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Quick Take: New High-Speed Rail Line Tames Terrain in Western China

Photo: IC
Photo: IC

A high-speed railway line that cuts through 658 kilometers (409 miles) of some of China’s most rugged terrain in mountainous western China officially started running on Wednesday.

The new line is expected to cut in half the time it takes to travel from the southwestern city of Chengdu to the northwestern city of Xi’an. The line’s trains can travel at speeds up to 250 kph (155.3 mph), allowing passengers to travel between the two cities in about four hours. Eventually, the line’s trains will be able to make the trip in three and a half hours, according to China Railway Corp., which runs the country’s railways.

Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province, was famously the capital of several ancient Chinese dynasties, including the Tang dynasty (618-907). The journey between Xi’an to the equally famous ancient city of Chengdu has been notoriously difficult to make because of the mountains between the two cities. On older railway lines, the trip took at least 10 ½ hours.

Construction of the high-speed line, which took five years to complete, cost 64.7 billion yuan ($9.77 billion). More than 55% of the line stretches through tunnels in mountains. Seven of the tunnels are longer than 10 kilometers (6.21 miles).

The railway line also traverses the habitats of several nationally protected animal species such as the giant panda and the golden monkey. To avoid disturbing these habitats, some parts of the line were elevated, while others were built underground, according to China Railway Corp.

The opening of this line will also help reduce the travel time between Beijing and Chengdu from about 15 hours to eight hours.

Trains will make 19 round-trip trips on the line each day.

Contact reporter Wu Gang (gangwu@caixin.com)

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