The highway facilitates travel in the desert

July 6, 2022

BEIJING – A desert highway in the southern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region was opened on Thursday, dramatically reducing travel time, benefiting residents and boosting regional socio-economic development, according to its construction company.

The 334-kilometre highway, connecting Yuli and Qiemo counties in Xinjiang’s Bayingolin Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture, is located in the Tarim Basin between the southern slopes of the Tianshan Mountains and the northern side of the Altun Mountains.

The expressway was built by China Communications Construction Company, a multinational engineering and construction company that mainly focuses on ultrawide infrastructure development.

The new highway crosses the hinterland of the Taklimakan Desert, the largest desert in China. It is the third desert road that has been built through the desert.

Almost 92% of the new road – 307 km – is in the desert, which makes construction extremely difficult.

“It was one of the most difficult desert roads to build in the world,” said Wang Yunfei, project manager of the road at CCCC.

The highway is expected to significantly benefit the inhabitants of the prefecture.

“It cuts the travel time between Qiemo County and Korla, capital of Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture of Bayingolin, from 12 hours to 6 hours, improving the travel experiences of local residents, reducing their cost of living and helping them to sell agricultural products outside the region,” Li Ying said. , deputy general manager of Xinjiang Communications Investment and Development Corp, a subsidiary of CCCC.

The road passes through an area rich in oil resources in the Tarim Basin, which will provide strong support for oil and gas exploration and transportation, boosting socio-economic development in southern Xinjiang, he said. added.

“My family’s cotton field is near the Tarim River. With enough water, my cotton is usually harvested,” said Li Jinjian, a cotton farmer from Yuli County.

“But during the harvest and sales season in the past, I was often worried and worried because the journey from my cotton field to the nearest cotton collection center was an exhausting journey.

“Although the distance (from the cotton field and the nearest place to sell cotton) was only less than 50 km, it took a few days to complete the journey as we had to cross the desert and the river. The new highway gives me hope. The cotton can be shipped easily and I hope our income will also increase,” he added.

The workers had to overcome challenges in the construction.

“The road crosses the Taklimakan Desert in a north-south direction. With a seven-month windy season in the desert, the extremely harsh natural conditions weren’t the only challenge. We also faced problems such as no water, no electricity, no mobile phone signals and frequent sandstorms with visibility less than 5 meters,” said project manager Wang.

To reduce environmental damage, construction workers used the main platform instead of building a new foundation, which is a widely adopted method in road construction.

“We have strived to protect the fragile desert environment,” Wang said.

Due to complicated geographical conditions and extreme weather conditions, some areas in southern Xinjiang have poor transportation networks. However, the region’s infrastructure has been greatly improved this year.

In addition to the new highway, a railway line in Bayingolin opened in June.

The railroad is located at the southern end of the Taklimakan Desert, the last stop to form a rail loop circling the desert. It is also the first rail loop in the world going around a desert.

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