As high-altitude winds make for a brisk morning, people in Tibet board trains to return home, carrying heavy luggage and high anticipation. Their palpable delight marks the start of this year's Spring Festival travel rush in the plateau region.
At 8 a.m. and 8:20 a.m. on Monday, two advanced Fuxing bullet trains running in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region departed from the region's capital city of Lhasa for the cities of Xigaze and Nyingchi, respectively carrying 680 and 219 passengers.
"I've been working in Lhasa for three years. This is the first time I have taken a bullet train back to my hometown," said Dondrup, who is from Nyingchi's Mirig Township.
"For the past few years, I had to take bus home, a very long and strenuous journey. Now, the train takes three and a half hours, which not only saves time but is also safer," Dondrup said.
The opening of the railway from Lhasa to Nyingchi in June 2021 provided southeastern Tibet with access to rail services for the first time in the region's history. With a designed speed of 160 kilometers per hour, the 435-kilometer railway is the first electrified railroad operating in Tibet.
Pumo Anyi, a 23-year-old from Nyingchi's Puchu Township, became a security inspector at the Nyingchi railway station after graduating from college.
She said that the opening of the railway brought many jobs to her village.
"More than 40 people in our village work at the Nyingchi and Shannan railway stations, with monthly salaries ranging from 2,500 yuan (about 393 U.S. dollars) to 3,200 yuan," Anyi said.
Since the railway opened six months ago, three trains, two of which are bullet trains, have linked Lhasa, Nyingchi, Shannan and Xigaze. A train leaving Lhasa can arrive in Shannan after 70 minutes, and in Nyingchi after 3 hours and 29 minutes.
The Lhasa-Nyingchi railway had handled 621,000 passenger trips and carried over 7,900 tonnes of cargo by the end of 2021, according to the China Railway Qinghai-Tibet Group Co., Ltd.
Staff at the Lhasa railway station are strengthening their COVID-19 prevention and control work, and the station and trains are operating smoothly with nearly 500 cameras monitoring the whole railway line.
Station head Wang Fu said that the station is expected to handle 200,000 passenger trips during China's largest annual travel rush this year, with an average daily passenger trip volume of approximately 5,000.