This is a miracle in the human road building history. within only 30 years China has increased its road mileage fivefold and built the largest highway network in the world. The railway mileage has exceeded 120,000 kilometers. China’s High Speed Rail (HSR) has started from scratch and reached to near 20,000 kilometers in 8 years. It accounts for 60% of high speed railroad in the world. Here is where the most complex tunnels and bridges are built in the world. More than 20,000 tunnels and over 1 million bridges connect where otherwise impossible to cross. China’s 230 airports and 3.5 million flights have created the second largest air travel network in the world. Along the 32,000 kilometer coastal line exist 7 out of the 10 most busiest ports in the world. Massive and convenient traffic networks are helping China maintain its vitality. It appears to be an impossible mission, but the Chinese have made this miracle with their hands. South Taihang Mountains, where the Indian plate and Eurasia plate collide. In the steep cliffs exists a road of hope. Xiyagou, a small village with less than 300 residents, is isolated from the outside world. In the past, 90% of the people from our village have not gone out of the mountains.
They don’t know the world outside. They have no school to attend. They don’t know what soy sauce and vinegar taste like. If people get a disease, they have to rely on their body to fight it. If one’s body failed to resist it, he would pass away in his early age. The villagers determined to dig out a road on the cliffs even if they can only use hammers and chisels During that time, hundreds of millions of Chinese are like them, having the same aspiration. They want to be connected with the outside world, and live a better life. In their eyes, this is the key to change their lives. This is a map of China. There are 660,000 light dots on the map. Every single dot represents a most basic administration unit China has an ambition that even the most remote villages will be connected by public roads. In 1949, the total length of public roads in China was 80,000 kilometers. In 1978, it reached 900,000 kilometers. Starting from the economical reform (1978), we have seen rapid development in China’s industrialization. And this has lead to a demand in transportation
We had to strengthen our road infrastructures, from covering more areas to also using more advanced technologies. Since 1988 when China built its first highway in less than 30 years, China’s highway mileage has increased to 120,000 kilometers (74,564 mi). It has become the largest in the world, surpassing Canada and the United States. Today, the China’s highway network is nearing its completion. What the engineers are facing next are the endpoints of the roads and those most challenging segments. In Wanzhou, a city with 800,000 migrants, people still keep the tradition of waterfront people. Here is the heartland of the Three Gorges, adjacent to the Yangtze River. For a long time, the roads here are far less convenient than those in the east. Transportation by boats can no longer satisfy people’s need of fast travel. But now, it’s about to change. Fuma Changjiang Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in the Three Gorges submersion area. The south tower is 166.6 m (546 ft) tall. the north tower is 210.5 m (690 ft) tall. Today, we are going to install the first suspension cable. After this is done, we are going to install another 216 cables in the next 2 months. After the main cables are installed, we are going to install the suspender and steel box girder.
Fuma Changjiang Bridge is a crucial checkpoint for Wan-Li Expressway that goes from Wanzhou to Lichuan, connecting this mountainous region onto the national highway networks. The bridge crosses 1,050 m (3,444 ft) over the river, with no pillars in the water, trying to minimalize the environmental impact. The two main cables are critical to carry the bridge that hangs 100m in the air and weighs 20,000 tons, almost 3 Eiffel Towers. because, in the coming 100 years lifetime of this bridge, they cannot be replaced. Therefore, the first cable installed is very important to overall safety of the bridge. On the catwalk, workers are installing the last post, a support for the main cable. This hanging walk built with iron and wood is the only platform for the workers. On the south end, workers are building the anchors on which the main cables will be securely fastened, ensuring the safety of the bridge. Now everything is ready It’s been raining since this morning and luckily it has stopped now. The steepest part on the catwalk is angled 45 degree and it is 100 meters (328 ft) in air, so it is very wet and slippery. Now we hope the fog will go away so we can start the installation of the first cable. Two 25 ton anchor windlasses have started slowly dragging the cable and anchor forward also causing big oscillation Engineers need to adjust the windlass speed to have the cable fall onto the pulleys safely «Turn it to 3 gear» At the safe time, it won’t be too fast to create too much tension The wind over the river has caused a greater challenge to this task The worker are paying a close attention to the red string because when it starts to twist, the main cable’s endurance will be greatly lowered.
