Chengdu is famous for being the home of China’s panda breeding program, so it seems only fitting that the southwestern city should have a panda train to welcome international tourists when they return.
On June 26, the capital of Sichuan province debuted the Zhongtang Air Railway, a sky train with a “glass” bottom riders can see through. It has 270-degree visibility as the top is not transparent. Travelers who look at the train head-on will notice that it is painted to resemble a panda.
The Dayi Air Rail Project is the world’s first new energy tourism air rail test line (translation: an aerial suspended rail train using lithium battery power packs as traction power), and is about 11.5 kilometers (about 7 miles) in length.
A maximum of 120 people can fit in each car. Because the glass can reflect the heat, the trains are air-conditioned to balance it out. It is made of lightweight carbon fiber materials.
The train can travel about the same speed as a subway, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) per hour.
Currently, the train line has four stops: Dayi Station, Guanghua Avenue, Sujiazhen Station and Anren Station. At Dayi, riders can connect to the Chengdu Express Rail Line and Planning Line 12 of the Chengdu city subway.
Though the Zhongtang Air Railway is geared more towards sightseeing tourists than locals commuting to work, it’s another feather in the cap of the Chinese rail network.
In related news, Tibet recently welcomed its first-ever bullet train service. A 435-kilometer (250-mile) rail line connecting Tibetan capital Lhasa with the city of Nyingchi made its first trip on June 25.
Tibet, known as “the roof of the world,” is so high up – 3,000 meters above sea level – that extra oxygen has to be pumped into the cars so that train passengers can handle the altitude.
Eventually, the line will extend all the way from Lhasa to Chengdu, reducing the transit time between the two cities from 48 hours to 13.
Meanwhile, Chengdu recently opened its new Tianfu International Airport, which welcomed its first flights on June 25. Chengdu is now the third Chinese city to boast two international airports, joining Beijing and Shanghai.