China mega-machines

China is the creation of a network of ambitious land and sea-based transport links to connect its booming economy with those of Europe and Africa. And without wasting time – amazing design as the construction of machines to make the job faster.

The president Xi Jinping ambitious of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), launched in 2013, aims to connect two-thirds of the world’s population in 70 countries through a network of land links (the “belt”) and sea routes (“route”).

Officials talk about the lives of investments worth billions of dollars from the banks, participating countries and the Chinese government.

The scheme is not without controversy. Critics point out that it imposes on poor countries with billions of dollars of Chinese debt, and consider it as a projection of the foreign policy of China.

However, the evidence of the Strap and of the Road can already be seen in China and beyond, where a fleet of new machines is the construction of railways, at a considerable speed.

The construction of bridges

How to build high-speed railways fast of large sections of the route should be suspended above valleys and ravines to avoid the bends?

Enter bridge-building machine SLJ900/32 – local nicknamed the Monster of Iron.

The SH is an all-in-one machine capable of carrying, lifting and placing of the sections of the track, the connection of pillar pillar by the heavy blocks of stone.

After the start of each section, the 92m (300 feet) of the vehicle – with the help of its 64-wheels – return to collect another block. Then it progresses with the part that has been put to another section.

Each wheel is in a rotating block of 16, which means that you can move to the sides.

Even with a full load, you can move at 5 km/h (3 mph), which ensures that the entire process is much faster than the traditional methods, which require huge cranes to be built on the ground.

At 580 tonnes, it is also much heavier than any of the rail traffic that will pass over the track is placed, that is to say, bridges are in fact much stronger than necessary for the railway traffic.

It has already contributed in the achievement of several high-speed rail projects, including a new link between Inner Mongolia and the rest of the country, what pushed China toward its goal of 30,000 km of high-speed rail in 2020.

This is how it works:

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Tales of the new silk roadExcavation of tunnels

Further south, the His ai project of the Road in Shantou, not far from Hong Kong, presents the ambitious task of drilling 5 km of underground six-lane highway through a zone of earthquakes.

When the tunnel opens in the year 2019, officials hope will modernize Shantou transport links in time for it to become one of the 15 key ports along the Silk route maritime.

Previously, the machinery required for His ai project, the Road would have been made overseas, but China has recently begun manufacturing its own tunnel boring machines (TBM) under a license.

The result is this 15.3 m slurry TBM, built by China Railway Engineering Equipment Group of companies, with the help of freelance German engineers and was opened in October of 2017.

Like their German counterparts, has a giant rotating disc on the front, capable of cutting the earth and rock.

Weighing 4,000 tons, has 100m final of the infrastructure that allows the workers to install the walls of the tunnel as the cutter head and inches forward, driven by hydraulic pistons.

As with other “slurry” of the machines, the debris of the cutting head is collected and transported to the exit of the tunnel.

It is not the biggest TUNNEL boring machine in the world – this accolade goes to Bertha, a 17.4 m TBM constructed for use in Seattle’s Alaska Way viaduct.

However, machines such as the 15.3 m CREG underlined China’s intention to become a key player in the construction of tunnels.

Placement of tracks

While the foundations of the BRI are established through China, large Chinese-funded infrastructure projects are already in progress thousands of miles away.

The Mombasa-Nairobi railway in Kenya received international attention when it was completed in May 2017, not least because it was 18 months earlier than planned.

The 480-km railway, is the first of a new line of Kenya since independence.

With 90% of its funding coming from China Exim bank, is the first train out of China, built for Chinese construction standards with Chinese machinery.

To understand how the railroad was built at a rate of 700 metres a day, look no further than the machine that laid the tracks.

The track of the layer of transport prefabricated lengths of track along a rail line, set one down, then rolls over the newly placed track to set the next.

Once these pieces of track are in place, the short rails for each section are replaced by more that you give the trains that serve the route for a smoother ride.

It takes only four minutes to install each section of track.

This is not a new idea – the principle has been put into practice in many parts of the world for decades – but China is not fast, the construction of the machines quickly and cheaply, and make them capable of transporting large sections of the track.

This is the machine in action:

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For all the technical wizardry, these machines still require a huge amount of labor.

The local workers, supervised by Chinese engineers – an effort to create sections of the trajectory over time in the factories along the route of the railway.

Then, you must carefully ensure that the track section is secured in the right place, with a margin of error of less than 2 cm (0,8 inch).

There are concerns about its safety. Last year, a senior Chinese engineer who works in the Mombasa-Nairobi line said to the news agency Xinhua: “In the site of the accidents are common.

“When they do occur, are almost always serious and often fatal.”

For now, however, around a million passengers have taken the route that reduces the travel time along the former British colony of the path of more than 10 hours to four.

Meanwhile, work has already begun to extend the line to the west, Kisumu, thanks to a $1.5 million (£1.1 bn) loan from China Exim Bank. Finally, it will link Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and Ethiopia.

If everything goes according to the plan – given the speed of construction made possible by these mega-machines – it will not be long before Kenya is located in the heart of a Chinese-financed by East Africa’s rail network.

Additional reporting by Yuwen Wu. Design by Prina Shah. Development of Joe Reed and Josh Rayman.

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