A plateau region north-east of the Himalayas, Tibet was incorporated by China in 1950 and currently an autonomous region within China. The conflict between many Tibetans and Chinese government has been nonstop as many demand religious freedom and more human rights. In March, 2008, a series of protests turned into riots in different regions across Tibet. Rioters attacked Han ethnic inhabitants and burned their businesses, resulting dozens of death.
Fares set for new train service from Beijing to Lhasa
Ticket prices and timetables for the Qinghai-Tibet Railway were announced by the Ministry of Railways yesterday, less than a week ahead of the start of the service's first test run this weekend.
Passengers departing from Beijing will pay 389 yuan for a seat and between 813 yuan and 1,262 yuan for a bed on the two-day journey to Lhasa, Xinhua reported.
The Beijing-Lhasa service will begin trial operations on Saturday, leaving the capital at 9.30pm, arriving in Lhasa about 9pm two days later. The return service will leave Lhasa at 8am and arrive in Beijing 48 hours later.
The journey covers more than 4,000km, but it is not known how often the trains will run.
Travel agents yesterday said they were looking forward to more information so they could arrange package tours.
China Kanghui Travel Agency marketing director Jia Yiyuan said the ticket prices were about what had been expected, but agents needed to know when they could buy tickets for tours.
'People are asking every day about travelling to Tibet. The potential market is huge. But we don't know when the tickets go on sale and when we can arrange tours,' Mr Jia said.
The Shanghai Evening News quoted a source from Qinghai-Tibet Railway as saying the trial operation would last for a year.
Authorities built 43 railway stations for the line, but the adoption of advanced technology and the region's inhospitable climate means 38 of the stops do not have staff.
The newspaper's source said passengers would be able to get off at nine sightseeing spots along the route to take photographs, but the trains would not stop at all stations. At least four stops will be more than 4,000 metres above sea level.
The Qinghai-Tibet railway is 1,956km long, and is the world's longest and highest plateau railway. It was completed in October, taking five years to build.
Another 13 million yuan will be spent to build an earthquake warning system along the southern section by 2011.
The project involves building two seismic monitoring stations and a global positioning system observation centre.