PROMOTING TRADE, COOPERATION
Analysts say the railway has integrated the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau into China's overall economic development program and promoted interprovincial cooperation.
The railway runs through the resource-rich Qaidam Basin, known for its salt lake, petroleum, gas and other mineral resources.
A number of mining companies are seeking to explore resources in the area in a more rational and sustainable way.
Qinghai Province and Tibet are also working together on an industrial park for regional cooperation in developing plateau products, tourism and mineral industries.
The railway, plus its extension from Lhasa to Tibet's second largest city Xigaze -- set to be completed by 2015, will also link Tibet closer with China's south Asian neighbors including India and Nepal.
"Tibet will serve as a pivotal hub linking China's central and western regions with south Asia," said Wang Daiyuan, an economist with Tibet's regional academy of social sciences.
Wang said the railway has brought "profound changes" to Tibet, turning the formerly isolated and underdeveloped region into a trade center.
Tibet's foreign trade hit a record 836 million U.S. dollars last year, twice the 2009 figure, said Ma Xiangcun, the region's commerce chief.
Exports of Tibetan-made products, including herb, wool, cashmere, beverages and building materials, totaled 46.5 million U.S. dollars, 6 percent of its total exports.
Better infrastructure has created a sound investment environment, said Tian Fuli, chief of Tibet's merchants bureau. "A number of Chinese and foreign companies have shifted from the rich eastern regions to the Tibetan plateau for investment purposes."
Over the past five years, Tibet received 19 billion yuan of investment from Chinese and international businesses, he said.