Opening of Golmud-Korla railway marks significant changes in traffic conditions of NW China’s Xinjiang

By Ardak, People’s Daily


The Golmud-Korla railway, which links Golmud city in northwest China’s Qinghai province with Korla, capital city of Bayingolin Mongol autonomous prefecture in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, has been recently put into operation. The railway is expected to effectively improve the traffic conditions in southern Xinjiang.


Crossing a variety of landscapes including the Tarim River, the Taklimakan Desert and the Altun Mountains, the Golmud-Korla railway boasts an altitude difference of more than 2,500 meters.


Reymu Thohude, a 69-year-old resident in Ruoqiang township, Ruoqiang county, Bayingolin Mongol autonomous prefecture, has recently got on a train at the Ruoqiang station along the Golmud-Korla railway.


“I am just overjoyed that we can finally take a train in our hometown after all these years,” he said to his daughter. The man was so excited that he walked up and down the carriage. His hometown, Ruoqiang township, is located nearly 500 kilometers away from Korla.


After the railway was constructed in Ruoqiang, it only takes him four hours to get to Korla.


According to the resident, he used to take a bus to Korla, which took eight hours, not to mention that he needed a whole day to get to the same destination in the 1980s when he had to take a truck.


He was thrilled to find that the train also stops at Yetimbulak township of Ruoqiang county, where he had worked for eight years.


Located in the south of the Altun Mountains, Yetimbulak has an average altitude of over 3,100 meters.


“Back then, the road conditions were rather poor. It often took me about eight hours to get to Yetimbulak township from Ruoqiang county by bus if everything went well. We rode camels and horses to pass places where there was no road,” recalled Reymu Thohude.


He and his colleagues went home every three months because of the long journey, according to Reymu Thohude.


The railway, however, has now cut the travel time to about three hours.


“We spent over four years on the construction of the Xinjiang section of the Golmud-Korla railway,” said Huang Kejun, project manager of the Xinjiang section of the railway with the China Railway First Group Co., Ltd.


In March 2016, construction of the Xinjiang section of the Golmud-Korla railway was kicked off.


As the railway tracks reached farther, Huang and his colleagues entered Taklimakan Desert, the largest desert in China.


The Xinjiang section of the railway is 734 kilometers long, and nearly 300 kilometers of the railway tracks of the section is in the desert. Every time a sandstorm occurred, the temporary sheds of builders shook, Huang recalled.


The temperature difference between day and night can exceed 30 degrees Celsius in the Taklimakan Desert. The surface temperature in summer rises to over 50 degrees Celsius, while the temperature at night in winter can drop below minus 20 degrees centigrade.


The harsh weather conditions had posed a challenge to the safe operation of construction machinery and equipment.


Since rails expand and contract with heat and cold, the huge temperature difference in the desert had caused the gaps in rail joints to reach 12 centimeters, which was no doubt a serious problem for the safe running of trains.


To avoid potential risks, the project department set up a dedicated team and assigned full-time workers to check each of the railway tracks and joint gaps carefully. They were required to immediately report any abnormalities they found for maintenance.


Their efforts finally paid off. The section of the Golmud-Korla railway in the Taklimakan Desert was completed 23 days ahead of schedule on April 19, 2018.


After the Taklimakan Desert section was completed, the construction of Golmud-Korla railway encountered another daunting task – passing through the Altun Mountains, which demanded a lot of connections between tunnels and bridges.


Fifteen of the 16 tunnels and 14 of the 22 extra-large bridges in the Xinjiang section of Golmud-Korla railway are in the Altun Mountains section of the railway.


Despite the tough environment, the railway passed through the Altun Mountains Tunnel on May 29, 2020.


Later on July 21, the Xinjiang section of the railway was linked with the Qinghai section successfully.


Such achievements wouldn’t have been possible without the unremitting efforts of Huang and his colleagues.


“I’m really proud to see the railway open to traffic,” Huang said, adding that he would share the exciting experience with all his colleagues who have already rushed to the construction site of another project.