Train Kunming to Lijiang starting soon

Trip Start Jan 30, 2007
Trip End Dec 31, 2011

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Flag of China  , Yunnan Province,
Thursday, September 3, 2009

Well, finally, after 5 years, a bankruptcy, and some delays, it appears the train line from Dali to Lijiang is finished. Today I heard firecrackers sound out for a long time, and in the distance could see that a viaduct had finally been completed, its pillars now topped by a railway line, that will carry trains from Beijing to Lijiang. Or at least from Kunming to Lijiang.

No details yet about the frequency, but if we look at the line Dali to Kunming, we see one or two day trains crawling through the countryside, as well as three night trains.

Reports are that the line will open in time for the National Holiday 1 October.

What can we expect? Well, given the terrain, and also the routing of the line a little higher than the valley, there will be lots of tunnels and bridges during the 164km journey - in fact 100 kilometres will either be in bridges or tunnels.

But in between those tunnels, expect hills, valleys, fields, forests, lakes and villages as the line goes from Xiaguan (Dali new town) along the eastern shores of Erhai lake, stopping along the way at Shangguan, Xiyi, Heqing (the border of Bai and Naxi peoples).

Here in Lijiang it might bring in more tourists - though most take a quicker bus - 8 hours from Kunming, or fly. Local people fear that the train line will bring in poor migrants from other parts of China. Already we are on track to get 7 million visitors.

On the Kunming-Dali route, fares are around 35yuan for the train, taking 7 or more hours, while the bus is 4 hours and costs 120 yuan.

The railway line got funding from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, though when it was first proposed the road links weren't so good and the documents tell about the need for better transportation. Given that the train is much slower than road transport, perhaps we won't see too many taking this option. However the night train to Kunming could be a better alternative to sleeper buses.

The line is supposed to be extended to Zhongdian - Shangri-la  - and then onto Lhasa.

Why the delay for construction:
Official version:
"Because of construction difficulties and a decision to upgrade the line
to accommodate electric-powered trains, as opposed to older
coal-powered engines, the completion date was delayed until October."
Local version:
contractor went under, and fled to US

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