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China plans Aksai Chin railway to connect Tibet, Xinjiang

Published: 16th Feb, 2023

Context

China will soon begin construction on an ambitious new railway line connecting Xinjiang and Tibet that will run close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and through the disputed Aksai Chin region.

About

What is in the ‘proposed’ plan?

  • The medium to long term railway plan for Tibet envisages expanding the TAR rail network to reach 4,000 km by 2025 up from the current 1,400 km, including new routes that will run up to China’s borders with India and Nepal.

Current Rail Network in Tibet

Tibet currently only has three rail lines in operation:

  • the Qinghai-Tibet link that opened in 2006
  • the Lhasa-Shigatse rail launched in 2014
  • the Lhasa-Nyingchi line that began operation in 2021
  • The most ambitious of the new plans is the Xinjiang-Tibet railway, which will broadly follow the course of the G219 national highway.
  • The construction of the Xinjiang-Tibet highway through Aksai Chin had triggered tensions between India and China in the lead up to the 1962 war.

The Route

  • The proposed railway will begin in Shigatse in Tibet, and run northwest along the Nepal border, before cutting north through Aksai Chin and ending in Hotan in Xinjiang.
  • The planned route will pass through Rutogand around Pangong Lake on the Chinese side of the LAC.
  • The first section, from Shigatse to Pakhuktso, will be completed by 2025, with the rest of the line, up to Hotan, expected to be finished by 2035.

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