A railway linking the cities of Lijiang and Shangri-la, two well-known tourist destinations in Southwest China's Yunnan Province, opened to traffic on Sunday. As an important part of the Yunnan-Xizang Railway, the new line will slash travel times and drive economic development along the route.
With a designed speed of 140 kilometers per hour, the line cuts the travel time between the two cities to 1 hour and 18 minutes from about 4 hours by bus.
The 139-km railway also connects Shangri-la, in the Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, to the provincial capital Kunming. It will carry people from Kunming to Shangri-La in 4 hours and 30 minutes.
The railway is located in the transition area between the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau and the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, connecting attractions including Lijiang Ancient Town, Yulong Snow Mountain, Hutiao Gorge, Haba Snow Mountain and the famous Shangri-La.
With the development of the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, the importance of Yunnan's railway transportation is rising. By connecting Yunnan's cities with the high-speed railway network, the Lijiang-Shangri-La line will highlight a network effect and drive local economic development, Sun Zhang, a railway expert from Shanghai Tongji University, told the Global Times on Sunday.
Shangri-La has an average altitude of 3,459 meters. In order to acclimatize to the high altitude environment of Shangri-La, the Fuxing trains on the Lijiang-Shangri-La railway were redesigned to fit the environment and provide passengers with a cozy and safe experience, according to media reports.
There are now three major railways connecting Xizang and other provinces - one running from Northwest China's Qinghai Province to Southwest China's Xizang Autonomous Region, another from Southwest China's Sichuan to Xizang, and now the Yunnan-Xizang Railway,
This layout will facilitate Xizang's transportation, promote its prosperity and achieve balanced development in the regions, Sun said.
The completion of the new railway line will also bring new tourism vitality to Shangri-La, a world-renowned tourist destination.
Due to harsh weather, visiting Shangri-La by car or plane during the winter time is difficult. The new Lijiang-Shangri-La railway could increase winter trips to Shangri-La, observers said.
As of November, Dukezong Ancient Town, one of the hottest attractions in Shangri-La, had received more than 7 million visitors, Chinanews.com reported.
As an important railway connecting Kunming and Lhasa, the Yunnan-Xizang Railway was included in China's medium- and long-term railway network plan in 2016, with some sections still under construction due to the high altitude and harsh natural environment along the route, according to media reports.