Train to the Roof of the World – David Wolman

From The Wired magazine: China’s new 1,200-mile railway crosses some of the harshest terrain on the planet. Plug in your oxygen supply. All aboard the Tibet express.

About 1,000 miles from the railway’s starting point, on the Yellow Sea city of Qingdao, past rank after rank of new apartment complexes, Amir Levin walks through a cavernous factory. At 786,000 square feet, it’s almost as big as 14 football fields. “By China standards, this is small,” Levin says. A tall, Israeli-born Canadian with a dozen parallel wrinkles in his brow, Levin is general manager of Bombardier Sifang Power Transportation, a joint venture between three entities: a Chinese government-owned company, Power Corporation of Canada, and Bombardier Transportation, a Canadian train manufacturer. The factory is building 224 passenger cars specially designed to handle the trip to the roof of the world.

Levin says doing business with Beijing is bad for one’s blood pressure. “When China orders, it’s for high quantity in a short time.” (This year alone, the Chinese government plans to spend $20 billion on railway projects nationwide.) BSP received the contract to build the souped-up passenger cars for the Qinghai-Tibet in 2005; the joint venture had just 10 months to deliver the first of these 70-ton cars, each of which includes extra lightning-protective structures, UV-resistant coatings, enclosed underbellies to protect wiring from snowstorms and sandstorms, ecofriendly wastewater storage measures, and an oxygen enrichment system. [Full Text]

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See also NYTimes’ “Last Stop, Lhasa: Rail Link Ties Remote Tibet to China



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