CHINA’S State Planning Council announced on February 8 the go-ahead for construction of the long-planned rail link from Golmud to the Tibetan city of Lhasa. One of four routes studied by the Ministry of Railways, the 1118 km line is the shortest option, and is costed at around 20bn yuan. Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji said the line would have ’great significance’ in accelerating economic and social development in Tibet, and increasing economic and cultural exchanges with the rest of the country.

Detailed engineering design will get under way immediately, and construction is expected to take around five years. Starting from the existing railway which reached Golmud in the 1960s, the line will climb to the Tibetan plateau. Around 80% of the route will be located more than 4000 m above sea level, with over 600 km to be laid on permafrost.

H Last month the Ministry of Railways started feasibility studies in Yunan province for construction of the proposed Trans-Asian rail link connecting Kunming with Singapore via Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia. n