BEIJING, March 14 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan said the operation of the Qinghai-Tibet railway should be further improved to ensure the trains run safely and the environment is well protected on the world's highest plateau.
Zeng made the remarks at the ninth meeting of the Qinghai-Tibet railway construction group held on March 13.
Safety measures and environmental protection work should be strengthened along the railway, said Zeng, adding that there could be more passenger and cargo trains when necessary in order to improve service and transportation capacity.
Since going into operation in July 2006, the railway has greatly improved communications and transport on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau and boosted the development of Qinghai province and Tibet Autonomous Region, said Zeng.
The railway has proved to be reliable in seasonal weather changes and the ecological environment along the railway has remained stable, he added.
Zeng also required Qinghai and Tibet to consider China's West Development Strategy and to view the opening of the railway as an opportunity for industrial restructuring and infrastructure development in the communications, transport and tourist sectors.
Every day, a total of eight passenger trains and two cargo trains run in both directions on the railway, which stretches 1,956 kilometers from Xining, capital of Qinghai, to Lhasa, capital of Tibet.
About 960 kilometers of the track is 4,000 meters above sea level. It reaches its highest point at 5,072 meters. About 550 kilometers run over unstable permafrost which is prone to heaving.
Temperatures high up on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau can drop to minus 45 degrees in the winter.
The railway had carried 1.66 million passengers and 1.36 million tons of cargo by the end of February this year.