BEIJING (AFP) — A "five-star" train from Beijing to Tibet will not begin service in September as earlier indicated, state media reported on Saturday.
Xinhua news agency reported in early March, just days before deadly riots broke out in the Himalayan region of Tibet against Chinese rule, that the train would go into service on September 1.
"There is no detailed schedule yet, but I can confirm it won't start in September," Li Shunping, chief engineer of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway Corporation (QTRC), was quoted as saying by Xinhua.
The company did not provide a reason for the delay, though Xinhua said some local media had reported that delivery of the carriages could be a factor.
The carriage manufacturer, Bombardier Sifang Power, told the Qingdao Morning Post on Aug. 21 that the carriages would be delivered in February as scheduled and that they had not been told the service would begin in September.
Xinhua said earlier a ticket for the 96-seat train, decorated "according to the standards of a five-star hotel," would cost about 40,000 yuan (5,800 dollars, 3,900 euros), or 20 times the ordinary fare for a train ride to Tibet.
The company reportedly teamed up with a foreign partner to invest a total of 150 million dollars in the project.
But Xinhua reported that Wang Yongping, a spokesman for the Ministry of Railways, wrote in his blog that the train should be called a sightseeing train, rather than a luxury train.
"The biggest difference between the train and other trains would be the special sightseeing car, where commodious windows and comfortable chairs allowed passengers a better view of the scenery," he said.
The train would be open to domestic and international travellers, he wrote.
Government figures showed the number of tourists visiting Tibet in the first half of 2008 fell by about 70 percent from the same period last year, following the violent unrest there in March.
Exiled Tibetan leaders say 203 people died in the riots and the subsequent government clampdown, but China has accused "rioters" of being responsible for 21 deaths.
Beijing barred all tourists from going to Tibet until the end of April. Foreign visitors were allowed back in at the end of June.
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