2008-03-04 05:58:05 Xinhua English
BEIJING, March 4 (Xinhua) -- Construction of Qinghai-Tibet railway extensions is "quite necessary", said Qiangba Puncog, chairman of Tibet Autonomous Region, on Tuesday.
"We will fully tap the potential of railway in the region, and we hope the extensions linking Lhasa to Xigaze and Nyingchi would bring more benefits to the Tibetan people," said Qiangba Puncog, who is a deputy to the 11th National People's Congress, China's top legislature.
The 1,956-km Qinghai-Tibet Railway has had profound influence on the Tibetan people since it was put into operation in July 2006,ending the history of the region without railway, noted the chairman.
Tourism industry in the landlocked plateau was greatly boosted, as Tibet chalked up 4 million plus of tourists in 2007, about 1 million more than estimated. Tourism revenue surged 73.3 percent year-on-year to 4.8 billion yuan (about 676 million U.S. dollars) last year, accounting for about 14 percent of the gross domestic product in the southwestern region.
The railway helped shorten regional difference in cost, drawing more investment to Tibet. Last year Tibet took in non-governmental investment of 8.45 billion yuan (about 1.2 billion U.S. dollars), 29 percent up from 2006.
"The railway also offered more job opportunities for local workforces, and people saw hope of faster development of Tibet," said Qiangba Puncog.
However, the vast region taking up one eighth of China's territory in size is still in need of capital for development, he said.
The legislator disclosed that preparations for the Lhasa-Xigaze railway had completed while the construction plan was undergoing approval from the central government.
The 254-km extension line, the first feeder for the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, is planned to start this year and expected to be completed in 2010, according to an earlier report.