Highways ·

New road across largest desert opens to traffic

(Xinhua) Updated: 2007-11-01 19:49

URUMQI -- The second road across China's largest desert opened to traffic on Thursday, boosting connections to the landlocked region in the country's northwest.

The 424-km north-south highway, running across the Taklimakan Desert in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, reduces traffic time between the two important regional cities of Hotan and Aral by 550 km and about seven hours.

The 790-million-yuan ($107 million) project is expected to promote cargo and passenger traffic between the resource-rich and densely-populated Hotan City, in southern Xinjiang, and Aral, an underdeveloped new city on the northern edge of the desert, said Xinjiang's Chairman Ismail Tiliwaldi at the opening ceremony.

The new road, which was funded by central government and whose construction began in June, 2005, provides easier access to the southwestern Tibet Autonomous Region as well as some central and southern Asian countries such as Pakistan and Tajikistan.

It will also speed up transportation of Hotan's farm produce to Aksu, a pivotal communications center, by cutting off 430 km and about half of the time used before.

The first highway across the Taklimakan, running 522 kilometers from Lunnan in the north, to Minfeng county in the south, was opened to traffic in 1995. However, vehicles bound for Aksu had to make a detour along the westernmost border of the desert, which covers 337,600 square kilometers.