CHINA: Volvo pavers are used nationwide to help build thousands of kilometers of new roads
by Cathy Smith
Xi’an in the northwest of China, home to the famous Terracotta Warriors, was once the country’s imperial capital where, more than 2,000 years ago, Emperor Qin Shi Huang had a passion for building. He began work on the Great Wall, he built the warriors to protect him after his death and he constructed the country’s first road network.
Today, China’s road building program is rather more ambitious than it was in the Qin Dynasty with up to 10,000 kilometers of new highway being completed every year.
To the north of Xi’an, four Volvo ABG8820 tracked pavers are active 14 hours a day paving the final layer of asphalt on a new 96-km highway scheduled to open for traffic in Shaanxi Province in November 2014.
The rural roads around the construction site give a clue as to why the new highway is needed, with the carriageways frequently blocked by three-wheeled trucks precariously stacked with mountains of newly harvested corn. At a crossroads, as a stark reminder of the dangers of excess speed, the crumpled wreck of a car caught up in a fatal traffic accident is put on display.
The Xian-Xun Highway will relieve a lot of the pressure on local roads, and the Shaanxi Road and Bridge Group, which won the ¥5.7 billion (€716 million/US$928 million) contract to build the new toll road, believes the inclusion of Volvo Construction Equipment in their bid played a part in being awarded the tender.
New Chinese road-building standards require a surface to last 15 years, although few roads actually meet those requirements. But the company’s equipment manager Zhao Wei says, from what they have seen elsewhere in China, Volvo tracked pavers, with their ABG double-tamper technology, can certainly produce a more durable road surface.
“When we are paving the road using a Volvo 8820 paver it can help us reach the national standard and the operations are easier,” says Zhao.
It is hot, sweaty work spreading the boiling screed on the four-lane highway as the summer sun beats down, but operator Xin Ming says he is in the most comfortable place – in the cabin.
“It is well designed with a person in mind,” he says. “I like the canopy above for hot weather – some other pavers don’t have that. And when you’re working and there’s a problem, the message on the control panel comes up in Chinese and that’s helpful.”
TIME FOR CHANGE
The expressway is part of a new six-highway network designed to boost urbanization in this region and to capitalize on the millions of tourists who come to Xi’an to visit the Terracotta Warriors. It is vital infrastructure for the fast-developing Guanzhong-Tianshui Economic Zone intended to stimulate the inland economy that has lagged behind China’s booming coastal areas.
Project Manager Guo Yong says, crucially, the new road will more than halve the travel time for shipments from the coal mines in Xunyi County at the northern end of the highway to the industries they supply around Xi’an. “The expressway will make the journey just over one hour, whereas it is two-and-a-half hours now, and that will make a huge difference.”
Volvo CE is well established in Shaanxi province: as well as the main dealership in Xi’an, each of the province’s 10 secondary cities has a Volvo-approved service workshop so customers know they will get help promptly when they need it.
Volvo CE is already a market leader in tracked pavers in China even though they cost twice as much as some local Chinese brands. And Duan Yanfei, who runs the Xi’an Volvo dealership, Tongguan Construction Machinery Co, is convinced that the higher road construction standards will work in Volvo’s favor in the future.
“In China, the competition is becoming fierce. We think some low-quality brands will leave the market.
We’re confident that with our good service and good-quality machines we are going to occupy more of the Chinese market.”
And it is an active market. The number of cars on China’s roads has increased from 23 million in 2003 to 140 million today – and that is not counting commercial vehicles. By 2015, the Chinese government’s goal is to complete 120,000 kilometers of highway nationwide – a figure Emperor Qin could only have dreamt of.