China developing plans for rail line under Mount Everest and high speed rail connection to South Korea

1.

China is considering extending a railway line linking the country to Nepal via a tunnel under Mount Everest, according to Chinese state media.

The project is expected to be completed by 2020, the newspaper cited a Tibetan official as saying. Extending the line would potentially forge a crucial link between China and the huge markets of India. It was raised by the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, on a visit to Kathmandu in December, according to Nepalese reports.

“The line will probably have to go through Qomolangma so that workers may have to dig some very long tunnels,” railway expert Wang Mengshu told the China Daily, referring to Mount Everest by its Tibetan name.

Owing to the challenging Himalayan terrain, with its remarkable changes in elevation, trains on any line to Kathmandu would probably have a maximum speed of 75mph (120km/h), he added.

China has three international high-speed rail projects that are in various stages of planning and development.

One would run from London via Paris, Berlin, Warsaw, Kiev and Moscow, where it would split into two routes, one of which would run to China through Kazakhstan and the other through eastern Siberia. Another would begin in the far-western Chinese city of Urumqi and then run through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Turkey to Germany, and the last would begin in the south-west city of Kunming and end in Singapore.

The growing Chinese presence in Nepal goes beyond roads and railways, with massive hydroelectric projects, airports and a pilgrimage centre at Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, all slated to receive substantial funding from Beijing

2.

A high-speed rail connecting China with South Korea could be a reality by 2030, according to the Korean newspaper Daily Economic Report, which recently announced a proposal to roll out a high-speed rail system that would run through North Korea to link up Beijing and Seoul.

The proposal for the line, dubbed the “Beijing-Seoul Daily Life Cycle”, consists of two stages. The first would be to build up a high-speed rail connection based on the existing railway infrastructure from Busan to Seoul that would take off from the South Korean capital and wind through the North Korean cities of Pyongyang and Sinuiju.

The second stage would be to connect the Korean railway with China’s existing high-speed network to Beijing, starting from China’s Yalu River.
China will be building a high-speed railway line from Shenyang to Dandong, and is planning to connect Shenyang with Beijing by 2019.

The report said that the high-speed railway line would be funded by South Korean companies and that the line from Busan to Beijing could be completed by 2030 if construction begins straightaway. Other reports say the line could be opened by as soon as 2020. When it’s completed, the 1,700 km journey from Beijing to Seoul would take six hours, it said.

A South Korean expert specializing in railway technology research said North Korea is the only place that hasn’t been connected by rail, but China and Russia have shown ‘much interest’ in the ambitious project.

The Seoul-Sinuiju railway connection is estimated to cost around eight trillion Korean Won ($7.18 billion), while the total cost of the entire project is expected to be a hefty 20 trillion Korean Won ($17.8 billion).

3.

In pioneering study, Professor Hanqin Qiu of the School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM) at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and two co-authors have found that China’s high-speed railway has increased domestic tourism demand. The researchers investigated the effects of the 1,070-kilometre Wuhan-Guangzhou stretch of the railway on domestic tourism receipts in three Chinese provinces, finding that it has produced significant benefits for tourism in Guangdong and Hunan, with Hubei lagging behind.

The researchers report that there were significantly higher domestic tourism receipts in Guangdong and Hunan than in Hubei after the Wuhan-Guangzhou section of the high-speed railway commenced operations. Indeed, receipts in Hubei shifted very little. On a more positive note, they suggest that if the respective characteristics of Guangdong and Hunan are taken into account, the railway’s economic effects are “more widespread and pronounced” than would at first seem obvious, with the relatively less-developed inland province of Hunan experiencing greater growth than its more developed coastal counterpart.

Also of interest are the railway’s “spill-over effects”, the researchers note, citing reports indicating that even nearby destinations not on its route have benefitted, with some achieving 100% growth since the line opened. They take this as evidence that “transport can contribute to the optimization of tourism product structure and enhance the overall attractiveness of the broader region”. Their findings also indicate “new opportunities for inter-destination cooperation and integration”, as Guangdong has traditionally been the major tourist source market for Hunan.

The railway has also had considerable “knock-on effects”, according to the researchers. These have included competition-induced reductions in airfares, greater flexibility in flight schedules and a major boost for short-haul weekend tours. The end result, they argue, is “a wider range of choices for the tourist”, which has influenced “many aspects of their ‘travel career’ beyond increased spending”.

Yan, York Qi, Zhang, Hanqin Qiu and Ye, Ben Haobin (2014). Assessing the Impacts of the High-speed Train on Tourism Demand in China. Tourism Economics, 20(1), 157-169.

4. In India, High Speed Rail (HSR) systems have been talked about since 1980s, the plan was rolled out for the first time in the Railways’ Vision 2020 document of 2009. It proposed implementing at least four HSR projects for bullet train services at 250-350 Kmph.

* Currently, the maximum train speed achieved in India is 150 Kmph (Shatabdi Express on the Delhi-Agra section). Average speed of Mail and Express trains in India last financial year (2013-14) was 50.6 Kmph.

* A feasibility study of Mumbai-Ahmedabad HSR corridor, co-financed by India and Japan, is slated for completion in June 2015. The business development studies for this corridor are being conducted with French assistance. The Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor is estimated to cost around Rs 63,180 crore with an average cost of Rs 118 crore per Km.
* A feasibility study of Delhi-Chennai corridor is being done in cooperation with Chinese Railways.

* Indian Railways has identified nine corridors where speed of passenger trains will be speed to 160-200 Kmph. These include Delhi-Agra, Delhi-Chandigarh, Delhi-Kanpur, Nagpur-Bilaspur, Mysore-Bangaluru-Chennai, Mumbai-Goa, Mumbai-Ahmedabad, Chennai-Hyderabad and Nagpur-Secundarabad.

SOURCES – Guardian UK, Tourism Economics, business Standard,

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