Construction on the rail line connecting Dali with Lijiang has been completed and will be running in time for the National Day holiday during the first week of October, according to a YunnanNet report. Construction on the rail line began in 2004.
The 164 kilometer rail line passes through some serious mountain country, with more than half of the trip made up of bridges or tunnels. Bridges account for 22 kilometers of the journey, with 78 kilometers passing through tunnels.
The Dali-Lijiang (大丽) line will begin at Dali East Station, traveling along the eastern shore of Erhai Lake with stops at Shangguan (上关), Xiyi (西邑) and Heqing (鹤庆) before arriving in Lijiang. At present, information about departure times and trip duration is unavailable.
Lijiang is one of China's most popular tourist destinations – in the first half of this year it was visited by 3.44 million tourists. The opening of a new rail connection with Dali and Kunming should translate to even more travelers visiting the city, which features attractions including its old town (a UNESCO World Heritage site), Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and the nearby Tiger Leaping Gorge.
The extension of the Kunming-Dali rail line to Lijiang brings a proposed Kunming-Lhasa rail line one step closer to reality. The line will next be extended to Shangri-la and then to Lhasa.
The Kunming-Lhasa rail link would make Yunnan's capital the third provincial capital in western China with a direct rail link to Tibet after Xining in Qinghai and Chengdu in Sichuan, which will begin construction on a Chengdu-Lhasa rail line this month.