The Hotan-Ruoqiang Railway opens on June 16. XINHUA
Train 5818 slowly pulled out from Hotan Station in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and galloped toward its destination on June 16. This marked the official opening of the Hotan-Ruoqiang Railway.
As soon as Kurbanhan got into the carriage, she called her family. The 26-year-old Uygur girl couldn’t hide her excitement when she got onto the train for the first time. Kurbanhan’s home lies in the countryside of Yutian County, over 1,000 kilometers from Urumqi. In 2013, in order to get to her university in Urumqi, she had to spend two days riding in a pickup truck from her home to the county, and another four-hour drive to Hotan before finally taking the train to Urumqi.
The 825-kilometer line links the city of Hotan with the county of Ruoqiang in southern Xinjiang.
It is designed for trains running up to 120 kilometers per hour, cutting travel time between Hotan and Ruoqiang to 11.5 hours.
It is the last section of the 2,712-km-long loop line circling the Taklimakan Desert, China’s largest desert. Its completion forms the world’s first railway loop circling a desert.
Two passenger trains are scheduled each day, as well as eight freight trains that will transport cotton, walnuts, dates and other commodities to the rest of China. “The line brings railway service to new places in southern Xinjiang, boosting socio-economic development and promoting rural vitalization in the region,” China Daily noted.
About 65 percent of the new line – 534 kilometers – is in the sand and storm zone, which made construction tremendously difficult. According to China Daily, since starting in December 2018, more than 20,000 builders have worked hard in extreme weather, with frequent sandstorms and temperatures as high as 42 C and severe cold as low as -25 C.
In areas with strong wind and shifting sand dunes, designers built bridges to allow the sand and wind to pass beneath them, reducing potential harm to the rail line. Grass, trees and shrubs have also been planted along the rail line as barricades against sand. “Sand control comes before railway construction,” Wang Jinzhong, an engineer on the railway, told China Daily.
Workers created straw grids near the railway line and planted nearly 13 million shrubs and trees, Wang said.
“Tall trees are planted along the outer areas to reduce wind speeds, while shrubs have been planted along the inner areas of the railway to fix the sand problem,” Wang added.