China is set to open its longest high-speed train route soon, and has begun test runs on the line since Tuesday. The route is notable for running through a region which sees temperatures dip to -35 degrees Celsius at certain points in the year.
China began tests on sections of the 343-km high-speed railway between the cities of Harbin and Jiamusi in northeast China's Heilongjiang province, Chinese government news agency Xinhua reported. The region borders Russia's super-cold Siberia region.
The new railway is expected to cut travelling time between the two cities by a whopping 70 percent. The journey by the existing railway line between the two cities presently takes about six hours. The new high-speed railway is expected to complete the journey in only 110 minutes.
The line has been designed to allow trains to travels at speeds of around 200 kmph throughout the year. A pilot run has been scheduled for July, and depending how that goes, full-scale operations are expected to begin one month after that.
The current round of testing is seeing the sue of both passenger trains as well as cargo variants. The trials are also focusing on testing the power supply, subgrades and bridges systems used on the line.
China started constructing the Harbin-Jiamusi line in July 2014. The entire route is high-altitude, which has posed engineering challenges. The temperatures regularly drop well before the zero-mark, which is also a huge challenge for the maintenance of services like railways.
The successful implementation of a high-speed railway in this region could have implication for the creation or expansion of similar connectivity services in the troubled Tibet and Xinjing region of China's west. Both regions suffer connectivity crunches considering they are nestled in the high-altitude Himalayas and Central Asian mountains and see extremely low temperatures for large parts of the year. Increasing high-speed rail links to these region would allow Beijing to exert greater military might in the regions.