CHINA: Premier Hu Jintao presided at ceremonies on July 1 to mark the official opening of the 1 142 km line from Golmud in Qinghai to Lhasa in Tibet.

Cutting the ribbon at Golmud station, Hu told an audience of 2600 people gathered in the station square that ‘the project is not only a magnificent feat in China’s history of railway construction, but is also a great miracle of the world’s railroad history’, adding that ‘construction of the Qinghai - Tibet railway is a long-cherished dream of generations of Chinese people.’

Costing 26·2bn yuan, the line has taken five years to build. Over 960 km runs at more than 4000m above sea level, including 632 km laid on permafrost. The 5072m summit at Ando in the Tangula mountains makes it the world’s highest railway, comfortably exceeding the 4818m reached in Peru.

The first train, designated Qing 1, left Golmud station at 11.00, hauled by three of 78 high-altitude diesel locos being built for the line by GE Transportation Systems. Seven minutes later another 16-coach train designated Tibet 2 was flagged off from Lhasa, carrying 700 passengers; this ran through to Lanzhou in Gansu province.