With altitudes of up to 3,607m, the 16.3km long tunnel passes through the desolate and snow-topped Qilian Mountains in Qinghai Province with two sections and a bridge. Construction on the tunnel began in 2009.

The tunnel’s joining up means the most difficult part for the Lanxin high-speed railway has been completed, said Guo Yuhong, an official in charge of the tunnel project from China Railway 20th Group Company.

The 1,776km Lanxin high-speed railway links Lanzhou, capital of Gansu, with Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang. It runs across Gansu and Qinghai provinces to Xinjiang, traversing the wind ravaged Gobi Desert.

The line is planned to be put into use at the end of this year. It is designed for trains running at more than 200km per hour. It will cut the train travel time between Lanzhou and Urumqi from around 20 hours, down to eight hours.