A passenger dances with an attendant on March 17 aboard a high-speed train from Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, to Turpan in central Xinjiang. More than 560 tourists took the train for a sightseeing journey through the region. (Photo/Xinhua)
To enable people to explore the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region's grand and diverse scenery more conveniently, regional authorities plan to launch some 100 special rail services for tourists this year.
To accommodate the needs of tourists, three regular direct trains between the regional capital of Urumqi and three other cities — Karamay, Yining and Korla — will be launched starting on April 1, reducing the travel time by 39 minutes to 59 minutes compared with regular services, according to the region's railway authorities.
Last year, a 2,712-kilometer railway loop was completed in southern Xinjiang around the vast Taklimakan Desert, becoming the world's first railway loop around a desert.
Many tourists have expressed great interest in taking the train around the world's second-largest shifting-sand desert, which covers an area slightly smaller than Germany.
A total of 18 special train services for tourists will be launched this year around the desert and throughout southern Xinjiang, according to Xinjiang Railway Tourism Development Group.
The new train service around the desert will enable travelers to enjoy its outstanding natural scenery and gain a deeper understanding of the rich ethnic culture and diverse traditions in all four prefectures of southern Xinjiang, said Li Hui, a manager at Xinjiang Aiwanke International Travel Service.
"During the journey, tourists can see different scenery each day while having the unique experience of traveling around the desert in comfort," Li said.
The number of trains operating on the popular New Oriental Express route, which takes tourists on a journey around Xinjiang in 14 days while staying in luxury carriages, will be increased to 16, according to the group.
Travelers can enjoy a range of new services, including having a drink at a bar while onboard the new Tianshan train, which takes people to popular tourist destinations in the region, the group said.
The number of special passenger train services launched this year for tourists will be about three times the number last year, and more routes will be available, said Huang Tingfen, deputy manager of Xinjiang Railway Tourism Development Group.
According to the regional government, the total length of the rail network in Xinjiang reached 9,092 km in 2022, an increase of around 85 percent from 2013. Currently, more than 80 percent of the region's counties are covered by the network.
The improved connectivity in the region — which plans to attract 200 million visits from tourists this year — has helped to boost the region's overall socioeconomic development, according to railway authorities.