On July 1, 2006, China's President Hu Jintao was at newly renovated Golmud Train Station cutting the red ribbon for the launch of the first train to Lhasa and declared another magnificent feat made by the Chinese people after completion of the Three Gorge Dam.
The first train coded as "Qing 1" gradually left the station at 11:05 am on Saturday and took its maiden trip across the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. It finally arrived at Lhasa's brand-new Train Station at 00:31 on July 2, proclaiming the end of no train whistling on the roof of the world.
The Qinghai-Tibet railway is totally 1,956 kilometers (1216 miles) long, consisting of 2 phases: the first phase 814 km (506 miles) from Xinning - the capital of Qinghai Province to Golmud opened in 1984; the second phase 1142 km (710 miles) from Golmud to Lhasa. In the following years, the Chinese government is going to extend the railroad to Shigatse (about 300 km west of Lhasa) and Linzhi regions (about 400 km east of Lhasa).
The Qinghai-Tibet railway boasts 960 km track located 4,000 meters (12,000 feet) above sea level and the highest point at 5,072 meters (15,220 feet). The rail is dubbed "Sky Track" as many international experts hardly believe the people can build a railway in such a challenging area.
The RMB33 billion (US$4.2 billion) project (second phase) was finished in four years from 2001 on Qinghai-Tibet Plateau with part of fragile permafrost and marsh easily damaged by human encroachment. Engineers used sunshades and high-tech cooling columns plunged into embankments to keep the ground stay frozen. China has spent RMB1.54 billion ($190 million) for environmental protection along the railway.
According to the China Xinhua news agency, the railway could double Tibet's tourist revenues by 2010 and cut transport cost into the region by 75 percent, lifting its 2.8 million people out of isolation.