Plan drafted for $36b un­der­sea tun­nel

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By WANG QIAN wangqian@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China plans to build the world’s long­est un­der­wa­ter tun­nel be­neath the Bo­hai Sea by 2026, with a blue­print ex­pected to be sub­mit­ted to the State Coun­cil in April.

“Once ap­proved, work could be­gin as early as 2015 or 2016,” Wang Meng­shu, a tun­nel and rail­way ex­pert at the Chi­nese Academy of En­gi­neer­ing who has worked on the plan since 2012, told China Daily.

The project will cost an es­ti­mated 220 bil­lion yuan ($36 bil­lion), he said.

Work on a fea­si­bil­ity re­port could take two or three years, he said.

The 123-km un­der­wa­ter tun­nel will house a rail line con­nect­ing the port cities of Dalian in Liaon­ing prov­ince and Yan­tai in Shan­dong prov­ince, ac­cord­ing to the plan. Its planned life span will be about 100 years.

By length, it will sur­pass the com­bined length of the world’s two long­est un­der­wa­ter tun­nels — Ja­pan’s Seikan Tun­nel and the Chan­nel Tun­nel be­tween Bri­tain and France.

“Us­ing the tun­nel, it will take only 40 min­utes to travel from Dalian to Yan­tai,” Wang said.

At the mo­ment it is a 1,400km drive or about eight hours by ferry.

Pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles can be loaded onto rail car­riages and trans­ported at about 220 km an hour, mas­sively short­en­ing the travel time be­tween the two cities, ac­cord­ing to the plan.

Wang said the project will con­sist of two un­der­wa­ter tun­nels, both about 10 me­ters in di­am­e­ter, and a ser­vice tun­nel about 7 me­ters in di­am­e­ter.

Au­thor­i­ties in Shan­dong and Liaon­ing are hop­ing the project will stim­u­late eco­nomic growth by con­nect­ing the north­ern area with the wealthy east­ern coast.

The project has been pro­posed at the Na­tional People’s Congress and the Chi­nese People’s Po­lit­i­cal Con­sul­ta­tive Con­fer­ence ev­ery year since 2009.

Wang Liang, mayor of Yan­tai, said dur­ing the an­nual ses­sions of the top leg­is­la­ture and ad­vi­sory body in 2013 that the project will boost the city’s eco­nomic growth.

The project was men­tioned in Shan­dong’s re­gional plan ap­proved by the State Coun­cil in 2011.

Re­search by Ludong Univer­sity in Yan­tai showed daily traf­fic flow be­tween Dalian and Yan­tai is ex­pected to in­crease to more than 100,000 ve­hi­cles by 2015, which will pose a chal­lenge for trans­port ca­pac­ity.

Liu Zhongliang, a pro­fes­sor in­volved in the re­search, said the tun­nel is ex­pected to bring prof­its of 20 bil­lion yuan a year and boost tourism in sur­round­ing re­gions.

“The project can pay for it­self within 12 years,” Wang Meng­shu said.

Be­sides the prof­its, the tun­nel can re­duce the huge oil con­sump­tion re­quired ev­ery day for cars trav­el­ing back and forth on high­ways, he said.

He added the Bo­hai Sea tun­nel is a crit­i­cal part of the coun­try’s 5,700-km rail­way project to link the cities of Tong­shan in Hei­longjiang prov­ince and Sanya in Hainan prov­ince.

While build­ing un­der­wa­ter tun­nels is not new for Chi­nese en­gi­neers, tun­nel ex­pert Wang still em­pha­sized that the safety of the project will be the top con­cern.

“The draft plan has two chap­ters dis­cussing the po­ten­tial dan­gers in the project and the emer­gency plan,” he said.

Tan Guangzhong, Wang’s col­league, said flood­ing is the big­gest safety risk dur­ing tun­nel con­struc­tion.

In the con­struc­tion of the Seikan Tun­nel, a slew of leaks led to fi­nan­cial losses and killed four work­ers.

Wang said the Bo­hai tun­nel will be built at least 30 me­ters be­low the seabed, which is mostly hard rock.

Be­sides un­fore­seen ac­ci­dents, com­pli­cated ge­o­logic struc­tures may pose chal­lenges in the con­struc­tion, es­pe­cially when two ma­jor fault zones are in the re­gion.

The Tanlu and Zhangji­akou Penglai fault zones have been sources of chronic seis­mic ac­tiv­ity. The Tang­shan earthquake in 1976 killed tens of thou­sands of people.

Matthias Lofts­son, di­rec­tor of ge­ol­ogy for Ice­land’s Mann-vit, which has decades of ex­pe­ri­ence in land and sub-sea tun­nel de­sign, en­gi­neer­ing and con­sult­ing, high­lighted safety con­cerns.

“In gen­eral, though, one can say tun­nels are not un­safe in earthquake ar­eas, all depend­ing on the ge­ol­ogy, tun­nel depth and other lo­cal con­di­tions,” he said.

“How­ever, ex­ca­va­tion of a tun­nel through ac­tive faults, where dis­place­ment can oc­cur with a po­ten­tial dan­ger of flood­ing, would be of great con­cern and needs spe­cial at­ten­tion,” Lofts­son said.

Liu Jie, di­rec­tor of the China Earthquake Net­works Cen­ter, agreed that North­east China is un­sta­ble, with earthquakes of less than mag­ni­tude-5 fre­quently oc­cur­ring, es­pe­cially af­ter a mas­sive mag­ni­tude-9 earthquake in Ja­pan in 1999 caused large-scale move­ment of the litho­sphere, or the Earth’s rigid sur­face. Zhang Chunyan in Lon­don con­trib­uted to this story.

PHOTO BY LIU XIN­HAI / FOR CHINA DAILY

Kazak horse­men race across the snow in a vil­lage in Al­tay, Xin­jiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion, on Wed­nes­day. The vil­lage of La­site held the event as part of its first Ice and Snow Tourism Fes­ti­val, at­tract­ing more than 100 tourists and pho­tog­ra­phy en­thu­si­asts.

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