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“We are now passing under Mount Everest” - China considers mega rail tunnel.

Posted by Luke Upton on Apr 16, 2015

1024px-Qingzang_railway_Train_01"...workers may have to dig some very long tunnels.”

China is proposing building a railway line linking it to Nepal that would pass through a tunnel built under Mount Everest, according to recent reports in Chinese state media. The 1,956 km Qinghai-Tibet railway already links China with the Tibetan capital, Lhasa and a proposed extension would go under Mount Everest in connecting to the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu. Though it is unclear to what extent China have discussed this with the countries through which the line will be built, the country is certainly not shy of developing mega projects within rail. And the bulders of the existing line already has some significant firsts including the Tanggula Pass, which, at 5,072 m (16,640 feet) above sea level, is the world's highest railway line and Tanggula Railway Station at 5,068 m (16,627 feet) is the world's highest railway station.

Wang Mengshu, of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told China Daily that: “If the proposal becomes reality, bilateral trade, especially in agricultural products, will get a strong boost, along with tourism.” He added: “The line will probably have to go through Qomolangma (the Tibetan name for Everest), so workers may have to dig some very long tunnels.” The super-challenging Himalayan terrain, with its “remarkable” ups and downs, means that trains on any line would probably have a maximum speed of 75mph (120km/h), he added. China has been steadily building influence in Nepal through investment in hydropower and telecommunications and Chinese tourism is booming as well. The growth of Chinese influence has caused some concern in Nepal’s traditional ally, India and any major development such as this line, is likely to increase tensions further.

China’s involvement Tibet has long been controversial and plans to expand its rail network have come under criticism from rights groups including the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), which has warned of the projects; “dangerous implications for regional security and the fragile ecosystem of the world’s highest and largest plateau.”

Stories like this coming out of China are not uncommon with SmartRail World reporting last year that China was considering plans to build a high-speed railway line to the USA, beginning in north-east China, travelling up through Siberia in Russia, then pass through a newly built tunnel that would need to be about 200km (125 miles) under the Bering Straight before reaching Alaska then into Canada and finishing in continental America. No further news has been heard of that. But let’s not forget that China has a proven track record in the fast development of rail mega projects including the world's longest line, the 2,298 km (1,428 mi) Beijing-Guangzhou High-Speed Railway.

Lead Photo credit: A train pulled by an NJ2 locomotive travels on the Qinghai–Tibet Railway by Jan Reurink

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Topics: projects

Luke Upton

Written by Luke Upton

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