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DT
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From Last Train to Lhasa - Banco de Gaia: In 1950 China invaded Tibet, a country the size of Western Europe. The Tibetans have calculated that 1.2 million died as a result of the Chinese take-over. In 1959 the Dalai Lama was forced to flee his home and now travels the world gathering support for his people. The biggest threat to Tibet today is the hundreds of thousands of Chinese moving in and squeezing the Tibetans out. In 1994 the Chinese government announced that it intends to build a railway across Tibet to ease the way for even more settlers.



Chinese President Hu Jintao has now opened the world's highest railway, describing it as a "magnificent feat".

The Qinghai-Tibet line boasts high-tech engineering to stabilise tracks over permafrost and sealed cabins to protect passengers from the high altitude.

China says the 1,140km (710-mile) line will bring major opportunities to a poor region.

But critics fear it will be used by China to assert its control over a contested border region.

They also say the railway line threatens not only the delicate Himalayan environment, but also the ancient Tibetan culture.

At its highest point, the railway will reach 5,072m (16,640ft) - beating by 225m a route through the Peruvian Andes that was previously the world's highest railway, the China Daily newspaper reports.

More: BBC - Hu opens world's highest railway
 

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It's a different experience travelling by rail on some of these high altitude routes. I travelled on a few in Peru, Bolivia and India (to Darjeeling) and it can get pretty chilly. The scenery is often spectacular as you are going through very high mountains and very deep cuttings. This would be a a very interesting train ride, assuming of course that you were not boycotting travel to Tibet due to the Chinese occupation. Unfortunately for the Tibetans this really marks the end of any hope of preserving their culture as the influx of Chinese immigrants will now increase greatly and swamp them.
 

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Of course it is mountain railways that really demonstrate the efficiency of steam locos. Whereas a diesel becomes less efficient as it climbs the steamer's boiler becomes more efficient - or so the theory goes. Maybe China will yet regret its rush to dispose of all those QJs.....


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