In addition to construction of the Qinghai-Tibet and the Qinghai-Kangding highways, construction of the Qinghai-Tibet Railroad is one of the main projects in the permafrost region of China.

Permafrost remains one of the significant problems in the construction of the railroad. Climate warming and the warm condition of permafrost with its high ice content will influence roadbed stability. In order to protect the permafrost and ensure the stability of the roadbed, new approaches for cooling embankments are proposed. Under the research programme on the interaction of climate, permafrost and engineering, new principles and technologies for adjusting and controlling permafrost ground temperature are being developed. Thus far, and based on research at three experimental field sites and laboratory tests, the main measures employed are the use of thermopiles and crushed stone embankments. The railroad has entered more than 100 km into the permafrost region. Many institutes of the Ministry of Railways, the Ministry of Communications, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences are taking part in this engineering research.

Research under the grant entitled “Interaction between Qinghai-Tibet Railway Engineering and Permafrost and Environmental Effects” and sponsored by the Knowledge Innovation Programme of the Chinese Academy of Sciences is in progress. This programme was directed mainly to the State Key Laboratory of Frozen Soil Engineering, CAREERI, CAS.

The research topics are:

• Research on the stability of permafrost in the construction of the railroad.

• Research on the mechanism of freeze–thaw damage and the prevention and countermeasures along the railroad                                              

• Interaction between climate and permafrost along the railroad                                                                                                                                                                                   

• Interaction between engineering structures and permafrost along the railroad.                                                                                                                                                         

• Research on the stability of railway embankment under dynamic loading and the engineering characteristics of saline soils in the permafrost region of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.                       

• Exploiting research on the “digital roadbed” and the emulation system.                                                                                                                                                                         

• Application research on the forecasting of and recovery from thunderstorm-induced disasters on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

The Sixth International Symposium on Permafrost Engineering will be held September 5–7, 2004, in Lanzhou, China, organised by the Society of Glaciology and Geocryology, a Branch of the Geographical Society of China, the State Key Laboratory of Frozen Soil Engineering (CAREERI, CAS), the First Railway Survey and Design Institute and United Institute of Permafrost Research and Natural Resources Development (SB, RAS), among others. The Symposium will discuss and exchange research achievements and practical experiences in permafrost engineering science and technology.

The themes are:

• Physics and mechanics of frozen soil                              

• Construction and operation of engineering structures in permafrost regions

• Linear construction in permafrost regions

• Environmental protection in permafrost regions

• Monitoring methods and technique for cold regions engineering

The deadline for submission of abstracts is January 1, 2004, and for submission of papers for publication April 1, 2004. A seven-day field excursion from Lanzhou to Lhasa will provide an opportunity for symposium participants to visit construction sites along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. An International Regional Permafrost Conference in Lanzhou in summer 2006 and the post-conference field excursion along the Qinghai-Tibet railway and highway are being organised. Topics focus on the countermeasures for solving engineering problems in construction of Qinghai-Tibet railway and highway.

Ma Wei (