China ranks first in the world both in the number of tunnels and the speed of development, Hu Xijie, vice-minister of communications, said Wednesday.
Hu said at the International Seminar on Tunnel and Road Technology, which opened Wednesday, China will pay more attention to road construction in the vast western region as it is carrying out the strategy to boost development in the west.
"The main battlefield for road construction will gradually move to the west, which means road tunnel construction will be ushered into a new development phase because of the special terrain in that part of the country," Hu said, adding that a large amount of extra-long tunnels will be constructed.
By 2010, more than 155 kilometers of road tunnels will have been built in China. The 18.4-kilometer-long Zhongnan Mountain tunnel, which will pass through the Qinling Mountain range, will be the second longest in the world and the first in Asia. Many other mountain tunnels each with a length of 4-8 kilometers will also be constructed.
In 1979, China had only 374 road tunnels, with a total length of only 52 kilometers. By the end of 2001, that number had reached 1,782, in a total length of more than 700 kilometers, making China the country with the most tunnel and underground projects, the most complicated engineering and the fastest tunnel development in the world.
So far, China has 1.72 million kilometers of roads, including 200,000 kilometers of expressways. China ranks the world's second in expressway mileage, and the length will reach 230,000 kilometers by the end of this year.
The seminar is the first ever large-scale technical seminar jointly hosted by the Chinese Ministry of Communications and the World Road Association. Some 700 communications officials and world renowned road experts from more than 20 countries and regions are present at the three-day seminar.
Founded in 1909, the association is a non-governmental and non-profit organization dealing with road infrastructure planning, design, construction, maintenance and operation.