Saturday, August 16, 2014

World's Highest Altitude Railway Station

Built quite literally on the roof of the world – at an average elevation around 4,500m above sea level – the Qinghai-Tibet railway represents the culmination of the long-held Chinese dream of connecting China to Tibet. Since its construction, Tanggula Station has been the highest railway station in the world.

The Qinghai–Tibet railway, Qinghai–Xizang railway or Qingzang railway (Standard Tibetan: mtsho bod lcags lam མཚོ་བོད་ལྕགས་ལམ།; simplified Chinese: 青藏铁路; traditional Chinese: 青藏鐵路; pinyin: Qīngzàng Tiělù), is a high-elevation railway that connects Xining, Qinghai Province, to Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, in the People's Republic of China.

The length of the railway is 1,956 km (1,215 mi). Construction of the 815 km (506 mi) section between Xining and Golmud was completed by 1984. The 1,142 km (710 mi) section between Golmud and Lhasa was inaugurated on July 1, 2006, by Chinese President Hu Jintao: the first two passenger trains were "Qing 1" (Q1) from Golmud to Lhasa, and "Zang 2" (J2) from Lhasa. This railway is the first to connect the Tibet Autonomous Region to any other province, which, due to its elevation and terrain, is the last province-level entity in mainland China to have a railway. Testing of the line and equipment started on 1 May 2006. Passenger trains run from Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Xining and Lanzhou.

The line includes the Tanggula Pass, which, at 5,072 m (16,640 feet) above sea level, is the world's highest railway.

Tanggula railway station at 5,068 m (16,627 feet) 33°00′18.50″N 91°38′57.70″E is the world's highest railway station. 1,338 m (4,390 ft) located in Amdo County, Tibet Autonomous Region, China, near the border with the Tanggula Town, Qinghai. The railway station has three tracks, one of them served by a platform, and another one served by a very short sub-platform. 

Fenghuoshan tunnel is the highest rail tunnel in the world at 4,905 m (16,093 ft) above sea level. The 4,010 m (13,160 ft) New Guanjiao Tunnel is the longest tunnel and culminating point (3,700 m) between Xining and Golmud and 3,345 m (10,974 ft) Yangbajing tunnel is the longest tunnel between Golmud and Lhasa. More than 960 km (600 mi), over 80% of the Golmud-Lhasa section, is at an elevation of more than 4,000 m (13,123 ft). There are 675 bridges, totalling 159.88 km (99.34 mi); about 550 km (340 mi) is laid on permafrost.  

Running for over 1,956km from Xining, capital of China's Qinghai province to Lhasa, through some of the planet's harshest natural conditions, it is an impressive catalogue of world records. With its highest point at an altitude of 5,072m – 200m or more above the Peruvian railway in the Andes – Qinghai-Tibet easily takes the title as the world's highest track and Tanggula Station, a mere 4m lower, the highest railway station.

It is also the longest plateau railway in the world. Some 550m of its tracks are on frozen earth, passing through both the world's most elevated tunnel – Fenghuoshan Tunnel (4,905m) – and the longest plateau tunnel – Kunlun Mountain (1,686m) – to be built on frozen earth.

Inevitably, constructing the line on permafrost and at an altitude where the air contains 35–40% less oxygen than at sea level presented some unique technical difficulties – with the route's passage through the Kunlun earthquake zone adding its own additional challenges. The original section, covering the 815km from Xining to Golmud, opened in 1984, but it was not until 2001 that work began on the final 1,142 km to Lhasa. The line was completed in October 2005 at a cost of over $3.5bn.

This unstaffed station on the Qingzang railway opened for service on July 1, 2006. The station is located 5,068 metres (16,627 ft) above sea level, surpassing Ticlio (Peru), at 4,829 metres (15,843 ft), Cóndor station, at 4,786 metres (15,702 ft), on the Rio Mulatos-Potosí line in Bolivia, and La Galera station at 4,781 metres (15,686 ft) in Peru, and makes it the highest railway station in the world. It is no more than 1 kilometer away from the highest point of rail track at 5,072 metres (16,640 ft).  

The station is 1.25 kilometres (4,100 ft) long and covers 77,002 square metres (19.028 acres). There are 3 rail tracks in the station. The location of the station was specially chosen for the view from the platform.

As of 2010, no passenger transport service was available since the region is uninhabited. A through train may stop at the station to wait for another train coming from the opposite direction to pass, but passengers are required to remain on the train.

Before the opening of the Qinghai–Tibet Railway in 2006, a line passing through Tanggula Mountains and Tanggula Pass, the highest railways were located in the Andean countries of Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. The list only includes non-cable railways whose culminating point is over 2,000 metres above sea level.  

India's proposed Bilaspur–Mandi–Leh railway, when completed, will reach an even higher elevation.