DHARAMSHALA, July 3: China is all set to carry out plans to increase its passenger train services from major cities in China to the ancient Tibetan capital city of Lhasa.
Starting July 9, daily trains will start running between Guangzhou, capital of South China's industrial province of Guangdong and Lhasa, said Wang Tao, a spokesman for the Qinghai-Tibet Railway Company.
Chengdu-Lhasa trains are also scheduled to follow the same schedule in the very near future.
Currently, seven major cities ply passengers to Tibet on the 1,956 kms long Gormo- Lhasa rail line. China’s capital Beijing and commercial capital Shanghai already have daily trains to Lhasa.
China’s state new agency, Xinhua quoted railway officials as saying that the train frequency to Lhasa have been increased in order to “cope with the travel surge” to Tibet.
Statistics released by the railway company in May said that more than 49 million people have travelled on the Gormo-Lhasa railway since the route opened in July 2006, with an annual average passenger increase of 10.3 percent.
The Gormo-Lhasa railway is the cornerstone of China’s Western Development Strategy aimed at cementing its control over the restive Tibetan region.
A political project, as stated by China’s former president Jiang Zemin, the rail line is meant to consolidate a strong Chinese presence in Tibet by accelerating Han migration into Tibet.
As a direct impact of the railways, the population of Tibet’s ancient capital city of Lhasa which used to be 50-60,000 soared to 300,000 of which 200,000 were Han Chinese immigrants.
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has often stated that “some kind of cultural genocide” is taking place inside Tibet with pointers to the rail line representing a form of “demographic aggression” by China.
Chinese officials said that the high-elevation rail line has also transported 40 million tonnes of cargo in 2011 – an 8 per cent year-on-year increase.
Although the official did not specify the types of cargo transported, one of the foremost purposes of the rail line has been to provide easier access to Tibet’s mines and greatly increase the transfer of extracted minerals from the resource rich Tibetan plateau.
Officials at the railway company estimate that by the end of the 2011-2015 period, Tibet will receive annual tourist arrivals of around 20 million.