Rail & Infrastructure

All fall down

China’s reputation for building roads hits setback

Built just nine years after Spartacus was defeated by the Roman legions in the mountains of southern Italy, the brick and limestone Ponte Fabricio bridge continues to carry travellers across the Tiber River.

The Ponte Fabricio’s two thousand year history holds up impressively, compared to a more modern highway recently constructed on the outskirts of Kunming. It set rather a different record last month – collapsing just two days after the ribbons were cut on its officially opening.

Netizens are dubbing it the ‘highway with the shortest life in Chinese history’.

Two people died in the collapse, which the provincial Transport Department blamed on heavy rains. Not so, claimed a Xinhua editorial which said the elevated road had been built in a dangerous location and that it wasn’t properly tested. “Simply pushing the responsibility to God, is not going to hide the truth and certainly does not answer the public’s questions,” Xinhua pontificated.Corner-cutting is also thought to have led to the collapse of a just-finished bridge outside Kunming’s new airport last year (killing seven). In that incident work was reportedly subcontracted several times and substandard building materials used.

In a disturbing trend, a busy bridge in Hangzhou also collapsed this week. The bridge over the Qiantang River caved in at 2am on Friday. Luckily nobody died, but a truck driver was injured. The truck toppled to the ground leaving a 20 metre gap in the bridge.


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