In a bold move, Saudi Arabia offered a sky-high open tender of 60 billion U.S. dollars to construct a desert High-Speed Rail connecting Mecca and Medina. Astonishingly, no country dared to bid, except China, which took up the challenge and overcame seemingly insurmountable difficulties. A decade-long endeavor led to the creation of the remarkable Haramaine High-Speed Railway, leaving the world amazed. In this article, we’ll delve into the obstacles China faced during the construction and the ingenious solutions that made this engineering marvel possible.
The Daunting Challenge of Desert High-Speed Rail Construction
The Haramaine High-Speed Railway project presented several significant challenges that deterred other countries from bidding.
Battling Harsh Desert Conditions: Heat and Drought
The desert’s extreme temperatures and arid climate posed immense difficulties for the construction workforce.
With temperatures soaring above 55 degrees Celsius, working in such conditions proved grueling and hazardous. Additionally, the lack of vegetation exacerbated the challenges, making it challenging to create stable infrastructure amidst the harsh desert environment.
Combating Nature’s Forces: Wind and Sandstorms
The high-speed railway’s path through the desert brought forth the challenge of dealing with sandstorms and their impact on the railway.
Frequent sandstorms and moving sand dunes posed risks of damage to railway facilities, including electrical equipment and communication signals. These sandstorms also reduced the lifespan of critical components, necessitating innovative solutions for sand control.
Overcoming Weak Subgrade: Engineering in Sandy Soil
The sandy soil in the desert hinterland presented complexities in establishing a strong and durable foundation for the railway.
The loose and porous nature of the sandy soil made it challenging to support the weight of the high-speed rail. This called for creative construction methods to ensure a reliable and stable railway subgrade.
China’s Ingenious Solutions: Tackling Desert Engineering Hurdles
China’s expertise in engineering and innovative solutions proved instrumental in overcoming the desert challenges.
To combat sandstorms, China introduced advanced sand control measures, including the use of cobblestones for roadbed protection and planting grass to stabilize the sand. Sand-retaining trenches and platforms were set up to minimize erosion of the railway system. Additionally, China employed asphalt gravel for effective flat sand control.
Mastering the Weak Subgrade: Impact Rolling and Vibrating Compaction
China employed two distinct construction methods to ensure a strong and cost-effective railway subgrade.
The impact rolling method involved generating high amplitude, low-frequency impact force through impact rollers to achieve deep underground compaction. The vibrating compaction method disrupted the sand’s internal structure, enhancing its load-bearing capacity. These methods ensured a sturdy subgrade at a lower cost and a faster pace.
A Triumph in Engineering: The Haramaine High-Speed Railway
After a decade of challenges and innovations, China successfully completed the Haramaine High-Speed Railway, revolutionizing transportation between Mecca and Medina.
The electrified high-speed railway spans 450.25 kilometers, operating at an impressive top speed of 360 kilometers per hour. The journey time from Mecca to Medina has been halved, improving connectivity for millions of pilgrims and boosting economic exchanges between the holy cities.
China’s remarkable success in constructing the Haramaine High-Speed Railway stands as a testament to human ingenuity and determination. The project’s completion in the challenging desert environment marks a significant achievement in global engineering history. The Haramaine High-Speed Railway not only enhances transportation in Saudi Arabia but also serves as an inspiration for future ambitious infrastructure projects worldwide.