Published On: Tue, May 7th, 2024
World | 3,592 views

The incredible new £3bn tunnel that will be the world’s longest | World | News


China is embarking on an ambitious project to construct the world’s longest highway tunnel, a monumental feat that will traverse the sprawling Tianshan mountain range and significantly enhance connectivity between the country’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and Central Asia.

The groundbreaking tunnel, named Tianshan Shengli, promises to revolutionise transportation and bolster economic exchanges in the region, which experts deem crucial for foreign trade expansion.

Scheduled for completion by October 2025, the Tianshan Shengli tunnel forms a pivotal segment of the Urumqi-Yuli Expressway, serving as a vital link between the southern and northern sectors of Xinjiang.

Construction on the project started in 2016 and is due to complete in 2031 at a cost of SEK 41.7 billion (£3bn).

Upon its inauguration, commuters can anticipate a dramatic reduction in travel time, with passage through the formidable Tianshan Mountains slashed to a mere 20 minutes.

Notably, the journey from Urumqi to Korla, Xinjiang’s bustling urban centres, will be truncated from over seven hours to approximately three hours, heralding a new era of efficiency in regional transportation.

With an anticipated length of 22.1 kilometres (13.7 miles), the Tianshan Shengli tunnel eclipses all other ongoing tunnel constructions worldwide.

Xu Tianchen, an economist from The Economist Intelligence Unit, explained the transformative impact of this infrastructure marvel.

He said: “Completion will certainly benefit trade and economic growth in the underdeveloped part of Xinjiang.”

Xu further emphasises the strategic importance of Central Asia as a nexus for economic activities, foreseeing heightened infrastructure developments, including the prospective China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway.

Central to China’s diplomatic and economic endeavours, Central Asia emerges as a linchpin in the revamped Belt and Road Initiative. Xu Tianchen added: “Central Asia provides a reasonable return-risk mix, especially with its rich energy reserves and acceptable security situation.”

Despite geopolitical tensions surrounding Xinjiang, exemplified by Western sanctions and accusations, the region continues to witness burgeoning foreign trade, underscoring its pivotal role in China’s broader economic strategy.

China’s leveraging of Xinjiang’s strategic geography, boasting borders with eight countries including Russia, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan, underscores the region’s centrality in the Belt and Road Initiative.



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