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AP Photo/Tashi Sherpa
Lining up
TUNNEL VISION

China wants to build a rail tunnel to Nepal under Mount Everest

By Mike Murphy

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Perhaps that’s the thinking behind a proposal out of China to drill under the tallest mountain in the world. China Daily reports that a planned railway connecting the capital of Tibet to Nepal might include a tunnel beneath Mount Everest.

Engineering projects on an extreme scale are nothing new for China. The country already has built the longest bridge in the world—the Danyang–Kunshan Grand Bridge—and the third-longest tunnel, the Dahuofang Water Tunnel (the longest is in the US).

There’s already a tunnel through the tallest mountain in Europe, Mont Blanc; a tunnel between the UK and Europe; one between Europe and Asia; and a tunnel that becomes a bridge in Japan. But these feats of engineering could pale in comparison to drilling through the world’s tallest mountain. The New York Times pointed out some of the challenges in a 2010 article about a five-mile tunnel that India was building in the Himalayan region:

The Himalayas are the world’s youngest mountain range. They shift and grind, still moving, expanding and shrinking.

The Himalayas include eight mountains exceeding heights of 26,000 feet. The Japan Times notes there’s a financial benefit to taking on the toughest terrain on the planet: Chinese tourism to Nepal is rising. A rail link between China and Nepal also would likely open up connections between China and Nepal’s neighboring India, which could also prove to be a huge boon to Chinese tourism and trade.

This tunnel isn’t the craziest-sounding engineering proposal out of China—the Chinese Academy of Engineering, cited in the China Daily report, also has proposed building a train link to the US, at a modest cost estimate of $200 billion.