Challenges of China Railway Construction

China is a country endowed with vast territory but complex topography, so the railway construction work on the land, especially through mountains and rough areas, is quite challenging and difficult. However, some seemingly impossible projects were completed with success, which should be attributed to the advanced construction technology. As follows, three notable projects will be cited for examples.
Qinghai-Tibet Railroad is also called the Heavenly Railroad in China, for it is built on world’s highest plateau, with the highest attitude of 5,546 yards (5,072 meters) at the top point. The line starts from Xining in Qinghai and stretches to Lhasa in Tibet, with a total length of 1,215miles (1,956 kilometers). In 2006, the line opened to traffic, which is a milestone in the country's rail history, and one of China's four major accomplishments in the 21st century. Actually, there are many technical difficulties for building such a railroad. Below are three major ones.

The permafrost became the first obstacle in the work. The permafrost usually expands on cold days, and melts and shrinks during warm days, which gives rise to fracture and collapse. An intensive research project resulted in the construction work gaining an unrivaled breakthrough. Finally, over 310 miles (500 kilometers) of lines were built to traverse the permafrost area. It is also the longest permafrost railroad in the world.

The second challenge was sever climate conditions. Firstly, the problem comes from oxygen shortage. About 85 percent of the lines, 596 miles (960 kilometers), is located in alpine areas with an altitude of over 13,123 feet (4,000 meters), and the air is pretty thin; with the annual average temperature under freezing point. In addition to the high ultraviolet index, the area is regarded as restricted zone, which challenges people’s survival extremely. In order to overcome this problem, roughly 115 medical stations were established to ensure the safety and health of the constructors and passengers. Meanwhile, each cabin in the train was equipped with an oxygen supply in case of emergency.

The last difficulty was protection of the venerable ecological environment. The line runs through the Hoh Xil and Qiangtang nature reserve regions, and a lot of rare species inhabit those areas. A big amount of money was invested into the environmental protection project, and there were about 25 special channels opened for the animal migration. The whole ecological system was effectively protected from the construction work.

Yichang-Wanzhou Railway

With a length of 234 miles (377 kilometers), Yiwan Railway goes from Yichang, Hubei, to Wanzhou, Chongqing. It is an important section of Shanghai-Wuhan-Chengdu High-Speed line.

The area that the railroad traverses belongs to karst landform. Lavas, faults, landslide, steep cliffs, deep valleys, and underground rivers make up the rather complex geographical landscape. To ensure passengers’ safety, tunnels and bridges were intensively used in the construction work on account of the unique geologic structures, making the railroad, “Museum of Railway Tunnels and Bridges,” and one of the most difficult and dangerous projects in history. Actually, it has the most tunnels and bridges in China which takes up 74 percent of the total length of the line, about 173 miles (278 kilometers). 159 tunnels in total, including five over 6.2 miles (10 kilometers), and 253 bridges were built.

In fact, the 234 miles long railroad took about seven years to be completed, that is to say, only 31 miles (50 kilometers) were finished in a year, averaged. This is also a good proof for the high index of the construction difficulty. About 22.7 billion RMB invested by the Chinese Government to support the project and construction work. On average, every kilometer of the line cost about 60 million RMB, about 31 million RMB higher than the cost of Qinghai-Tibet line, about 29 million RMB per kilometer.
From Zhanjiang in Guangdong to Sanya in Hainan, Yuehai Railway has a total length of 214 miles (345 kilometers). It is also the first cross-sea line in China, which marks one of the outstanding projects of high technology. Between Zhanjiang and Hainan Island, the Qiongzhou Strait blocks traffic. However, instead of constructing a subsea tunnel or bridge, special ferries were made to link the two sides of the strait. The tracks are paved on the three-deck ferries, so the trains can pull into Hainan Island smoothly.
- Last updated on May. 14, 2019 -
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