The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

China plans world’s deepest high-speed rail station, right under the Great Wall

The Great Wall in Badaling lit in blue, the official color of the United Nations, to mark the 70th anniversary of the United Nations in Beijing in October 2015. (EPA/DELA PENA)
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Ancient China’s greatest feat of engineering, meet modern China’s.

The Chinese government plans to build the world’s deepest and largest high-speed railway station under a popular section of the Great Wall, as part of plans to link the capital with the site of the 2022 Winter Olympics, state media reported Thursday.

The station will be situated at Badaling, 50 miles northwest of Beijing, which is already the most popular spot on the Great Wall. It received 30,000 tourists in just one day during the Chinese New Year holiday week, according to the China National Tourism Administration.

The new high-speed rail line will cut the journey time between Beijing and Zhangjiakou, the site of the Winter Olympics, to 50 minutes, down from more than three hours.

"The Badaling station will be located 102 meters below the surface, with an underground construction area of 36,000 square meters, equal to five standard soccer fields, making it the deepest and largest high-speed railway station in the world," Chen Bin, director in charge of construction for China Railway No. 5 Engineering Group, told state media.

China's superlatives rest on some semantic fine-tuning, though. The planned station would be the deepest high-speed rail stop, China says, but not the deepest station for passenger rail. In Kiev, for example, the Arsenalna subway platform is billed at more than 105 meters, or 344 feet, below the surface.

Badaling will be one of 10 stations on the 110-mile route, designed to handle maximum speeds of 215 mph. There will also be a branch line to Chongli, which will host skiing events during the Olympics.

There was controversy earlier this month when it was revealed that authorities had laid concrete over a crumbling section of the Great Wall in a restoration project criticized as “crude” and “ugly.”

But railway engineers said they will be careful to ensure this construction project does not damage the UNESCO world heritage site.

"It will run through mountains where the Great Wall is winding, so we adopted some of the world's advanced explosion technologies to guarantee it would not affect the Great Wall," said Luo Duhao, chief engineer of the railway group for the Badaling section.

China is in the midst of an ambitious program of railway construction in which it is expected to invest $400 billion to build a 10,000-mile network by 2020.

A subsequent inquiry revealed massive corruption in the railways ministry. Authorities say they have since tightened up safety procedures.

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On social media, many messages burst with pride.

"This is no longer the phase for China to chase and surpass Europe and the United States," one wrote. "We set the standards. We have the best now!"“

But others were not as sure.

"This is sinful and shameful! It is bad for fengshui in that royal region. It will destroy Beijing’s royal dragon vein!” wrote another, referring to the mountains around the capital, often described by locals as the dragon's vein.

Congcong Zhang contributed to this report.