World’s Highest Bridge Nears Completion

Engineers in China have completed the basic structure of the world’s highest bridge. The Beipanjiang Bridge, known as the ‘Bridge in the Clouds’, soars an incredible 565 metres above a ravine and connects two provinces in Bijie, located in a mountainous region of southern China. When complete, it will overtake the Sidu River Bridge in the central province of Hubei to become the world’s highest bridge.


Scaling New Heights

The breathtaking scenery of the Guizhou province was probably viewed with disbelief by the teams of engineers who understood the challenges the landscape presented, as they prepared for the mammoth task of erecting a cable-stayed bridge spanning a distance of 1340 metres end to end, over a ravine 565 metres above river level.

The Chinese engineering community has broken several records in recent years, laying claim to eight out of the 10 highest bridges in the world, but the Beipanjiang Bridge represents the jewel in the crown.

Despite the many challenges of working at such sheer heights, in September the final section of the bridge was put in place. China’s main media channel, CCTV, shows a time-lapse video of the construction, particularly the linking of the two ends. It is truly an impressive operation, demonstrating precision and planning of the highest order - an ambitious engineering project manager’s dream.

The complete of the bridge, which only took three years of construction, will create the main thoroughfare on the G56 expressway between the Guizhou and Yunnan provinces and reduce commuting time from five to two hours. The priority the Chinese government has placed on this project, and others like it, with an allocated budget of £500 billion over the next three years, will mean that the 1000 engineers and technicians engaged in this project, and others like them, will be gainfully employed for the long term in the region.

Technical Challenges

The technical challenges of constructing such a structure, at such a height, considering the terrain, the weather conditions including frequent rainfall and high humidity, plus other extremes such as dust storms and freezing conditions, makes the relatively short construction time all the more impressive.

Source: China Stringer Network/Reuters

The remote location of the bridge also presented logistical difficulties. The cranes required to erect the pylons that would support the cable-stayed structure, had to be brought to site from 2000 kilometres away, along narrow, winding rural roads - roads which simply weren’t meant for industrial traffic.

Building the ‘Bridge in the Clouds’ has taken planning, project management, engineering and construction, literally, to new heights. Hard hats off to our Chinese counterparts for such an accomplishment.

The unveiling of the bridge is a highly anticipated event, and one to be celebrated by the engineering community in China, as well as the engineering fraternity worldwide.