World's first desert-railway loop line completed in China's Xinjiang
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A train goes on a test run on the Hotan-Ruoqiang railway on March 11, 2022. The 825-kilometer line opens to the public on Thursday, marking the completion of the world's first railway loop circling a desert. (Photo: China Daily)

Thursday marks the official operation of the a railway line that links the city of Hotan with Ruoqiang county in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

The 825-km Hotan-Ruoqiang Railway is the last section of a 2,712-km rail loop line around China's largest desert, the Taklimakan, said the China State Railway Group Co., Ltd. (China Railway) Wednesday.

The newly-opened section has 534 kilometers, or 65 percent of its length, inside the desert. Five bridges that span 49.7 kilometers in total were constructed to lift the railroad to protect it from sandstorms.

Twenty-two railway stations dots along the line and half of those stations provide passenger service.

The opening of the railroad will enable trains to skirt a desert full circle for the first time in the world, according to the China Railway. Its construction also came with a fight against desertification that saw 50 million square meters of turf and 13 million trees planted along the railroad.

The Hotan-Ruoqiang Railway is said to boost regional interconnectivity and benefit tens of millions of residents in southern Xinjiang by making their trips easier. It will also facilitate traveling and logistics of Xinjiang specialties including cotton, walnuts, dates, and minerals.

Construction on this rail line started in December 2018. The journey from Hotan to Ruoqiang now takes about 11-and-a-half hours.

(Compiled by Chen Rui)