The anchor is being dragged, smoothly passing both towers passing 1,000 m (3280 ft) over the river and fastened on the other side Next, workers will be installing another 215 cables and then use a compressor to create the two main cables, responsible for carrying the entire bridge Passing mountains after mountains, aerial work has become the biggest challenge to build Wan-Li expressway In just 94 km (58 mi), there are 1,407 pillars, among which the highest is 40 story tall. In western China exists enormous mountains and valleys for a long time, architect had to find the best route along the rivers and valleys the spiral roads not only are very inefficient but also would cause big damage on the environment a 180 degree turn is a nightmare for the drivers but today, the Chinese engineers already have the capability to straighten the roads they are building roads through the mountains and bridges across the rivers On Yaxi expressway, the bridge-tunnel to road ratio reaches 85%. it’s basically bridge after tunnel and then tunnel after bridge you can rarely see normal road Yaxi expressway, starting from the rim of Sichuan basin, needs to cross the wall-like Hengduan Mountains at the altitude of 3000 m (9842 ft) In the past, it would take one more than 10 hours to drive a distance of 300 km (186 mi) Now, the engineers have decided to go through the mountains but a problem has surfaced From Shimian to Mianning, we have to cross the Tuowu Range which is very high the road needs to climb up 1.5 km (0.93 mi) in a 57 km (35.4 mi) range especially this portion, it needs to climb 500 m (1640 ft) Elevating 500 m in 4 km means the average slope will be 9 degree For a fully loaded heavy truck, this is a dangerous slope the architects need to creatively reduce the slope by 70% We used the same idea in the spiral parking garage and designed two spirals here it first spirals into the tunnel, comes out, connects the bridge and then do this one more time One spiral climbs up about 120 m (394 ft) Yaxi expressway has become one of the main road in Southwestern China, cutting the driving time by 50% In less than 30 years, China has seen rapid development in its highway system Taking the capital Beijing as the center, radiating out with 29 main expressways plus many inter-regional expressways a road transportation network that connects every town with population of 200,000 has been formed But inside cities, new problems appeared In the 1980s, China is known to the world by a unique way of transportation At that time, China was called the kingdom of bicyles every 1 person out of 2 owns a bicycle The China at that time won’t expect such a radical change coming its way Everyday, Liu Bo will go from his office underneath a bridge to construction sites all over Beijing Beijing, the capital of China, a huge city with more than 21 million residents, has 5.6 million cars If parked closely to each other, the cars will cover the entire central districts For the convenience of the people, 6 ring roads (expressway), 7000 km (4349 mi) of public roads 1,200 bus routes and 18 metro lines constitute the public transportation in Beijing Even that is the case, the roads are still overloaded, which causes some great challenges to those who maintain the road «The maintenance are mostly done in the nighttime.
We are trying our best to achieve this without impacting people in the daytime» Sanyuan Bridge, located on the 3rd Ring Road, sees 13,000 car passing per hour during the peak hours Overloaded for a long period of time, the entire bridge needs to be replaced but if replaced by using the normal process, closing the road for 2 months, it will bring a huge problem Engineers plan to do the replacement in an extremely short time They are going to use a very smart plan Friday Nov 13 2015, the replacement process started at 11 pm In less than 6 hours, the 1600 tons bridge was dismantled In 24 hours, the site was cleaned up Two vehicles carrying the new bridge moved 60 meters at the speed of 1m/min (3.28 ft/min) After 70 minutes, the new bridge was in position. Concrete were poured and asphalts were paved Sunday Nov. 15, the traffic was back to normal at 6 pm Behind the 43 hours hard-work was a careful preparation done in 150 days and nights. People going to work on Monday didn’t even realize the bridge now has a new look Along with the rapid urban development, the roads have becomes more and more complex Due to the lack of space, 31 cities in China choose to move its traffic underground But in some other cities, because of the water, the situation becomes more complex At the bank of Yangtze River, a monster that stands 5 story tall and weighs 575 tons is ready to go Wuhan, where Yangtze River and Han River meets, is a transportation hub in central China.
