|A test train departs from the Dalian North Railway Station, a terminus of the new Harbin-Dalian High-Speed Railway, in Dalian, Nnortheast China's Liaoning province, Oct 8, 2012. [Photo/Xinhua]|
A high-speed railway linking major cities in Northeast China began trial operations on Monday, ahead of its launch at the end of the year.
The new line, which links Dalian, a port city in Liaoning province and Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province, is the world's first high-speed railway built to withstand extreme cold weather conditions, according to a statement by Harbin railway authorities.
A test train departed Harbin on Monday morning, arriving in Dalian three-and-a-half hours later. The journey takes nine hours on an ordinary train.
The new line will make 24 stops and connect 10 cities, including the capitals of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces.
Construction of the 921-kilometer line began in 2008. It is designed to reach a top speed of 350 kilometers per hour, but will travel initially at a maximum of 300 km/h, railway authorities said.
The line has to withstand extreme temperatures as low as -39.9 C in winter and as high as 40 C in summer, which poses major challenges to the trains and railway construction.
Zhang Xize, chief engineer of the Harbin-Dalian high-speed railway program, said the low temperatures in Northeast China could threaten the roadbed and rail track and ice could also disrupt the power supply and signal system.
"We researched the experiences of high-speed railway line construction in relatively cold areas of Germany and Japan and took reference from road, water conservancy and electric supply projects in frigid areas," Zhang said.
The railway is fitted with special facilities to remove snow and ice from the line and to protect its power supply systems from the elements.
"We have used all the measures that we can come up with to ensure the safety of this project," said Zhang.
The line could provide a boost to the tourism industry in Harbin and Dalian, both major vacation destinations.
Harbin is notable for its beautiful ice sculptures in winter and its Russian legacy, and Dalian is well known for its mild climate and multiple beaches.
"The railway comes at the right time as I was planning to take my daughter to see the ice lanterns in Harbin this winter," said Liu Yan, a 38-year-old resident of Dalian.
The new railway is also expected to ease pressure on the current rail system during peak holiday times.
Li Xiaoyan, a 29-year-old English teacher from Dalian, said it was difficult to buy a railway ticket to return to her hometown in Heilongjiang province during the Spring Festival and National Day holidays because trains between Dalian and Harbin were fully booked.
"Both cities are popular tourist spots and there are few discount air tickets. Usually it takes me several hours to book a railway ticket. I hope the new high-speed railway will help alleviate the situation," she said.
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