China's vaulting economic ambition has set a new record with the construction of the world's longest bridge over water.
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The sheer scale of the Qingdao Haiwan Bridge reveals the advances made by Chinese engineers in recent yearsPhoto: WENN
By David Eimer, Beijing8:02PM GMT 08 Jan 2011
At 26.4 miles long, the Qingdao Haiwan Bridge would easily cross the English Channel and is almost three miles longer than the previous record-holder, the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in the American state of Louisiana.
The vast structure links the centre of the booming port city of Qingdao in easternChina's Shandong Province with the suburb of Huangdao, spanning the wide blue waters of Jiaozhou Bay.
Built in just four years at a cost of £5.5 billion, the sheer scale of the bridge reveals the advances made by Chinese engineers in recent years.
No longer dependant on western expertise for such sophisticated projects, the six-lane road bridge is supported by more than 5,200 columns and was designed by the Shandong Gausu Group. When it opens to traffic later this year, the bridge is expected to carry over 30,000 cars a day and will cut the commute between the city of Qingdao and the sprawling suburb of Huangdao by between 20 and 30 minutes.
At least 10,000 workers toiled in two teams around the clock to build the bridge, which was constructed from opposite ends and connected in the middle in the last few days.
A staggering 450,000 tons of steel was used in its construction – enough for almost 65 Eiffel Towers – and 2.3 million cubic metres of concrete, equivalent to filling 3,800 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Chinese officials said that the bridge will be strong enough to withstand a magnitude 8 earthquake, typhoons or the impact of a 300,000 tonne vessel.
With its economy growing by 16 per cent a year, Qingdao is one of China's fastest-growing and most prosperous cities. The main port of the Chinese navy and home of Tsingtao Beer, China's best-known brew, it hosted the sailing events of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Briefly occupied by Germany between 1898 and 1914, Qingdao's mix of early 20th century European-style villas and churches, sandy beaches and reputation for fine seafood has seen it become one of China's most popular domestic tourist destinations in recent years. It is also regarded as a highly desirable place to live. A 2009 Chinese survey named Qingdao as China's most liveable city.
Qingdao's residents have hailed the bridge as a long overdue marvel.
"I'm so happy the bridge is finished. The old road between Qingdao and Huangdao is so crowded and now my journey will be much easier. We are a tourist city with beautiful beaches, so it is important we have good transport links," said one commuter on sina.com, China's biggest internet portal.
But people from other parts of China have denounced the huge cost of the bridge, especially as it only cuts the distance between Qingdao and Huangdao by 19 miles.
"To spend billions to save 20 minutes driving time is a waste of taxpayers money. It's just a show project to make the governor of Shandong look good," complained one commentator from Jilin Province in China's northeast.
China is already home to seven of the world's 10 longest bridges, including the world's lengthiest, the 102 mile Danyang-Kunshan rail bridge, which runs over land and water near Shanghai.
And with Beijing pumping billions into boosting China's infrastructure, the Qingdao Haiwan Bridge will not be the world's longest sea bridge for very long.