The Golmud-Korla Railway, linking Golmud in Qinghai province to Korla in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, began operation on Wednesday, shortening travel time between the regions from 26 hours to 12.
It is the third railway linking Xinjiang and other regions in China, joining the Lanzhou-Xinjiang Railway and the Linhe-Hami Railway.
A passenger train set off from Korla station at 9:40 am, and a freight train left the station at 10:18 am.
The line has a total length of 1,206 kilometers. The Xinjiang section is 734 kilometers and has eight passenger stations with a maximum operating speed of 120 kilometers per hour. The Qinghai section started operation in June and has 15 stations.
The new rail artery also links to the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the world's highest rail system. The network will link Xinjiang, Qinghai and the Tibet autonomous region, boosting local rail transport capacity, reducing travel time and helping the regional economy in western China.
Wang Xinquan, deputy chief engineer at the Xinjiang bureau of the China Railway First Survey and Design Institute Group and head of the construction team for the Xinjiang section of the railway, said it is expected to promote railway transport capacity in southern Xinjiang, helping to advance exports from the region and increase exchanges with other areas.
Because the railway passes through 390 km of sandy areas, the team has spent four years coming up with tailor-made measures to control desertification along the railway and to make sure it can operate safely in the areas, he said.
Since the section passes through nature reserves, passages for wild animals were set up to protect the ecosystem and wildlife, Wang added.
Yong Chaowan, a resident in Korla who has worked for 30 years at the Kuermuyi township of the Bayingolin Mongol autonomous prefecture, said he took the first train from Korla to Kuermuyi on Wednesday morning.
"I once went to Kuermuyi during the National Day holiday, and the trip took 10 hours by bus. With the new railway, it only took a little more than two hours," he said.
Another important railway in northern Xinjiang opened earlier this month. The Altay-Fuyun section of the Afuzhun (Altay-Fuyun-Zhundong) railway line in Xinjiang began operations on Sunday.
Both passenger and cargo trains run on the newly unveiled 148-km railway line, according to the China Railway Urumqi Group. The Fuyun-Zhundong section became operational in late 2019.
Spanning 419 km, the Afuzhun railway is connected with other railways, and together they form part of a circular railway network in the northern part of Xinjiang.