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Metro Trains to Run Through Ancient Chinese City

updated: 2011-09-20

Xinhua, September 19, 2011  
In an ancient city riddled with historical sites as well as invaluable artifacts, where the Terracotta Army was discovered by farmers while digging a water well, it was never an easy task to tunnel metro lines without harming cultural relics.
Being one of China's oldest cities with more than 3,000 years of history, Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province in the country's less developed west, is just one day away from opening its first subway line on Friday.
Known as Chang'an before the Ming Dynasty about 400 years ago, Xi'an has served as the capital for 13 dynasties spanning a total of 1,100 years.
In order to minimize harm to numerous ancient cultural sites both above and below the ground, construction of the metro system is designed to avoid major historical sites, said Zheng Yulin, director of the city's cultural relics bureau.
Top metro designers, scientists and construction personnel from across the country were invited to work out a plan to minimize the harm that could be caused to cultural relics during construction of the metro lines, said Xiang De, deputy director of the bureau.
The plan was approved in September 2006 by the State Cultural Relics Bureau before China's top economic planner -- the National Development and Reform Commission, submitted the ancient capital's proposal to build a metro system to the State Council.
Tunnels were designed to be more than 12 meters deep underground to avoid cultural relics which were mostly located within the depth of eight meters, Zheng said.
The No. 2 metro line will start operating on Friday. It runs 26.3 km south-to-north across the ancient city, and passes close to two 600-year-old sites, the Ancient City Wall and the Bell Tower, in the downtown areas.
To minimize harm, the lines were built at least 15 meters away from the Bell Tower -- the symbol of the ancient capital which stands in the city center, said Chen Dongshan, head of the city's subway construction office.
The metro lines also detour around some sections of the Ancient City Wall that are vulnerable, Chen said.
Meanwhile, springs and steel plates were layered underground to isolate cultural relics from the vibrations from trains, said Zhao Rong, director of the provincial cultural relics bureau.
Train-induced vibrations on the Bell Tower is even less than those caused by cars on the historic building in the bustling city center, Zhao said.
About 26 million yuan (about 4 million U.S dollars) has been invested for the protection of cultural relics during construction, said Luo Jifeng, chief engineer of the Xi'an Subway Co. Ltd.
However, in order to make way for the 21 train stations, archaeologists have had to excavated about 150 ancient tombs which contained over 200 cultural relics, according to the city's cultural relics bureau.
Altogether six subway lines with a length of 251 km are planed to be built in Xi'an by 2020, which is part of the city's ambitious plan to become one of China's biggest cities.

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