National Geographic – Extreme Railway Qinghai Tibet Railway

Engineer Pasi Lautala takes a look at the hi-tech solutions employed by the Chinese government in building the Qinghai-Tibet railway, which runs all the way from Xining to Lhasa.

The 1000 kilometre track was planned over 50 years ago but had to wait until modern technology and engineering know-how could help to overcome the harsh environment of the Tibetan plateau. Permafrost, thin air and sand still threaten the amazing achievement which includes 675 bridges and the world’s highest tunnel.

140,000 labourers built the railway with the help of 2,000 medics who were needed to deal with altitude sickness. Lautala follows the train’s route and looks at the structural solutions devised by China’s top engineers.

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