China's most difficult mountain railway linked up

China's most difficult mountain railway was linked up in Enshi Prefecture, central China's Hubei Province, and is expected to open within the year, according to officials at the railway's construction headquarters Wednesday.

The Yichang-Yiwan Railway, totaling 377 km in length, runs from the Yiwan District in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality to Yichang City of Hubei Province.

A section of the Yichang-Yiwan Railway. [file photo]

It was designed to greatly shorten the journey between the mountainous regions in the southwest and the eastern parts of China, according to Zhang Mei, head of the engineering administration center of the Ministry of Railway.

The railway trip from Chongqing to Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province, for example, will take only five hours once the link is open to rail traffic, instead of the previous 22 hours, said Zhang.

The railway was first laid out in 1903 by Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Kuomintang party, over 100 years ago.

The reason the construction had not begun till 2003 is that the railway must travel one of the most mountainous regions in China's southwest, whose difficult terrain made the construction work the most difficult in China's railway history, said Zhang.

"Beneath the luxuriant mountains we encountered myriad natural barriers, such as underground rivers, limestone caves, and coal seams," said Zhang.

A construction site of the Yichang-Yiwan Railway. [file photo]

To link the line, workers had to build 253 bridges and dig 159 tunnels, which account for 74 percent of the total railway length, winning the railway the title of the "tunnel and bridge museum."

Starting in late 2003, it took seven years for the construction to be completed, said Zhao Hui, project manager of China Tiesiju Civil Engineering Group, which undertook the construction.

"I joined the project at the age of 25, and now I'm 32. I've dedicated my youth to this railway," said Zhao.

( Xinhua , August 19, 2010 )