But now, the wide water body has created a bottleneck for the traffic in the city According to the design of the 2nd Yangtze River Bridge, the throughput is 100,000 car/day, now it’s close to saturation In order to ease the traffic pressure, 19 cross-river bridges will be built but the dense bridges will bring a problem to the ships Designers decide to find a different solution to maximize the throughput An under river tunnel with both road and rails was included in the plan The diameter of the tunnel will be 15.2 m (49.8ft) The upper level will be a six-lane bidirectional road and lower level will be used by the city metro The excavation will be done using a tunneling shield Works are preparing to hoist the «tooth», a round cutter, of the tunneling shield into a 44 m (144 ft) deep well This is a huge and heavy steel giant It’s also very tense inside the well The main driver, the most expensive and delicate part of a tunneling shield, has been assembled They need to set up the scaffolding in order to connect the cutter and the driver After 4 hours of preparation work, they started the process to install the cutter Two belt-driven cranes were used to lift the cutter
The cutter was first lifted up horizontally and then slowly rotated to a vertical position It might sound easy to do, but every step needs to be done carefully and it might takes hours This crane can lift up a 750 ton object With its help, the gigantic cutter was moved down slowly At 10pm, the transformer like cutter was installed successfully Nowadays, tunneling shields have been adopted widely by Chinese engineers but they still have a much bigger ambition Here in Eastern China in this factory that was established merely 5 years ago workers are cleansing two old machines full of rust these two main drivers, having a diameter of 16 m (52.5 ft), are parts of a Chinese made super tunneling shield that was built for WeiSan Road in Nanjing Tunneling shield is a high-end machinery, related to many scientific fields It is very complicated and contains numerous parts In this field, China used to lag way behind the world 1958, in mountain areas of southwestern China, where it was called road forbidden area Chinese started to build a railroad that would connect Chengdu and Kunming This was the first time that this country started to use machineries, 90 years behind the West From that point onwards, Chinese started from zero, pursuing its dream of manufacturing advanced equipments After half a century, China’s manufacturing power has already stood out in the world but super tunneling shield machines were exclusively controlled by few companies in the world As the chief engineer of Nanjing WeiSan Tunnel, Zhang Boyang still remembers what happened then At that time, the foreign companies priced it for CN¥ 700 million (US $111 m in Feb 2018) We need two of these When we talked to them, they didn’t lower the price or make any compromise, but we felt it was too expensive We thought if you can make it, why can’t we ?
Forming the team, a new factory was built and Chinese started to build their own super tunneling shield machine These are some of the blueprint we drew when designing the tunneling shield We have over 7,000 drawings, created by around 50 designers working days and nights, to create this tunneling shield from the paper Built in 2 years, including R&D, TianHe No.1 (tunneling shield) cost less than CN¥ 500 million (US$79.5 million, Feb 2018) On Jul 2, 2015, after 1000 days and nights non-stop moving, Tian He No.1, which is 130 meter long and weighs 4758 tons, appears at the gate of the tunnel All the hardwork and perspiration have been worth it Stories like this are happening all over China Transportation pushes the country’s development and economic improvement brings more requirement to the road These mutual forces often surpass people expectation In some cities, new problems surfaced, expanding the traffic capacity Moving south 1500 km, the Pearl River, the second largest river in China by volume In its delta region locate the most developed cities in China Here is also the core of China’s export trade Many industries are concentrated here, making it the manufacturing center of the world Therefore, the Pearl River Delta region has built the densest highway system in the nation but it’s still far than enough Humen Bridge, the only East-West bound road over the river, supports the rapid development on both shores of the Pearl River But today, in mere 20 years after its completion, the bridge is now way overloaded traffic jam has become a norm The wish to create another east-west bound bridge has existed for over a decade Humen 2nd bridge is on its way Crossing the estuary, two world-class suspension bridges over 1000 meters need to be built simultaneously This is a challenge that has not been done before The main tower is 260 m (853 ft) tall, equivalent to 90 stories After its completion, it will become China’s tallest suspension bridge tower Adding 10 km long approach and two overpasses, the cost will multiply compared to normal bridges
