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China’s new railway tunnel squeezed by tectonic crush in Tibetan snow mountain

  • In less than a month, the tunnel in Yunnan was reduced from a diameter of 12 metres to less than 3 metres as a result of shifting tectonic plates
  • Engineers working on the project are now looking for solutions to the unprecendented challenge


The Haba Snow Mountain Tunnel in the Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture is 9.5km long and sometimes at depths of up to 1,155 meters. Because of geological restrictions, experts have described building the tunnel as “the most difficult in China and rare in the world”.
Shifting tectonic plates have squeezed parts of a railway tunnel that has been under construction in south-western China by roughly six meters, the South China Morning Post reported on Friday.
According to the report, sections of the 9km Haba Snow Mountain Tunnel were hit by a crushing force caused by the collision of the Indian and Eurasian plates.
The engineers said that they tried to support the tunnel with “ultra-strong reinforced concrete structures,” but the force was so strong that it crushed “cement to dust and ripped apart the strongest steel rods.”
Since the construction of the railway tunnel, it seems as though the rock around the tunnel is collapsing under great pressure, “equal to the combined weight of 75 elephants standing on a single foot”.
“It is the most challenging tunnel in China at present,” Wei Quan Tian, project manager with the China Railway Sixth Group Company Limited, was quoted by the publication as saying. Wei added: “The Haba Snow Mountain Tunnel completely surpassed my understanding of tunnel construction.”
Work on the 139km Lixiang Railway started about eight years ago. Once the tunnel is completed, people in south-western China will be able to travel to Shangri La in Tibet in less than two hours. Haba Snow Mountain Tunnel is one of the 20 tunnels which is part of the project. The whole railway line is supposed to open by the end of this year.

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