Hohhot Rail staff patrol along the Lince line in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. (Xinhua)
Lince Railway has to be the loneliest rail network in the world. The railway line, which was inaugurated in December 2009, traverses through the mighty Gobi Desert in northern China.
The 769-kilometer railroad starts at Linhe Railway Station in Bayannur city, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and runs all the way to Ceke, a border outpost on the Mongolian border, after crossing the Ulan Buh and Badain Jaran Desert.
Over 90 percent of the tracks are in areas that have no access to highways. More than 400 kilometers passes through no man's land.
It is truly a railway of solitude.
Roaring entirely through the desert regions, the line is constantly threatened by sandstorms and shifting dunes, which have often buried tracks and disrupted services. Eighty percent of the regions near the line are extreme arid zones. Sand storms hit the route as many as 230 days in a year.
Sand walls become impenetrable on these occasions and dust reduces visibility to near zero. Two people have to hold hands otherwise they will lose each other. The temperature reaches 70 degrees Celsius in summer and minus 40 degrees in winter.
This crucial railway that link Inner Mongolia to the outside world was once hailed as “road to heaven,” both for its extraordinary scenery and for its immense cost in building and maintaining it. After spending 4.76 billion yuan (1 million) building the line, another 71 million yuan was invested during the first year of operation to control damages caused by sand.
Over 10,000 workers were tasked to clear the track, spread sand-control netting, build sand-restraint devices and plant trees.
Experts from the Chinese Academy of Forestry, Beijing Forestry University and Agricultural University of Inner Mongolia believe that the Lince line is probably battered by more sandstorms than any other railroad in the world.
In order to deal with sandstorms, nine sand-control centers have been established along the route.
A protective system involving “sand-fixing, sand-stocking and sand-transporting” has been adopted and enjoyed success.