The constructors need to be prudential in order to finish the task fast and safely In order to build these 8 giant towers in the shortest time engineer utilize overall hydraulic self-climbing formwork enabling the working platform at the top of the tower to self climb as the tower construction progresses «The north and south side are ready, the oil can go now» After 4 hours, a smooth climbing finishes On the other side, at the islet that connects two bridges segmental beams are being made More than 3500 beams of 50 kinds need to be manufactured and assembled here The biggest one weighs equivalent to 120 cars On average, 7 beams are produced per day from 5 assembly lines All production are standardized and computerized in order to finish everything in 3 years Even though the project duration is 5 years every task is calculated in terms of hours Engineers are trying their best to make this bridge open to public as early as they can, to expand the capacity in the Pearl River region Giant road network connects the entire country today’s China has the second most cars in the world Compared with 1990, it has grown 310 fold but this is not a pleasant trend «China can never be like the United States, becoming a country on the wheel» China’s car ownership now is at 13% and US is at 70% If China has the same ratio as the US, the entire world won’t be able to supply enough gasoline All kinds of problems have emerged high energy consumption traffic jam smog Chinese decide to walk a different path to move its people and cargo more effectively at a large scale the answer is railroad A network of 120,000 km (74,564 mi) is built 25% of world cargo is moved with 7% of world’s commercial mileage Especially for large cargos, railroad’s advantage is more obvious 100 km north of Beijing a beautiful S-shaped curve presents a heavy duty rail that has been running for over 23 years everyday, these «black steel dragons» snake their way here these trains come from Daton — the coal capital of China Coal is the most important energy source in China Even today, where the huge transformation are happening in the energy structure coal still supply 66% of China’s energy comsumption The 653 km long Daqin Railroad transports 1/4 of China’s coal Just like the aorta, it supplies blood(energy) to the East China (most of China’s population are located on the east coast) Daqin Railroad is a dedicated railroad to transport coal from Western China to Eastern China In 2002, its design capacity is 100 million tons after several upgrades, in 2010, its capacity reached 400 million tons In order to achieve such a big throughput on a single railroad the hauling power of the locomotives need to be improved At Daqin Railroad, the most commonly used locomotive has a hauling power of 20,000 tons One train-load of coal, if loaded on a 5-ton trucks, would require 4,000 trucks these locomotives are shipping coal nonstop to Qinhuangdao on the east where the coals will be loaded onto cargo ships But for a long time, China has another great ambition To build another north-south bound heavy duty rail that is 3 times as long as Daqin railroad This is a new challenge
In the Loess Plateau, wheats are turning yellow here is the deep inside the Zhongtiao Mountains Chen Changzhen has lived here his entire life In the old days, if we want to go to Taiyuan or Yunchen we had to climb over these Zhongtiao Mountains We started here in the morning. When we reached the other side, it would be dark The winding range once blocked Chen’s way out it also hindered the construction of Menghua heavy duty railroad Crossing the entire range, a 18.46 km (11.5 miles) tunnel needs to be built the first challenge encountered is the complex geological conditions here This is the most difficult tunnel on this railroad it has big water flow so far the water flow is 11,000 cubic meters a day (2.9 million gallon) the water flows out from the crevices in the sandstones 174 meters above it not dealt properly, the surge can submerge half the tunnel in no time «we have to pump out the water constantly, easily couple hundreds to a thousand cubic meters an hour ( 1 m3 = 264 gallons)» «If we don’t pump out the water, here would be submerged in an hour» Engineers first drill deep holes in the grits then pour fast setting concrete when it becomes stable, the explosion and excavation begin. it needs to be reinforced right away to ensure safety Compared to normal railroad, heavy duty railroad requires a stronger support from its base the foundation needs to be 1 meter tall It’s the first time engineers try to reinforce the arch and the base simultaneously A 24 meters long self-track trestle made their plan feasible the excavation is being conducted at the front trolleys can go above the trestle workers underneath can reinforce the concrete simultaneously in a very short period of time, a closed ring-shaped tunnel can be completed In the dark, facing the mud and noise everyday, this is these workers’ daily working environment Thanks to their efforts, China’s road network connects everywhere Compared to large cargos, to deliver small quantity cargo is more complicated In order to deliver things from all over the place to their destination, a different system is needed Cargo Grouping System Zhengzhou — at China’s Heartland Due to its unique geolocation, more trains are passing here than anywhere else Here, West-East Bound rail intersects North-South bound rail, creating the largest cargo transfer center in China Zhenzhou North Railway Station has China’s largest cargo grouping system 228 tracks are laid in a 5.3 km long station This is a train coming from Shenyang in Northeastern China It carries cargo going to Guangzhou (South), Xi’an (Northwest) and Nanyang (Central) The boxcars are being disconnected here Disconnected boxcar, taking different tracks, will then be regrouped with other cars going to the same destination At its peak time, over 30,000 boxcars are being processed here daily How do they achieve this ?
