Engineering and construction shapes the world around us and there are so many projects, past and present that could go on the list of the world’s most pioneering engineering ventures. We’ve shortlisted 10. Which one most impresses you? Are there any that you think we have missed?
The Shinkansen Network
Otherwise known as the famous ‘Bullet Train’ in Japan, first opened in the sixties and cost around $80m to build. This system is over 50 years old and was the first high speed rail network in the world, paving the way for many more developments including the world’s current fastest train – the Japanese Maglev train.
Not the most obvious choice but one we feel is well worthy of the list. The London Underground opened in 1863 and the first line (between Paddington and Farringdon) cost £1m to build. Contrast that to the £3.5bn cost to construct the Jubilee line extension in the 1990s. The London Underground now has a staggering 270 stations and a network of tunnels that extends to 249 miles. It was the world’s first underground railway which paved the way for many more in major cities, transforming peoples’ daily lives.
The Channel Tunnel
After 20 years of surveying, it was agreed that channelling through chalk marl stratum was possible due to its impermeable qualities, ease of excavation and strength. Although preceded in completion date and overall length by the Seikan Tunnel in Japan, the Channel Tunnel has the longest undersea length in the world and was completed within just 6 years at a cost of £4.65bn. It was officially opened in May 1994.
Standing 828 metres tall amongst windy and exposed terrain, the Burj Khalifa is the tallest artificial structure in the world and was built between 2004 and 2009 costing $1.5bn. The tower is both residential and commercial and was built as part of the UAE government’s plan to diversify from an oil-based economy.
The world’s first major hydro-electric plant was built between 1931 and 1936 costing $49m and utilises the power of the Colorado river in the USA, setting the precedent for many more countries to use hydropower as a key source of renewable energy. Currently the biggest hydro power plant in the world is China’s Three Gorges Dam, which harnesses the Yangtze River to produce almost a 10th of China’s electricity.
The Millau Viaduct bridge deck was constructed between 2001 and 2004 at a cost of €394m and is the tallest in the world spanning the river Tarn near Millau in the South of France. It was built to ease traffic congestion from Paris to Spain and has won numerous awards. Apparently driving across this makes drivers feel as though they are suspended in the sky!
The world’s largest artificial island, located off the coast of Dubai and built for luxury tourism and residential purposes. This iconic feat of engineering has used specialist sand dredging ships and a technique known as rainbowing to construct the islands. The first Island (Palm Jumeirah) cost £12bn to build and opened in 2006.
This major engineering accomplishment opened in 1914 and created a short cut between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, saving boats the treacherous sail around Cape Horn and a 67-day, 12,000-mile journey. The building of the Panama Canal revolutionised global shipping and industry as a whole, costing an estimated $375m.
International Space Station
Launched in 1998 at a cost of $150 bn. The International Space Station is a habitable, artificial satellite with a common goal of improving humanity. The UK’s Tim Peake is currently a crew member on board this orbiting space laboratory, using the power of social media to keep us informed of his time there.
Great Pyramid of Giza
The only remaining of the ‘7 wonders of the ancient world’ and still surrounded by mystery in terms of construction. The fact that the pyramid is so iconic and 4575 years old surely makes it a pioneering feat of engineering? There is no information on what this cost to build.
It is somewhat ironic that the biggest investment in the list is for a project that isn’t even for this planet!
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