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Ambitious agenda floats for Bohai Rim underwater tunnel

Editor: Qian Ding 丨CCTV.com

06-01-2017 14:26 BJT

By Tom McGregor, CCTV.com Panview commentator and editor

The Bohai Sea Rim region offers much potential for greater prosperity, since its connected to East Coastal China's Shandong Province, Northeast China and Jing-Jin-Ji (Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Province).

The Jing-Jin-Ji zone brings more space for China's capital city. Shandong stands between Beijing and Shanghai. Yet, the northeast region - Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces have not witnessed rapid economic development in recent years.

Northeast China is sparsely populated and borders China's Inner Mongolia to the west and Russia to the north and east. However, Dalian, a port city on the southern coast of Liaoning has risen in status.

Dalian is conveniently located to spur more shipping trade with South Korean exporters and Chinese traders delivering goods to the Korean Peninsula.

Nonetheless, the Bohai Sea makes logistics a big challenge for transporting products to-and-from Dalian port with other cities in inland China.

123km-long underwater tunnel solution

Accordingly, China's NDRC (National Development and Reform Commission) approved plans in 2014 to build the world's longest undersea tunnel to connect Dalian with Yantai, Shandong Province.

The planned 123km tunnel has faced delays, but officials have given the green light again for the project, which comes with a price tag - RMB 220 billion ($US36bn.) and expected to take 12 years for total construction time.

Dalian is at the northern side of Bohai Sea, while Yantai is on its southern coast. Currently, car drivers traveling between the two cities must take a circular route on the coastline, over 1,400km-long.

Drivers taking the underwater tunnel could reduce travel time to about an hour, and 30 minutes if they are riding a hi-speed passenger train.

Cargo freight, trains and trucks, can deliver products from Dalian Port to inland Chinese ports in much shorter times.

From Zhengzhou to Madrid

The world's longest tunnel can be connected with infrastrucure projects under the Belt & Road (B&R) Initiative that Chinese President Xi Jinping had introduced to the public in 2013.

The B&R would embark on building major infrastructure projects, such as logistics - roads, tunnels, railways and airports - that are connected to economic corridors (manufacturing and energy hubs) to boost cross-border trade and investments with countries in Asia, Africa, Middle East and Europe.

Zhengzhou in central China has a huge inland hub, serving as a major artery for transporting rail freight between China and Europe, as well as the Middle East.

China Railways Corp. has already constructed a freight line that reaches from Zhengzhou to Madrid, with travel time - 15 days from one end to the other. That cuts rail freight time nearly in half, while making deliveries to and from Europe so much cheaper.

Underwater transport, but is it safe?

The Bohai Sea Rim underwater tunnel sounds brilliant, but can engineers make the project safe? Planners must contend with numerous challenges.

The tunnel is underwater, so if it collapses all those in the tunnel would drown. You have a tunnel that has two layers, one for hi-speed trains and another for vehicle drivers.

In an underwater highway - 123km-long, what happens if there’s a car accident or stalled vehicle? Well, engineers have outlined some proposals.

The railways and car tunnels would each have three separate lanes. Two for trains and vehicles going in one-way directions, while a tunnel in the middle will hold maintenance workers and equipment that can come to the rescue when traffic jams or train accidents occur.

Wang Mengshu, tunnel expert with the China Academy of Engineering, told China Daily that planning for the tunnel had taken 20 years of research, but new technology innovations have resolved key concerns.

Integrating northeast China with the world

Zhang Zhiyuan, director of the Research Economy from Shandong University of Finance & Economic, holds high hopes for the Bohai Sea Rim underwater tunnel.

"The Cross-Bohai-Strait Channel can help create a transportation artery for east China, a combination of sea, air and land transportation networks," said Zhang.

He added, "The project will also connect the Liaodong Peninsula, Shandong Peninsula and Jing-Jin-Ji as a whole, promoting economic integration to push forward the economic development of North China and Northeast Asia."

Officials say the tunnel is scheduled for completion in 2026, but many believe it could take longer.

Tmcgregorchina@yahoo.com

(The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com)

Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

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