Xin Yafei, a connector at Zhenzhou North Railway Station A connector’s main duty is to disconnect the boxcars Where I’m standing right is called the camel hump it’s low on the sides and tall in the middle, just like the hump of a camel Via gravity, the boxcars are regrouped Here is how it works the arrived trains were pushed backward onto the camel hump according to the number shown in display, Xin Yafei will lift up the hook between cars to disconnect the boxcar Inertia keeps the car going into the grouping field Fully automated braking system make the car go at a certain speed and slowly latch onto a parked car in the field All track switching, route arrangement and signals are all decided here — the control room Also in Zhenzhou, 40 km away near the airport, a huge building is under construction In the future, a high-end science and technology park will be built here Ding Jianguo, the project lead, needs to accelerate the construction of this park’s surrounding infrastructures «People will be shopping here in the underground mall, then do entertainment on the ground» «It’s an L-shaped transit center» Tens of companies have already signed the contract and ready to move in here once built In the recent years, Zhenzhou, a city that was not considered a developed city in central China, is undergoing its transformation gradually In 2014, it has become the largest smart phone manufacturing hub in the world More and more high-end equipments and electronics manufacturers are setting up plants here These changes are not coincidental We buy components from all over the world and we sell to all parts of the world Why we choose here at Zhenzhou airport is because we see the fast and convenience of air frieght It will help us greatly in our industry Located at the center-most place in China, not only Zhenzhou is a hub for China’s freight rail and highway network but also the air freight has increased year over year Because if an international cargo flight choose here to transfer, it’s going to be very convenient no matter where in China the cargo will be shipped next A 2 hour flight from here covers 90% of China’s population More and more companies are seeing this advantage Zhenzhou has become the fastest growing area in terms of air cargo 2 years in a row Besides cargo, China has an even larger demand in passenger transporation Everyday, more than 9,000 flights take off from or land on 230 airports This is the second largest air networks in the world China is buying more than 300 planes every year In order to satisfy the ever-growing need for passenger transportaion the Chinese have started to build its own airliner Even that’s the case, it still can’t satisfy its people’s travel need China not only has the largest population in the world but also has the largest moving population Chunyun (lit. Spring Festival Transportation) is known to the world as the largest periodic migration in human history In just over a month, more then 3 billions people are on the way It’s like China has moved half or World’s population once China needs to find its own solution to move such large amount of people «Can you be a little faster ?
I’m in a hurry» «My family just called. My wife’s due date has been preponed. She is at hospital right now. I need to get back home and I just bought a high speed rail (HSR) ticket » To a frequent traveller like Chen Jun, HSR has become his primary way to travel, not just for emergencies. HSR to me is very convenient. For instance, I’m meeting a client here at Jinan in the morning. Then if there is a such need from Shanghai in the afternoon. I can just hop on a HSR and go to Shanghai in the afternoon. If my day is planned well, I can achieve a lot of things This is the choice of the Chinese people — HSR The reason is very simple While it can satisfy the huge passenger transportation demand, the per person 100 km energy consumption is only 1/12 of what airplane needs The Chinese plan is to build a super HSR network connecting every city together at the speed of 300 km/h, forming a giant economic zone The Jing-Hu (Beijing-Shanghai) HSR that Chen Jun rides often is the most important part of this plan In 2011, China invested 220.9 Billions Chinese Yuan (US$35.1 Billions in Feb 2018) to build Jing-Hu HSR Not only does it connects two of China’s biggest cities — Beijing and Shanghai, along the way, it also covers nearly 1/4 of China’s population There are 14 cities within population over 1 million It also connects Bohai Economic Circle and Yangtze River Delta Economic Zone At Railway Science Academy, the center of Railway ticketing system, Zhu Jianshen pays close attention to various data We did some calculation Taking the daily 400,000 riderships for example, the direct ridership from Beijing to Shanghai is only in the 10,000 range. which is only 3 — 4% of the entire ridership The rest comes from passengers traveling in the cities between Beijing and Shanghai It means the Jing-Hu HSR has a great economic impact on cities along the way, and this is the biggest difference compared to air travel Every 5 minutes, a train departs promptly on Jing-Hu HSR, having more schedules than most public buses After 5 years in operation, Jing-Hu HSR has already moved 490 million passengers Where the HSR passes, the economy becomes more connected and vital HSR in China no only becomes the main way to travel at mid-to-long distance, but also becomes the booster to acceleration people and economy exchange
