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12 July 2009

1,956km to the Roof of the World with nora

The most altitudinous railway line in the world has been connecting inland provinces and Tibet in China since 2006. This is the largest railway project of the 21st century, with many superlatives. Each coach has nora® floor coverings.

The Tibet railway links Xining and Lhasa, the capital of Qinghai province, to the capital of Xizang (Tibet) autonomous region. Its last line section between Golmud and Lhasa, built at a spectacular altitude, opened in 2006.

Convinced by the long service life that nora floor coverings have shown in other railway and tram projects, coach builder Bombardier Sifang Power Transportation in Qingdao decided to equip the coaches with the German quality floor coverings, which are made from rubber.

They meet the high fire-protection requirements specified by the operator. Durability was another important criterion – in the first 1.5 years alone, 6.5 million passengers travelled on the line. This means the floor coverings must be abrasion-resistant and durable. Residual impressions, which have a negative impact on appearance, may not occur. In this case, too, nora was able to provide excellent references.

With regard to the design, a calm environment was to be created in the coaches whose space is, as a matter of course, restricted. This required a discrete design. The good impression was not to be interfered with even by only minor soiling and thus the ability to conceal dirt was also required of the floor covering design. Bombardier Sifang Power Transportation found the solution for all these requirements in a 3mm-thick noraplan® plus floor covering in beige with concealing granular look. A total of 11,000sqm were installed.

The Lhasa railway, or Qinghai-Tibet railway as it is officially known in China, runs for approximately 2,000km. Of these almost 50% of the railway is at an altitude above 4,000m. About 500km of the line was built on permafrost.

The railway line approaches Tibet from the north and crosses the Kunlun and other mountains. At the Tanggula Pass, the railway then crosses its peak at an altitude of 5,072m near the highest railway station of the world at 5,068m, followed by the most altitudinous tunnel of the world at 4,905m, the Fenghuo Shan tunnel, which is built through permafrost. On a total of 160 line kilometres, 675 bridges cross the dry, icy and barren high mountain landscapes.

Three locomotives pull 16 special coaches each – comprising seat, couchette and sleeper coaches. These can accommodate 930 passengers.

Because the oxygen content of the air at extreme altitudes is only half of that on the plains, altitude sickness can cause nausea and circulatory problems. Thus oxygen is blown into the cabins, in a similar way to an air conditioning system. For emergency cases, each passenger has his/her personal respiratory mask, as in airplanes. Physicians also accompany the train to treat patients suffering from altitude sickness.

The technical equipment of the trains also includes amenities such as internet availability via WLAN or electronic displays informing about the present travel altitude and speed of the train.

Approximately half of all Tibet tourists already use the new railway line to travel to the Tibetan region. The trip from Beijing to Lhasa takes about 48 hours and tickets are available from around €40 for a seat, depending on the comfort category, or €126 for a sleeper. The high mountain section from Golmud takes 12 hours.

In the past three years, nora rubber floor covering has proven its worth. The operating company said the requirements made of the floor covering had been fulfilled to the utmost satisfaction.

The costs for the railway line are estimated to amount to a total of €3.3bn. A further extension of the railway line in and to Tibet is planned.

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