(TibetanReview.net, Aug05, 2014) –The initial privilege for travelling on the Lhasa-Shigatse extension of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, to be opened at the end of this month, will be given only to Chinese from mainland China, with the first batch being a tourist group from Shandong Province, reported CNN.com Aug 4, citing Suolang Deji, an officer with Shigatse’s tourism department.
While Tibet is fully open for visitors from China, it remains tightly controlled for other foreigners as well as even Tibetans whose movements are tightly restricted to their local areas due to political reasons. It was not clear when the Lhasa-Shigatse railway line will open for other travellers.
The train will reduce the journey time from Lhasa to Tibet’s second city from five hours of driving over terrain ranging in altitude from 3,600 to 4,000 meters to just two hours.
The new extension will enable passengers to connect by rail from Beijing all the way to Shigatse, a gateway to Everest, which lies just 240 kilometres (150 miles) away, on the border with Nepal.
China’s huge investment in a railway system to and in Tibet is meant primarily to consolidate economic and political control of the occupied Himalayan territory and to gain vital strategic advantage over neighbouring countries.
Work on the new $2.1 billion line began in 2010. Traversing valleys, mountains and crossing the glacier-fed Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra River), the line presents breathtaking views of snow-capped peaks and majestic plateaus for tourists.