China plans to build and put into operation several world-class underground utility tunnels - a network of pipes for power, water, heating, telecommunication, gas and other systems crucial to urban life - by 2020. The plan aims to guarantee pipeline safety and disaster-resisting capability.
The project is expected to eliminate overhead lines and solve the problem of city streets being repeatedly dug up for construction purposes, and it is also set to substantially improve the urban landscape.
A State Council document issued on August 10 requested that, starting from this year, the government should make sure that development of underground utility tunnels should be carried out at the same time as the construction of roads in new districts, industrial parks and development zones.
Regarding old areas of a city, the authorities should also plan underground tunnels at the same time as projects such as road reconstruction and river regulation.
The construction of utility tunnels is a special priority in urban areas - and concerns infrastructure related to roads, rail transit and underground complexes that involve high traffic volume and many pipelines. It is also a priority in intensive development zones, public spaces and major intersections of roads, railways and rivers, as well as in certain narrow road sections that cannot sustain multiple pipelines.
The central government will arrange financial support through current channels, while local administrations should pump more funds into the construction of the utility tunnels.
Enterprises are also encouraged to invest in the construction and operation of such tunnels through innovation of investment and funding modes and promoting cooperation between the government and social capital (the public-private partnership model).
The government supports social capital to enable project companies to participate in the construction and operation through franchising, subsidies and discounted-interest loans, in a bid to optimize contract management and secure stable returns on the projects.
Relevant financial institutions are also encouraged to provide further credit support to the construction of the tunnels through effective development financing - as the central government has identified the project as “key to people’s livelihood”.