Being the first railway to link the Tibet Autonomous Region with the rest of China, the Qinghai-Tibet railway created history in the development of transportation in this Southwest China region.
But local people are expecting this "mysterious route" will bring them a better and prosperous life.
"We will no longer burn cattle dung to cook meals after the railway goes into operation," said 16-year-old Qoisang Zhoima, a Tibetan girl living in Damxung County, in central Tibet, where theQinghai-Tibet railway runs through.
Winter lasts for eight months on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, known as "the roof of the world". Due to shortage of coal, Zhoima's family and their fellow countrymen have burned cattle dung for heating in winter days and cooking meals.
The 1,142-kilometer Qinghai-Tibet railway will carry more materials including coal to Tibetans upon operation.
China began construction of the railway in 2001 at a cost of 26.2 billion yuan (3.16 billion U.S. dollars). The Chinese government expects the project to boost Tibet's social and economic development, helping local residents improve their livingstandards. The railway is scheduled to go into trial operation on July 1 this year.
Before construction of the railway, Tibet was linked with the rest of China by several highways and air routes. The railway willnot only shorten the travel time, it also means cheap journeys forcommon Tibetans, most of whom can not afford a travel by air.
Soicog, boss of a small restaurant selling Tibetan-style food in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, said, "I'll travel by train to Beijing and to more places of the country afterthe railway becomes operational."
Soicog also expected that the railway would bring more touriststo Lhasa. "I expect for a prosperous business as more people eat at my restaurant," he said.
Soicog's dream may come true someday as experts have forecast that the Qinghai-Tibet railway, linking Xining, capital of northwestern Qinghai Province, with Lhasa, would become a "golden travel route" with unlimited business opportunities.
Along the Qinghai-Tibet railway are many attractive tourism spots such as the Qinghai Lake, the largest saltwater lake in China, Hoh Xil, where a nature reserve has been established specially for endangered Tibetan antelopes, grassland in northern Tibet and the Potala Palace in Lhasa.
With the Qinghai-Tibet railway opening to traffic, 5.28 million tourists are expected to visit Tibet by the year 2010, bringing an income of 5.8 billion yuan (725 million U.S. dollars), according to a joint forecast by the Tibet Autonomous Regional Academy of Social Sciences and the Industrial Economics Studies Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Tibet hosted 1.8 million tourists last year, netting an income of 1.93 billion yuan.