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$11.3-Billion China Rail Link Tunnels 63% of the Way

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Map by ENR
The Lanzhou-Chongqing Railway will reduce the rail distance between two economic hubs in northwest China to 820 kilometers from 1,466 km and cut travel time to 6.5 hours from 17.5 hours. The railway is planned to open in 2014.
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Project: Lanzhou-Chongqing Railway
Cost: $11.3 billion
Construction Period: 2008-14


Lanzhou is a city of heavy industry and petrochemicals, located on the south bank of the Yellow River in northwest China. With a population of 2.2 million, it is the capital and largest city in Gansu Province. About 800 kilometers to the south, Chongqing, a manufacturing center on the Yangtze River in Sichuan Province, is one of the largest municipalities in China, with a population of 30 million. The Qinling Mountains sit between the two.

The Lanzhou-Chongqing Railway project will link these two economic hubs with an 832-km double-track rail line. The hilly route through the Gansu, Shaanxi and Sichuan provinces will require 285 bridges, totaling 104 km, or 13% of the route, and 178 tunnels, covering 506 km, or 63% of the route. Twelve of the tunnels will exceed 10 km in length, with the longest measuring 29 km.

Tunneling crews from two contractors are making steady progress on the 16.6-km-long West Qinling twin tunnels. China Railway Tunnel Group Co. Ltd.’s 18th Bureau is managing the Left Line Tunnel, while China Railway Construction Co. Ltd. is managing the Right Line Tunnel. The contractors did some of the initial tunneling by the drill-and-blast method. Both contractors are using 10.2-meter-dia tunnel-boring machines supplied by The Robbins Co., Solon, Ohio.

According to Robbins’ project manager, Andy Ju, "[The job] is very difficult, especially because major [TBM] components need to be transported to the jobsite through the area severely afflicted by the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province. The roads are very remote and prone to washouts in bad weather.” He pointed out that, despite the distance “from shop assembly to the jobsite [being] 800 kilometers, including 300 kilometers of mountain roads, it only took us 10 days for the major parts transportation.”

The project owner, the Lanzhou-Chongqing Railway Co., is a joint venture of the Ministry of Railways, the Gansu and Sichuan provincial governments, and the Chongqing municipal government. The line will have 31 stations and be designed for double-stacked container traffic.

By reducing the current rail route between Lanzhou and Chongqing to 820 km from 1,466 km, the project will cut travel time between the cities to 6.5 hours from 17.5 hours. The entire railway is planned to open to traffic in 2014.

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