels and accelerate the development of comprehensive transportation facilities.

Comprehensive Freight Hub Layout:

Tibet’s freight transportation infrastructure will undergo a modern overhaul, with hubs established in strategic locations such as Lhasa west, Naqu, and Shigatse railway logistics bases. Plans for Nyingchi railway logistics bases are also underway. The focus will be on strengthening railway freight facilities and equipment, promoting container and cold chain logistics, and implementing demand-driven transportation solutions. These efforts aim to establish a modern logistics system capable of meeting the region’s growing transportation demands.

Development of Special Transportation Lines:

To further enhance connectivity, Tibet will construct railway special lines and other transportation routes as per demand. These lines will facilitate convenient connections between main railway hubs, industrial clusters, mining enterprises, and logistics parks. By expanding railway transportation services, Tibet aims to support the development of plateau characteristic industries and promote economic growth.

Promotion of Intermodal Transportation:

A key strategy involves promoting intermodal transportation, particularly between public railways and air rail services. By leveraging multiple modes of transportation, Tibet aims to reduce logistics costs and enhance efficiency. This integrated approach will streamline transportation operations and support the region’s economic development goals.

Tibet’s ambitious plans to develop modern comprehensive hubs for both passengers and freight signify a significant step towards enhancing regional connectivity and promoting economic growth. By integrating various modes of transportation and optimizing infrastructure, Tibet aims to establish itself as a vital transportation hub, capable of meeting the diverse needs of its growing economy and population.


Key Objectives of the “Fourteenth Five-Year Plan” for Tibet’s Railway Development

Introduction: The “Fourteenth Five-Year Plan” outlines crucial tasks for advancing Tibet’s railway infrastructure. Key objectives include the high-quality construction of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway, initiation of railway corridors along the border, promotion of railway construction at border ports, and expansion and transformation of existing railway channels. These tasks aim to enhance connectivity, promote economic development, and strengthen Tibet’s strategic position.

High-Quality Construction of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway:

Building upon the groundwork laid, efforts will focus on deepening research and refining construction plans for the Sichuan-Tibet Railway. Emphasis will be placed on high starting points, standards, and quality to ensure the realization of this century-defining railway project.

Commencement of Railway Corridors Along the Border:

Accelerating the early stages of the Xinjiang Tibet Railway and Yunnan-Tibet Railway is a priority during the “14th Five-Year Plan.” This includes initiating construction of crucial sections to establish parallel railway corridors connecting Xinjiang, Tibet, and Yunnan provinces. Notable projects include the Shigatse to Palkor section of the New Tibet Railway, the Hotan section of the Xinjiang Tibet Railway, and the Bomi section of the Yunnan-Tibet Railway.

Promotion of Railway Construction at Border Ports:

In alignment with domestic and international demands, efforts will be made to start construction of railway projects at border ports. This initiative aims to gradually open up China’s international railway corridor facing South Asia. Projects such as the Geelong Port Railway and research on the East Asia Port Railway and Plain Port Railway will be prioritized.

Implementation of Expansion and Transformation of Existing Railway Channels:

Existing railway channels will undergo expansion and transformation to meet evolving needs. This includes electrification and transformation of the Golmud-Lhasa section of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway and the transformation of the Lhasa-Nyingchi section of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway. These upgrades aim to enhance efficiency and capacity, supporting Tibet’s growing transportation demands.

The “Fourteenth Five-Year Plan” sets forth ambitious goals for Tibet’s railway development, reflecting the region’s commitment to advancing connectivity and fostering economic growth. By prioritizing high-quality construction, initiating key railway corridors, promoting border port development, and upgrading existing channels, Tibet aims to strengthen its role as a vital hub in China’s transportation network.

Effect Analysis of Tibet’s Railway and Road Network Expansion

The “Fourteenth Five-Year Plan” outlines ambitious goals for expanding Tibet’s railway and road networks, aiming to enhance connectivity, reduce spatiotemporal distances, and promote high-quality economic and social development. Analyzing the effects of these expansions provides insight into their potential impact on regional infrastructure and socio-economic dynamics.

Significant Expansion of Railway Network:

The plan outlines a substantial increase in the scale of Tibet’s railway network, with projects like the Hotan-Shigatse section of the New-Tibet Railway and the Bomi-Ranwu section of the Yunnan-Tibet Railway set for construction. Upon completion, the total railway mileage is projected to reach approximately 4,104 kilometers, marking a remarkable 202% increase from current levels. This expansion promises to bolster connectivity within Tibet and beyond, facilitating the movement of goods and people and stimulating economic growth along railway corridors.

