High-speed railway helps push economic development of NW China

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By Qin Ruijie, People’s Daily

A new high-speed railway linking Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia Hui autonomous region, with Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi province, both in northwest China, began operation on Dec. 26, 2020.

At 9:05 a.m. on that day, the high-speed train D4385 left Yinchuan Railway Station for Xi’an. The new railway, which has connected Ningxia with the national high-speed railway network of China, could shorten the travel time between the two cities from as long as 15 hours to about 3 hours.

“We can finally travel outside the autonomous region by high-speed trains,” said Dong Fang, chief conductor of the train excitedly.

Dong was also chief conductor of the first train running on the first high-speed railway within Ningxia, which links Yinchuan with Zhongwei in the autonomous region and was put into operation on Dec. 29, 2019.

Yinchuan-Xi’an railway shares the route with Yinchuan-Zhongwei railway to Wuzhong city in the autonomous region and stretches southeastward through Gansu province for 543 km to Xi’an North Railway Station in Xi’an.

The 618-km Yinchuan-Xi’an railway, which has 18 stations, is an important part of the Baotou (Yinchuan)-Haikou high-speed rail line linking north China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region with south China’s Hainan province.

The latter is one of the north-south train lines of the “Eight Vertical and Eight Horizontal” high-speed railway network, linking the north and the south as well as the east and the west, in China’s medium and long-term railway network plan.

There were 13 pairs of bullet trains running on the high-speed railway from Yinchuan to Xi’an North Railway Station during a transition period that ended on Jan. 20, 2020. After that, there are 27 pairs of trains per day.

Lu Wenqing, who works at a department of the Changqing Oilfield, China’s largest oil-and-gas field, in Hui’anbao town in Ningxia, is excited about the railway’s operation. For more than ten years, the woman had to spend about nine hours by bus on the bumpy roads to her hometown in Xi’an due to poor transportation.

Because of the long distance between Yinchuan and some of its surrounding regional central cities, terrain barriers in eastern and southern Ningxia, as well as limited economic output and population, the autonomous region hadn’t built high-speed railways or operated bullet trains for a long time.

The weak railway infrastructure in Ningxia had severely blocked the flow of personnel and hindered its economic development.

The Yinchuan-Xi’an high-speed railway links the Guanzhong-Tianshui economic zone, the eastern part of Gansu province and city clusters along the Yellow River, said Wang Dalin, chief dispatcher of China Railway Lanzhou Group Co., Ltd.

Wang added that the railway largely ensures fast and quality transportation from Yinchuan to its southward regions, and facilitates the flow of personnel, goods and other resources, addressing challenges of connectivity among Ningxia and other provincial-level areas through the traffic hub of Xi’an.

“It has become more convenient to do business across the country as the high-speed railway station is closer to home,” said Liu Xiaohong, an inheritor of intangible cultural heritage Eight Treasures Tea, a famous Chinese herbal tea and local specialty in Ningxia.

Liu, who lives in Wuzhong, often carries over 50 kg of items like raw materials and tea sets and advertises the specialty outside the autonomous region. Thanks to the operation of the railway, Liu can arrive in Xi’an in three hours, greatly saving time and baggage fees.

The new railway has not only facilitated the flow of people in northwest China but also brought a good opportunity for the rapid development of logistics, helping accelerate industrial upgrading.

Yanchi, which the new railway passes through, was once a national-level impoverished county. By vigorously developing the breeding industry, the county has shaken off poverty and marched toward prosperity.

In 2019, the per capita disposable income of local farmers reached 12,127 yuan ($1,870), over half of which came from raising Tan sheep, a breed noted for its tasty meat and the long staple length of its wool.

“Our sheep will surely sell better with the opening of the high-speed railway,” said Jin Jianren, head of the Tan sheep association in Yanchi.

The county is actively preparing for the transportation of fresh mutton through fast logistics based on the high-speed railway and planning to upgrade its industry.

Fresh mutton with higher add value will boost farmers’ income and make the signature of the county shine brighter, Jin added.

The opening of the railway has relieved the pressure on railway freight transportation and will bring Yanchi mutton and more local specialties in Ningxia faster to the rest of the country.

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