Repaving China's most famous street: People's Highway Number 1

Chang'an Avenue is Beijing's famously giant 10 lane road that runs across the equally massive Tiananmen Square and over half of its length has been repaved - thanks to a team of Volvo road machinery.

The heart of Beijing underwent a complete makeover in time to host one of the biggest celebrations in China's history. Late last year, the country marked the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China with a national public holiday and a mass military parade through Beijing's first and most famous street - Chang'an Avenue - and Volvo we on hand to help prepare for the occasion.

An army of Volvo road machines hosted its own nocturnal parade on the 600-year old cultural and political hub, which serves as Beijing's main traffic route and runs across the world's largest public piazza - Tiananmen Square. A 26km (16 mile) stretch of the 40m (131ft) wide, 40.4km (25 mile) long Chang'an Avenue was closed for repaving every night between 11pm and 6amfor six months. Volvo Construction Equipment played an integral part in the 4 billion RMB ($585 million) road project, having been selected almost exclusively to provide the road machinery capable of getting the job done.

Beijing's historic heart
Crowned 'the first avenue in China', Chang'an is one of the world's longest and widest streets, boasting 10 lanes and running through the centre of Beijing from east to west. The avenue, whose name can be literally translated as 'eternal peace', is rich in history, which can be traced back as early as the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), when it was paved for the imperial palace (being built at the time). The avenue houses a number of silent witnesses to the events that have taken place there throughout history - from the Palace Museum, the Monument and the People's Heroes. It is flanked by two of China's most famous landmarks - The Forbidden City and the vast expanse of paving stones that is Tiananmen Square. Measuring 440,000m² (0.17sq.miles) or about 63 football pitches, Tiananmen Square is visited by more than eight million people a year. This is the fourth time since 1978 that Chang'an Avenue has been repaved, but its most recent facelift is the most thorough and the renovations are set to add a more cultural and pedestrian-friendly appeal.

Team effort
Planning for the Chang'an Avenue facelift started in 2007. Three contractors were commissioned to undertake the repaving of Chang'an Avenue: Beijing No.1 Urban Construction Company, Beijing Urban Construction Road & Bridge Company and Beijing Xin Wang Road & Bridge Company. Volvo was selected  as the major road machinery supplier for the project because of its longstanding relationship with the contractors. "When China built the Jin Jin Tang Highway back in 1987 we used the ABG411 paver, so our company has been a loyal customer of Volvo for a long time now," said Liu Yong, Vice General Manager of Beijing Xinwang Road and Bridge Company. "Volvo's construction equipment is very dependable. Its pavers are versatile and its compactors are highly reliable. The price of compactor parts is also reasonable."

"Volvo has invested a lot in building its customer support capabilities in China," said Lawrence Luo, Volvo Construction Equipment's President of Sub Region China. "The fact Volvo road equipment was chosen for all the critical jobs in the Chang'an Avenue project demonstrates customers' trust in Volvo's technology and superior support."

In a job of such a large scale - and with such an important deadline - reliability is paramount, as machines cannot afford to break down. Engine emission control was also an important consideration in the project following the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, which cast a spotlight on air pollution caused by vehicle emissions. This is an area that Volvo excels in because its machines meet tight engine emission standards. Volvo machinery was also chosen for the project because of its low noise output - important because the work was performed at night.

Quick march
While the road was closed for seven hours each night during construction, the actual paving time was only three hours - between 1am and 4am. The first two hours were spent preparing the site and milling machines were used to prepare the surface of the existing worn road. Compaction work was performed during the last two hours. Often, three pavers would work simultaneously to resurface one side of the road in order to make the most of the time. Two new 40mm (1.5in) layers of asphalt were laid over the original surface to make it durable enough to withstand military tanks and heavy vehicles used during the national parade. Two special asphalt materials were used for the lower layer - SBS-modified asphalt and PR asphalt - to provide a solid foundation, while stone mastic asphalt was used for the top layer. During the national parade, rubber pads were fixed to the tracks of the tanks to reduce damage to Chang'an Avenue.

Machine performance
During the paving and compaction process, 18 tracked pavers were used - three of which were Volvo's new ABG 8820 models. And of the 33 compactors used, most bore the Volvo brand. One third of the machines were rented and two thirds were purchased from the local Volvo dealer. The oldest machine onsite was a six-year-old ABG paver. "The main paving work was carried out by the three ABG 8820 pavers," said Liu. With a maximum paving width of 13m (43ft), ample reserve power, a robust and sturdy design and Volvo's ease of operation, the tracked paver ABG 8820 is suited to large scale projects such as the Chang'an Avenue renovation. "We were very satisfied with the equipment - from delivery to commissioning and following application," she added.

For the lower layer of asphalt laid, the machines paved between 300m (984ft) and 400m (1,312ft) per day and for the wearing course, it was possible to pave between 500m (1,640ft) to 800m (2,625ft) per day in the three hours available. Volvo Construction Equipment dealer staff were standing by onsite every night to service the machines in case there were any breakdowns. But they need not have worried because all of the machines were in perfect condition. Prior to construction starting, dealer technicians visited each contractor to check the pavers and compactors and conduct any necessary maintenance. "We also re-trained all the operators of the pavers and compactors," said Helen Zhu, Volvo Construction Equipment China's road machinery product manager.

In the global spotlight
After the success of the Chang'an Avenue refurbishment, Volvo is in a good position to increase its share of the road construction business in one of the few countries to emerge, relatively unscathed, from the recession.

Text: Elizabeth Tilley
*Story reprinted from Volvo Spirit Magazine November 2009

February, 2010

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