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New Tibetan railway is cracking

TEXT OF STORY

SCOTT JAGOW: China's new train to Tibet has to be breathtaking. Well, it is breathtaking actually. They provide oxygen masks because you're so high up:16,000 feet. Some passengers get nose bleeds. The scenery might just be worth it, but is the $4 billion railway? Jocelyn Ford reports.


JOCEYLN FORD: The Tibetan railway is sinking and cracking.

One of the biggest technical challenges was how to build on permafrost, soil that remains frozen year round.

So far, Chinese experts say cracks in the foundation and bridges can be taken care of with normal maintenance, but the government plans to survey how rising temperatures and the heavy train is impacting the permafrost.

The problems do not appear to be daunting tourists.

Travel agent Li Shai took a tour group on the train's maiden voyage on July 1, but now he has to say to turn customers down.

LI SHAI:"We just can say sorry because ticket is so difficult you know."

In the first month of operation 70,000 tourists took the train, about half the number of people who flew to Tibet.

Many Tibetans have mixed feeling about the influx. They welcome the tourist dollar, but worry their culture will be crushed.

In Beijing, I'm Jocelyn Ford for Marketplace.

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