Im­pres­sive feats of en­gi­neer­ing

New Zealand Truck & Driver - - Truck Shop -

AFRIEND SENT ME A VIDEO CLIP RE­CENTLY. IT’S CALLED The Grand Tour: China’s Road Net­work, and it’s pre­sented by British mo­tor­ing mad­men Jeremy Clark­son, Richard Ham­mond, and James May, formerly of Top Gear fame.

Clark­son lav­ishes praise on China’s high­ways as “the eighth won­der of the world.” The Chi­nese mo­tor­ways, con­structed only over the last two decades or so, are cer­tainly an ex­traor­di­nar­ily im­pres­sive en­gi­neer­ing achieve­ment.

There are 135,000 kilo­me­tres of mo­tor­way – more than any other coun­try in the world – and in­clude a bridge that is 54kms long (about the same dis­tance as Welling­ton to Waikanae), ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­men­tary.

Mo­tor­ways, all multi-lane and su­per smooth, span rivers and gorges and alpine passes: “There’s no moun­tain high enough, no val­ley deep enough,” says Clark­son.

The doc­u­men­tary, which was pro­duced at the be­gin­ning of 2019, well be­fore the coro­n­avirus out­break, demon­strates China’s great push to be­come a world leader – and one of the ways it’s do­ing that, just as other coun­tries have done in the past, is by build­ing roads.

Yes, China also has high-speed rail, but mo­tor­ways are still vi­tal for mov­ing freight and peo­ple across the coun­try.

Two thou­sand years ago, the an­cient Ro­mans built roads to con­nect their em­pire – the largest on earth at that time. They built them so well that many re­main to this day – in fact some were bet­ter built than more mod­ern ones!

In the 1930s, Hitler built Ger­many’s au­to­bahn net­work – partly to help solve un­em­ploy­ment. If only he had struck to in­fras­truc­ture in­stead of launch­ing World War 2! The au­to­bahns – parts of which still have no speed re­stric­tions for cars – were ex­tended af­ter the war and have played a vi­tal role in cre­at­ing Ger­many’s pow­er­house econ­omy.

I have lived in Ger­many and vis­ited many times. One sur­prise is that not all big in­dus­tries are lo­cated in ma­jor cities. You can visit a small town or vil­lage and find a ma­jor man­u­fac­turer (a bath­room fac­tory, a glass fac­tory, or a pi­ano fac­tory, for ex­am­ple) that ex­ports its prod­ucts around the world and sup­ports jobs in the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

Yes, you can get most places by rail, which is great, but good roads are es­sen­tial in en­sur­ing trucks reach main trans­port hubs.

Nor­way is an­other Euro­pean coun­try with out­size mo­tor­way plans. The $NZ78­bil­lion, 1100km Coastal High­way project en­vis­ages con­nect­ing Nor­way’s rugged west coast via a sin­gle high­way, from Kris­tiansand in the far south, to Trond­heim in the north – cross­ing fjords and moun­tains. The project aims to elim­i­nate the need for fer­ries by build­ing a se­ries of bridges and tun­nels.

New Zealand’s land­scape is equally chal­leng­ing. As the pop­u­la­tion has steadily grown, it has be­come clear that our road­ing net­work is woe­fully in­ad­e­quate. Welling­ton’s Trans­mis­sion Gully, when it is fi­nally com­pleted, will be a huge im­prove­ment.

Plans to in­vest more in roads, an­nounced ear­lier this year, were wel­comed, but un­for­tu­nately did not go far enough. The South Is­land largely missed out, with the lion’s share of fund­ing go­ing to Auck­land. I be­lieve that was a short-sighted plan.

More money for in­fras­truc­ture and roads, an­nounced in the Bud­get, is good news for the truck­ing in­dus­try. But, as is of­ten the case, the devil will be in the de­tail. The Road Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion, to­gether with the Road Trans­port Fo­rum, can make a dif­fer­ence by lis­ten­ing to mem­bers and en­sur­ing their voices are heard by the au­thor­i­ties and gov­ern­ment min­is­ters.

It is a fal­lacy to think that road­ing and the en­vi­ron­ment are mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive. Both Nor­way and Ger­many, for ex­am­ple, are big on sus­tain­abil­ity, cli­mate change, and re­new­able en­ergy. Think about it: If you have fast and free-flow­ing mo­tor­ways, then ve­hi­cles use less fuel, pro­duc­ing fewer emis­sions. They speed up tran­sit times, eas­ing stress lev­els and ben­e­fit­ting busi­nesses – a win-win.

As in other coun­tries, bet­ter roads can help re­build the econ­omy and im­prove peo­ple’s lives.

The views in this col­umn are David Kil­lick’s own and may not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect those of the as­so­ci­a­tion. T&D

Chi­nese mo­tor­ways have been dubbed the eighth won­der of the world.

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