The developed metropolises drive the economic development in the region Everyday, more than 350 CRH380 high speed trains are running on Jing-Hu railway at the speed of over 300 km/h (186 mph) This 1318 km (818 mi) trip only takes 4 hours Numerous puzzles need to be solved for something like this to happen The train need to cross Yangtze River at the speed of 300 km/h So the Chinese built Nanjing Dashengguan Rail Bridge, the world’s first six rails bridge with the highest design load The Danyang–Kunshan Grand Bridge , with an astonishing 164.5 km (102 mi) length, does not aim to become the world’s longest bridge The entire bridge hangs over and crosses Lake Yangcheng, overpassing 180 roads It also solves the issue that the foundation would descend over time In order to ensure the system is running at such high speed besides those super-scale project every part and link of the system need to be coordinated well In place less known to people, some unnoticeable details are the keys At Nanjing South Railway Station it’s full of travelers during the daytime At midnight, when the trains stopped and travelers left Wang Wei and his colleagues’ work have just started Our team is responsible for the device maintenance We have 38 junctions here at Nanjing South Station At this side, there 20 junctions and 100 switches The other side has 18 junctions and 90 switches The junction is the key point to control the speed of a high speed train Unlike cars or boats, trains have no steering wheels to control its direction It relies on junction to lead the train from one track to another
The faster the train is, the larger the radius is when making a turn and therefore the longer the junction is in order to prevent derailment Tens of switches need to be controlled simultaneously in order for train to switch lanes at the speed of a couple hundred kilometers per hour Wang Wei’s job is to ensure the absolute safety of these junctions the track can’t have any damage the connection needs to be seamless Every contact points of the switches need to have good contact For the entire high speed system, no details can be overlooked All these details have made China’s HSR develop rapidly in a short 12 year period of time becoming the world’s largest High Speed Rail network Covering 20,000 kilometers in length, it accounts for 60% of world’s HSR. What’s more important China has made HSR a real public transportation tool for mass transit It has become more and more Chinese’s preferred way of traveling And thanks to the convenience the HSR brings, Chen Jun will not miss one of his most exciting moment in his life China, on its way of pursuing better transportation, is far from stopping After the 30 years rapid development, the large scale road networks are nearing completion As our country’s transportation infrastructures, including roads, railways, waterways and civil aviation, become complete developing an integrated system inevitably becomes next historical need What we called hubs are where these transportation connect After 4 hour 48 minutes moving south on Jing-Hu HSR, it arrives at Shanghai Hongqiao Station This is a gigantic transportation hub It has everything except waterways If one has the need, he can take plane to other places There are 91 domestic and international flights leaving here everyday West-bound HSR will take passengers to the farthest province in Southwestern China Long distance bus will take you conveniently to surrounding cities and towns Metro will take you into the city in 20 minutes High efficiency, speed and low energy consumption at the same time different transportation systems are developed in a coordinated fashion this is the future of China’s future transportation From the hand-digged road on the cliff to the bridge hanging over the natural obstacles in Three Gorges from the heavy duty railroad supplying energy to China’s development to the high speed rail that connects cities in mere 30 years, Chinese constructors have built road into almost every villages and built the world largest highway and high speed railway network connecting the entire China as a one day economic zone every new route that appears will bring people more convenience and empower the economic growth and this is not the end in the last 30 years, there is a project that has changed the speed of this country’s development Advanced large equipments and innovation have given engineers more confidence to conquer the nature that they were unable to conquer From the south to the north, we are going to tell China’s story of building bridges Coming next: Mega structure II: EP2 China’s Bridges