Danyang Kunshan Grand Bridge: the longest bridge in the world

“Building a bridge is a war with the forces of Nature”: these are the words of Joseph Strauss, who designed the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. And it’s true that bridges are among the most daring human constructions, enabling us to cross rivers, fjords, lakes and the like. But that’s not the only reason why they are so fascinating. Bridges also serve to connect cities, communities, cultures and economies. And the grandeur that many of these crossings have acquired over time is such that today we can claim that bridges are one of the most powerful symbols and signs of human progress. So which is the longest bridge in the world? The rankings are continually changing, but for some years now a Chinese viaduct has been firmly settled in the top position: the longest bridge in the world is the Danyang Kunshan Grand Bridge, which, at 164 kilometres long, is now the world’s unrivalled leader. Let’s take a look at some of the features of this incredibly long bridge, together with its location and how it was built.

Where is the longest bridge in the world

Danyang Kunshan Grand Bridge, the longest bridge in the world, is situated in China, along the high-speed railway line that links Beijing and Shanghai. So it is in the eastern coastal area of China. We should point out that a further 2 bridges ranked among the top 10 longest bridges in the world are also located along this railway that has been so crucial in China’s development over recent years. More specifically, the Danyang Kunshan Grand Bridge is in the province of Jiangsu and links the cities of Danyang and Kunshan. The bridge was designed to span a large marshy area that made the journey much longer before the construction of the bridge. Along its route between Danyang and Kunshan, the bridge also crosses the Yangchen lake, with a 9-kilometre stretch over the water (for the purposes of comparison, the proposed bridge over the Strait of Messina would be just 3 kilometres long, although that involves a stretch of sea rather than a lake). And in fact, the longest bridge crossing over sea is also in China: that is the bridge that links Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macau.

The length of the Danyang Kunshan Grand Bridge

As we noted above, the Danyang Kunshan Grand Bridge is 164 kilometres long in total. This means that the viaduct covers a distance equal to that between Modena and Milan. And speaking of Italy, the longest viaduct there is the Coltano viaduct on the A12 Motorway, covering a total distance of 9.6 kilometres. The height of the longest bridge in the world does not smash any other records though, since the average height it reaches along its route is about 30 metres. Passengers travelling on the train that links Danyang and Kunshan will be able to enjoy truly spectacular views of the landscape: apart from the waters of Yangchen Lake, they will also cross several rivers and canals, not to mention paddy-fields, as it runs along parallel to the river Yangtze. In fact, the viaduct runs alongside this famous river at distances that vary between 8 and 80 kilometres.

The other longest bridges in the world

Before turning to the construction of the Danyang Kunshan Grand Bridge, it is worth taking a look at the other longest bridges in the world. A glance at the top ten reveals how strongly China has focused on viaducts in recent years, with the aim of making journeys between the big Chinese cities ever faster and easier. While the second longest bridge in the world is in Taiwan (the 157-kilometre-long Changhua Kaohsiung Viaduct), the third, fourth and fifth longest bridges are in China. Taking 3rd place on the podium is the Cangde Grand Bridge at 116 kilometres long, that also forms part of the high-speed railway line linking Beijing and Shanghai, like its big brother, the Danyang Kunshan Grand Bridge. In fourth place there is another viaduct on the same railway line, the Tianjin Grand Bridge, that extends for a distance of 113 kilometres. In fifth place is the Weinan Weihe Grand Bridge, an important link between China and the West, since it forms part of the Zhengzhou–Xi’an railway. And we should point out that the seventh and ninth longest bridges in the world are also to be found in China.

The construction of the Danyang Kunshan Grand Bridge

Construction on the Danyang Kunshan Grand Bridge began in 2006 and was completed in 2011, with the official opening on 20 June of that year. The overall cost was 8.5 billion dollars, meaning that every kilometre of the bridge cost 51 million dollars to build.

The highest span of the bridge is about 80 metres, and approximately 450,000 tons of steel were used in its construction. Before the bridge was built, the journey between the cities of Ningbo and Jiaxing took four and a half hours because of the lakes and rivers on the route. Today, thanks to this ultra-long bridge, it takes only 2 hours; moreover, as a result of the various bridges along the entire length of the railway, it is now possible to travel between Beijing and Shanghai in just 4 hours and 48 minutes (covering a distance of over 1,000 kilometres).

The Danyang Kunshan Grand Bridge was built to the highest anti-seismic standards, but that’s not all: apart from being earthquake-resistant, the viaduct can also handle collisions that may occur from the ships that pass underneath it every day. It was calculated that the pylons supporting the bridge should be able to withstand the impact from a naval vessel weighing up to 300,000 tons.