Work on the tunnel, which reaches an altitude of up to 3607m, began in 2009, and with the rest of the track already laid, now paves the way for services to begin on the new line by the end of the year.

The line is designed for trains operating at more than 200km/h and will reduce journey times to eight hours from around 20 hours at present. In addition to the Qilian Mountains, the line crosses the Gobi Desert and around 440km/h of protective screens have been built to protect trains from gale-force winds which are common in the region.

Much of the new line has been built in parallel with the existing 1904km Lanxin railway, which will be used primarily as a freight line once the new link opens.