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Chengdu-Chongqing Railway Marks 70th Anniversary as New High Speed Era Dawns


Chongqing- After 70 years of operation, the  Chongqing Railway Station, also called Caiyuanba Station, suspended its operation temporally for renovation on June 19th. One day later, on the 20th of June, dreams of high-speed rail became a reality for passengers in Chongqing.

Seventy years on from the first railroad of New China connecting Chengdu and Chongqing, the emotional farewell to Caiyuanba Station marks the beginnings of a new glorious era in the Chinese railway system, as the scenic beauty and rich culture of the Three Gorges have now become more accessible to people numbering in the hundreds of millions.

Hundreds of local people and enthusiasts stood on the platform to give the final train service an emotional send-off and capture this unforgettable moment in Chinese railroad history. The glorious history of Caiyuanba lives on in people's hearts, especially the tireless workers. They dedicated their careers to serving passengers at this iconic landmark in Chinese rail history.

Chen Zhifang began work at Caiyuanba as a young lady in 1972 and retired three decades later in 2003 after spending her entire career at Chongqing Railway Station. As the final departure approached, she revisited the station, shared her feelings on occasion, and reflected on memories.

"My most poignant memories include the 1981 flood when an old woman around 90 arrived searching for her son. Because she didn't even know his phone number, I took her back to Yangjiaping to help her search for him. When I heard the news that Caiyuanba was to close in two days, I could not help but sob at home."

Railway marks a historical milestone

Not long after the People's Republic of China was founded, Deng Xiaoping proposed constructing a 505-kilometer-long railroad connecting the southwestern cities of Chengdu and Chongqing. Construction work officially began on June 15th, 1950, and became the first railway built in New China.

This feat of engineering was completed exclusively by China in just over two years under strong leadership from the Southwest Military and Political Commission. It also had substantial support from the Chinese public. Later, it was selected by the UN as one of three wonders symbolizing man's conquest of nature in the 20th century.

Despite the enormous challenges of resources and technology, 130,000 soldiers and civilians pooled their efforts to cast 505 kilometers of iron rail and assemble the iconic Tuojiang Bridge. At the same time, the enthusiastic public donated wood for 1.39 million sleepers along the rail line.

Finally, the Chengdu-Chongqing railroad was connected on July 1st, 1952, shortening the travel time from 48 to 12 hours. Southwest China welcomed a prosperous economic recovery and development era while opening adjacent regions for material and cultural benefit.


The Chengdu-Chongqing Railway opened in 1952, with this ceremony held at Caiyuanba Station. (Photograph provided to iChongqing)

Three Gorges Embraces High-Speed Era

As the curtains drew on seventy years of glorious rail history in Caiyuanba, an exciting new era in the development of high-speed rail in Chongqing was just about to dawn. As if determined by fate, the final green train to pull out of Caiyuanba passed on the baton of modern rail travel to the CRH on the brand new Zhengzhou-Chongqing High-Speed Rail Line, which has now finally connected the cities of Yunyang, Fengjie and Wushan along the Three Gorges Reservoir by rail, with the fastest journey times completed within an astonishing two hours.

The Chongqing section of the 1068-kilometer-long rail line has astounded the world with unprecedented 32 bridges adding up to 10.8 kilometers long. In contrast, 27.5 tunnels running a total length of 169.7 kilometers means that train services run 'subway style' for 98% of the entire line!


Caiyuanba Railway Station in Yuzhong District has been an iconic gateway to Chongqing for seventy years. (iChongqing/ James Alexander)

From an ecological perspective, the Three Gorges Reservoir is an environmentally sensitive area with more than 30 nature reserves and scenic geological parks. Yet, this world-beating feat of engineering has produced a minimal impact thanks to innovative solutions such as the Wushan Daning River Bridge, which was built with no water piers disturbing the environment below.

The Zhengzhou-Chongqing high-speed railway is expected to boost the flow of people and goods among the neighboring regions, especially in the Three Gorges Reservoir area, which expects to see a further economic boost as they build upon the tourism income of 271 billion yuan ($40.5 billion) garnered in 2019.



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