Enhanced Road Network Quality and Coverage:

In addition to railway expansion, the plan emphasizes improvements to Tibet’s road network, aiming to enhance quality and widen coverage. Projects like the Geelong Port Railway and the electrification of the Laer section of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway will complement efforts to transform the region’s transportation infrastructure. The increased density of the road network, reaching 34.2 kilometers per 10,000 square kilometers, signifies improved accessibility and connectivity across Tibet’s diverse landscapes.

Reduced Spatiotemporal Distances:

By expanding both railway and road networks, Tibet aims to effectively reduce spatiotemporal distances, making transportation more efficient and accessible. Improved connectivity will enable faster movement of goods and people, facilitating trade, tourism, and socio-economic interactions. Reduced distances will also enhance regional integration, fostering collaboration and exchange between different parts of Tibet and neighboring regions.

Strengthened Role in Supporting National Strategy:

The expansion of Tibet’s railway and road networks not only promotes regional development but also strengthens the region’s role in supporting national strategies. Enhanced connectivity facilitates the implementation of key national initiatives, such as the Belt and Road Initiative, by improving access to markets and trade routes. Additionally, the development of infrastructure supports national security objectives by enhancing mobility and connectivity in strategic border regions.

The “Fourteenth Five-Year Plan” for Tibet’s railway and road network expansion holds immense potential to transform the region’s infrastructure landscape and catalyze socio-economic development. By significantly increasing the scale of railway and road networks, reducing spatiotemporal distances, and strengthening connectivity, Tibet is poised to unlock new opportunities for growth and prosperity, both within the region and as part of broader national strategies.

Medium- and Long-Term Planning and Construction Outlook for 2035

In 2035, Tibet is set to witness significant advancements in its railway and road network infrastructure, shaping a more connected and efficient transportation landscape. Key projects planned for completion include the Yushu-Changdu, Naqu-Changdu, Naqu-Ali, Yadong Port, and Pulan Port railways, alongside the electrification of the Lari Railway. With these developments, Tibet’s railway network is expected to expand substantially, reaching approximately 5,198 kilometers, a remarkable 282% increase from the current situation. Additionally, the density of the road network is projected to rise to 43.3 kilometers per 10,000 square kilometers, reflecting a more extensive coverage and improved accessibility across the region.

Advancements in Railway Infrastructure:

By 2035, significant progress is anticipated in the electrification and expansion of Tibet’s railway network. The double-track and electrification mileage will see notable improvements, with electrification expected to cover approximately 5,198 kilometers, achieving a 100% electrification rate. This marks a substantial enhancement in railway quality and efficiency, paving the way for smoother and more reliable transportation services.

Completion of Key Projects:

The completion of key railway projects such as the Yushu-Changdu, Naqu-Changdu, Naqu-Ali, Yadong Port, and Pulan Port railways signifies a milestone in Tibet’s transportation development. These projects aim to enhance connectivity between different regions within Tibet and facilitate trade and logistics along strategic routes. The completion and opening of these railways will contribute to the overall expansion and modernization of Tibet’s transportation infrastructure.

Road Network Improvement:

In tandem with railway developments, efforts will be made to improve the quality and layout of Tibet’s road network. While the focus remains on railway expansion, initiatives to strengthen existing road infrastructure will continue, ensuring comprehensive connectivity and accessibility across the region. The optimized layout structure of the road network will further enhance transportation efficiency and support economic development in Tibet.

By 2035, Tibet’s transportation landscape is poised to undergo significant transformation, characterized by an extensive railway network and improved road infrastructure. The completion of key railway projects and the electrification of existing lines will contribute to enhanced connectivity and efficiency, fostering economic growth and regional development. With a comprehensive transportation network in place, Tibet is poised to unlock new opportunities for prosperity and connectivity, both within the region and beyond.


