August 30, 2006

Chinese train derails delaying thousands

BEIJING (Reuters) - One of China's new trains to Tibet, the
world's highest railway, derailed on Tuesday, disrupting the
line for five hours and delaying thousands of passengers, state
media said.

The 16-carriage train from the southwestern city of
Chongqing derailed near Co Nag Lake, some 400 km (250 miles)
northeast of the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, the Beijing News said,
adding that only the dining carriage came off the tracks.

China opened the 1,140-km (710-mile) railway linking Golmud
in Qinghai province to Lhasa on July 1, saying it would help
modernize the isolated Himalayan region.

"Six trains were delayed along the line, affecting more
than 4,000 passengers," Hong Kong's Beijing-backed Ta Kung Pao
newspaper said.

Trains were running normally five hours later and no one
was injured, it said, adding that an equipment failure involved
switches and signals.

China, which has ruled Tibet since its Communist troops
invaded the region in 1950, extols the railway as an
engineering feat that will bring economic prosperity to the
underdeveloped area.

But critics argue the line could endanger the region's
fragile environment and Tibetans' unique cultural identity.

More than 960 km of the railway was built at 4,000 meters
(13,120 feet) above sea level and 550 km in areas of frozen
earth, which researchers fear could melt as winter temperatures
rise in coming decades and affect operations.

Three passenger lines are carrying tourists in pressurized
cabins to Tibet from Beijing and the cities of Chongqing,
Chengdu, Xining, Lanzhou. Oxygen is on tap if needed.