The 530km Urumqi – Hami line is the first section of the 1776km Urumqi – Lanzhou high-speed line to be completed. The remainder of the 250km/h line is due to open by the end of the year, reducing journey times between Urumqi and Lanzhou from around 21 hours to eight hours.
The 31 station line crosses the Gobi desert and reaches a summit of 3607m above sea level in the Qilianshan No. 2 Tunnel, making it the world's highest high-speed line. To protect the line from high desert winds, 462km of screening has been installed along the route.
Construction began on the Yuan 143.5bn ($US 23.5bn) project in November 2009 and trial operation commenced on the Xinjiang section of the route in June this year.