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Digging deeper more extensive tunnel networks in China

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

08-12-2015 16:38 BJT

By Tom McGregor, freelancer based in Beijing

New skyscrapers keep rising all over China, while cities nationwide grow larger. Urbanization runs strong here. When visiting Chinese cities, newcomers may feel overwhelmed by its modernization, but upon closer they would notice that sewers for rain drainage are hard to find.

China's top cities appear cosmopolitan on the outside, but what's hidden underground is a different story. Even Beijing remains unprepared from the aftermath of thunderstorms. In July 2012, floods killed 79 residents. Many blamed the tragedy on a lack of sewers.

Nevertheless, China may have learned important lessons from the incident. China has embarked on state-of-the-art tunneling projects to boost its urbanization drive.

Utilities pipelines going underground

Chinese streets are often crowded. Matters get much worse when repair crews block sections of roads to fix telecommunications lines and power-cables. However, the State Council, China's Cabinet has approved plans to build a world-class utilities tunnel network by 2020.

ECNS (English-language China News Service) reports that such tunnels could solve problems of the so-called ‘road zippers’ and ‘overhead spider webs.’ A ‘road zipper’ means the ditches dug for repair-work and installations; ‘overhead spider webs’ are defined as unsightly power-lines and telecommunications cables.

By building more underground tunnels for sewers, constructions laborers can work below streets to fix and install all utilities' cables that keep cities running day and night. Government officials are encouraging private companies to participate.

Get ready for world's longest undersea tunnel

When it comes to engineering fads, constructing undersea tunnels seems to be all the rage; especially since the Channel Tunnel, built under the English Channel to connect the United Kingdom with France, was opened in 1994.

China is prepared to follow suit with plans to build the world's longest undersea tunnel, 76-miles-long, underneath Bohai Bay that would connect the cities of Dalian with Yantai. Construction is scheduled to begin next year.

The project is estimated to cost over $US22bln, but brings along significant technology upgrades. The tunnel is expected to hold three lanes: one for vehicles; one for high-speed trains and the other for maintenance, according to the Daily Telegraph of London.

Special boring equipment would dig through hard rock, 100ft. beneath the seabed, while vertical shafts will be erected on islands for ventilation purposes.

Soaring to new heights for mountain tunnels

The most challenging tunnels to build are not underground or even under water, but those high up in the mountains. Its terrain is rugged, difficult for boring straight paths and the high altitude can harm constructions workers’ health and safety. Yet, China’s most elaborate tunnels can be found high above the ground.

In April 2014, the world's highest tunnel for high-speed trains was completed in northwestern China. The 1,776km Lanxin Rail Line connects the capital cities of Gansu Province and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. A 16,3km tunnel stood at an altitude of 3,607.4 meters passing through the Qilian Mountains.

The official in charge of the project for China Railways 20th Group Co., Ltd., Guo Yunan told China.org news that the tunnel was the key connector for the Lanxin Line, designed for trains to run faster than 200kmh. The route would shorten land travel time between Lanzhou to Urumqi from 20 hours to just eight hours.

Bigger and bolder plans for tunnel networks

Chinese engineers do not fear limitations when designing and constructing tunnels. Beijing is hoping to boost bilateral trade and diplomatic relations with Nepal. Kathmandu first proposed the idea to increase trade in the Himalayan Mountains region.
Beijing has even taken into consideration the prospect of building a tunnel running through Mt. Everest in Nepal. That would be no easy task, but tunnels are crucial for linking roads and railways.

Additionally, China should add impetus to upgrade its network of sewers for flood prevention. It's also time for the country to create a more expansive utilities pipeline underground. These are ambitious goals, but well worth the effort.


( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )



Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.



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