Expansion and Improvement of Tibet’s Road Network: Enhancing Connectivity and Reducing Spatiotemporal Distances

Broader Coverage of the Road Network:

The implementation of planning projects signifies a significant expansion and improvement in Tibet’s road network, leading to enhanced coverage and accessibility. After the completion of the “Fourteenth Five-Year Plan” and medium- and long-term planning in 2035, the coverage of the railway network in district-level administrative divisions is projected to increase from 25.7% to 74.3%. Similarly, the coverage rate for prefecture-level administrative divisions will rise to 100%, facilitating easier travel and transportation of goods. Notably, Lhasa, the region’s largest city with a population exceeding 200,000, will be fully covered by the railway network, underscoring the infrastructure’s reach and impact.

Effective Reduction of Spatiotemporal Distance:

a. Interregional Communication: The medium- and long-term planning projects aim to streamline communication between Tibet and surrounding provinces and regions. By 2035, travel times to major cities in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei, Yangtze River Delta, and Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area will be significantly reduced. For instance, travel between Lhasa and these major cities will take approximately 20 hours, while the journey from Chengdu will be around 12 hours, and from Guiyang and Kunming, it will be approximately 15 hours. These reductions in spatiotemporal distance signify improved connectivity and timeliness of external communication, fostering closer ties and facilitating economic and social interactions.

b. Convenient Intra-Regional Communication: The medium- and long-term planning projects also aim to enhance intra-regional communication within Tibet. A well-connected railway network will link major cities like Lhasa, Shigatse, Ali, Naqu, Changdu, and others, reducing travel time between these destinations by over 50%. This efficient connectivity between prefecture-level administrative regions will not only enhance mobility but also contribute to regional integration and economic development.

The expansion and improvement of Tibet’s road network are poised to bring about transformative changes, enhancing connectivity and reducing spatiotemporal distances within the region and beyond. By broadening coverage, improving accessibility, and streamlining communication, these infrastructure developments will support economic growth, facilitate trade, and promote social cohesion, ultimately contributing to the overall development and prosperity of Tibet.

Supporting National Strategy Implementation and Promoting Regional Economic and Social Development

Strengthening Railways along the Border and Ports:

Efforts will be made to enhance railways along Tibet’s border areas and ports, aligning with national security strategies and the Belt and Road Initiative. This initiative aims to promote high-quality development, ensuring secure and efficient transportation links vital for national security and international cooperation.

Improving Travel Conditions for National Unity:

Significant improvements in travel conditions will be made to safeguard national unity. Enhanced transportation infrastructure will facilitate connectivity between regions, fostering cohesion and integration across diverse communities within Tibet.

Strengthening Interregional Railway Corridors:

Interregional railway corridors will be reinforced to further advance regional coordinated development strategies. By enhancing connectivity between different regions, these corridors will promote economic growth, trade, and cultural exchange, contributing to balanced development across Tibet.

Rapid Advancement of Road Network Construction:

The rapid advancement of road network construction will bolster Tibet’s transportation infrastructure, supporting the national strategy of strengthening the transportation network. By improving road connectivity, this initiative will facilitate smoother movement of goods and people, enhancing economic productivity and national development.

Promoting Regional Economic and Social Development:

  1. Enhancing Road Network Layout for High-Quality Development: Efforts will focus on optimizing the layout of Tibet’s road network to promote high-quality economic and social development. A well-designed road network will facilitate efficient transportation of goods and services, fostering economic growth and improving living standards across the region.
  2. Alleviating Transportation Bottlenecks and Improving Service Quality: Effective measures will be taken to alleviate transportation bottlenecks and enhance service quality. By addressing infrastructure constraints and streamlining transportation operations, this initiative aims to enhance the efficiency and reliability of transportation services, supporting economic activities and improving livelihoods.
  3. Implementing Green Development with Railway Technology: Tibet will leverage the advantages of railway technology to implement green development practices. By prioritizing environmentally friendly transportation solutions, such as electrification and energy-efficient technologies, the region aims to minimize ecological impact while promoting sustainable economic growth and social progress.

The “14th Five-Year Plan” and medium- and long-term strategies of the Tibet Autonomous Region underscore the importance of transportation infrastructure in supporting national strategies, promoting regional development, and advancing social progress. By enhancing railways, improving road networks, and prioritizing green development, Tibet is poised to strengthen its role as a key contributor to national development goals while fostering sustainable growth and prosperity within the region.

About the author

The Tibetan Travel website's creator, hailing from Lhasa, is a cultural enthusiast. They promote responsible tourism, connecting the world to Tibet's beauty and heritage. Awards recognize their contribution.

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