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Chinese Planning On Building A New Rail Link In Columbia

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There seems no end to the steady stream of highly significant economic and political developments these days. We live in incredible times.

Yet of all the events I followed last week, of all the data sifted and news wires perused, one story really grabbed me. Although I read it alone, it still elicited an audible "wow!"

China is in "advanced talks" with the Colombian government to build an alternative to the Panama canal. The mooted 220km rail link would run from the Pacific to a new port near Cartagena on Colombia's Atlantic coast. Imported Chinese goods would be assembled for re-export through the Americas and beyond, with Colombia-sourced raw materials filling ships making the return journey to Asia. Beijing is now reaching very high, pushing China onwards to the zenith of its modern-day power.


Large modern cargo ships, including LNG gas vessels, simply cannot fit through – which is why the canal's vast lock gates are currently being widened. But the mooted Sino-Colombian rail-link, involving the expansion of the Pacific port of Buenaventura, the whole thing to be funded by the Chinese Development Bank, would give Beijing its own 50m-tonne-per-year trade conduit, avoiding Panama's US-controlled pinch-point.

China could then more easily land goods on America's East coast – provided the US didn't erect more trade barriers. The new Colombian railway might also mean Warren Buffet's vision of revitalising the US freight-rail industry as a land-route for global trade flows across the Americas might not look so smart.

An interesting one.

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the whole thing to be funded by the Chinese Development Bank, would give Beijing its own 50m-tonne-per-year trade conduit, avoiding Panama's US-controlled pinch-point.

I guess the change in control being the main motivation plus not being such a pinch point into South America for land based transport. It would likely transform Columbia's economy.

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Is the Panama Canal still a 'colony' of the USA?

I seem to remember some problems in the past where the USA effictively created a zone of control along the canal and US politicians were upset that it was being handed back to Panama?

On a separate related note, China are building high speed train lines big time at the moment, quite an achievement infact, but rumours are they are skimping on the quality control due to the quality of fly ash used in the concrete tracks with potential disasterous consequences. Hope the Colombians are on the ball/////


The breakneck speed at which track is being laid means engineers are likely to have to sacrifice quality for quantity on the lines’ foundations which could ultimately halve their lifespan.

The problem lies in the use of high-quality fly ash, a fine powder chemically identical to volcanic ash, collected from the chimneys of coal-fired power plants. When mixed with cement and gravel, it can give the tracks’ concrete base a lifespan of 100 years.

According to a study by the First Survey and Design Institute of China Railways in 2008, coal-fired power plants on the mainland could produce enough high-quality fly ash for the construction of 100 kilometres of high-speed railway tracks a year.

But more than 1,500 kilometres of track have been laid annually for the past five years. This year 4,500 kilometres of track will be laid with the completion of the world’s longest high-speed railway line, between Beijing and Shanghai. Fly ash required for that 1,318-kilometre line would be more than that produced by all the coal-fired power plants in the world.

Enter low-quality fly ash.

Professor Wang Lan , lead scientist at the Cement and New Building Materials Research Institute under the China Building Materials Academy, said that given poor quality control on the mainland, the use of low-quality fly ash, and other low-grade construction materials, was “almost inevitable” in high-speed railway construction.

And that could have fatal consequences, Wang said. With a catalytic function almost opposite to that of good fly ash, the bad fly ash could significantly weaken railway line foundations and shorten a railway’s lifespan by about half. That would mean China’s high-speed rail tracks would last only 50 years.

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