From the tallest skyscrapers to some of the biggest real estate projects in history and from intra continental rail networks to a game changing nuclear megaproject, here are the 23 biggest megaprojects under construction in 2023. Starting with the Maya Tren: In North America a passenger and freight railway network will make its way through more than 1500 kilometers of Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula.
President Andres Lopez Obrador is determined to link thousands of pre-Hispanic archaeological sites in the Country’s southeast to the famous Mexican beach resorts in a megaproject worth 10 billion dollars. For Obrador, the Maya Tren was a necessary train that will help pay off the “historical debt with the south-east” of the country” by bringing unprecedented economic growth to the region. Construction will now make its way through the second-largest jungle in the Americas. The rail tracks will run over archaeological sites containing thousands of Mayan remains – a fact that has met with resolute opposition from indigenous communities, environmental organizations and many more. However, the government has brushed aside the criticism by labeling the megaproject a matter of national security. President Lopez Obrador prefers the benefits of development over preserving heritage and hopes to run the first trains on the Maya Tren by December 2023. Number 22: Yinjianbuhan Tunnel On the other end of the globe, China is working on a water diversion project aimed at a fairer distribution of water resources between the country’s south and North. A key element in the project is the record-breaking 195-kilometer-long Yinjianbuhan water tunnel that will drain water from the Three Gorges Dam to the Han River from where it will be diverted to Beijing. The tunnel that is almost a kilometer deep in some areas will take 10 years to build at a cost of around 9 billion dollars. For comparison the longest water tunnel to date, Päijänne in Finland, is 120 kilometers long and goes up to 130 meters deep. Completing the tunnel will take another 10 years, but once completed, it will help boost food production and improve arable land for 150 million people. Number 21: The Line Saudi Arabia’s ambitious push to shift its economy to tourism has given way to many ambitious megaprojects. The most astonishing of these planned developments is the 500 Billion dollars mega city NEOM. Last year, Neom made global headlines after unveiling images of The Line – an unprecedented skyscraper with two 500-meter-tall mirrored walls running 170 kilometers across the desert. Following its announcement, most commentators were unconvinced that the project would ever be realized. However, Saudi Arabia shocked the world with drone footage suggesting that excavation is now underway at the site. When completed, The Line is supposed to house 9 million residents and the first people could move in only 7 years, so by 2030. Number 20: Wasl Tower Just across the Saudi Arabian border, Dubai is making another addition to its iconic skyline with the 302-meter-tall Wasl Tower. The skyscraper will be unique for its twisted, asymmetrical design and for supporting the region’s tallest ceramic facade. Once completed, the building’s design will present an illusion of dynamic motion. Engineers will use different shading and cooling techniques to assimilate the Wasl Tower with Dubai’s hot summers. Construction work on the tower has moved past 56 of the planned 64 floors and the planners are targeting completion by 2024. Number 19: Eko Atlantic City We now move to Africa, where the world’s fastest-growing megacity, Lagos, is set to have a new 6 billion dollar financial hub at the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.
The privately funded city is being built on reclaimed land in the Atlantic and will have everything from skyscrapers to luxury residences and shopping malls. While many of the planned buildings have yet to be built, the city already has an extensive road network and has contracts in place to bring some of the world’s biggest financial institutions to Lagos. The most significant development at the Eko Atlantic came in March 2022 when the United States approved the construction of a new consulate in the city that will cost over half a billion dollars. Number 18: Nusantara Back in Asia, Indonesia is on its way to getting a new Capital on a more central island almost 2000 kilometers away from Jakarta. Nusantara is the brainchild of the outgoing President Joko Widodo who wants the first phase of the project to be completed before Indonesian independence day in 2024. The idea of shifting the country’s capital is rooted in the problems faced by Jakarta, which is now overcrowded, overpolluted, and sinking rapidly due to excessive groundwater extraction. There are also other geographical factors at play as Jakarta is located on the Island of Java, which despite being the smallest of Indonesia’s islands accounts for more than half of the country’s GDP. By moving to East Kalimantan, Indonesia also hopes to rebalance the country’s economy. More than 200,000 workers are currently taking part in the construction of Nusantara which will require 34 billion dollars to build. Most of the financing will come from private entities and the city is supposed to house 3 million residents when it is completed in 2045. Number 17: Chūō Shinkansen Japan has one of the most advanced rail systems in the world. And in 2014 plans were put in motion to take the world’s fastest trains a step further. The Maglev high-speed rail is planned to be twice as fast as current bullet trains by incorporating the concept of Magnetic Levitation. As we enter 2023 construction is going at a faster pace than expected. And this despite the fact that the majority of the route runs through mountains and thus 90% of the route consists of tunnels. At the current rate, the first passengers can be aboard the Maglev Train by 2027. The whole project will cost around 55 billion dollars and it will run for 285 kilometers between Tokyo and Nagoya. The journey will be completed in just 40 minutes with high speeds of over 500 kilometers per hour. Number 16: Merdeka Tower Moving to Southeast Asia, Malaysia will finally open the world’s second-tallest skyscraper- the Merdeka Tower in the middle of 2023. According to one official, the construction now stands at 92 percent which means that the mid-2023 timeline is realistic. Merdeka Tower moved ahead of Shanghai Tower as the second tallest building in the world last year when it topped out at a height of 678 meters. Kuala Lumpur is already home to famous supertall skyscrapers like the Exchange 106 and the Petronas Twin Towers. With the addition of the Merdeka Tower, the largest city in Malaysia now boasts one of the most recognizable skylines in the world. Number 15: Doha Metro Qatar has recently finished hosting the Fifa World Cup but that was not the country’s only project that made headlines. The Doha Metro was one of the most prominent places during the showpiece event as the 76-kilometer rail network transported football fans between football stadiums every 3 minutes. A total of 37 train stations linked 5 of the 8 world cup stadiums and 18 million passengers used the network during the event. Without this train, the event would probably not have been possible in this form. But the work is not done just yet. After starting construction 10 years ago the metro will now turn into the next phase where 60 more stations will be added in the following year. Number 14: Dasu Dam Elsewhere in Asia, Pakistan will continue construction on the 4.
billion Dollar Dasu Dam with the help of Chinese expertise and funding from the World Bank. As one of the biggest hydropower projects in the country, the Dasu Dam will help facilitate the expansion of the electricity supply in Pakistan. The dam was supposed to open in 2022 but overall progress currently stands at just 12 percent. A major reason for delays is the failure of land acquisition which was supposed to be completed by 2019. Authorities are now hoping to complete a diversion system by April 2023 and will start producing electricity in two years. Number 13: Western Sydney Airport In the land down under, an 11 billion dollar Airport is taking shape in Western Sydney in what is labeled as the biggest earthmoving megaproject in Australia’s history. Millions of tonnes of excavated rock has already been poured into the Airport’s foundations and half the work is now complete on a terminal that will host 10 million passengers. More than 4000 workers are taking part in developing the airport site which is three times the size of Sydney’s Central Business District. Despite the La Nina weather pattern bringing record breaking torrential rains to Sydney in 2022, Construction of the airport remains on track and is set for its first flight in 2026. Number 12: Incheon International Airport As Australia makes progress, one of the world’s busiest airports is ready to take on a much bigger role in the coming years with a 4 billion dollar makeover. South Korea’s Incheon International Airport is in Phase 4 of a planned upgrade that will make it one of the largest airports in the world. Major additions like the expansion of Terminal 2 will give the airport the capacity to serve 106 million passengers annually. The final construction phase is going ahead at full speed with an eye for completion in 2024. Number 11: MSG Sphere Las Vegas Nevada will become home to a novel entertainment venue inside the world’s biggest Sphere in 2023.
Construction on the MSG Sphere had been ongoing since 2019 and the venue’s steel exosphere was completed back in June. When completed, the MSG Sphere will be over 100 meters tall and 157 meters wide making it the largest spherical structure in the world. The Sphere is supposed to be the reference point for the Las Vegas entertainment scene and can accommodate 20,000 spectators at a time. The Sphere features interior and exterior displays bigger than three football fields, which will create a truly unique atmosphere. Number 10: Hudson Yards Over in New York, 30 years of planning has resulted in the creation of the biggest New York development since the Rockefeller Center in the 1930s. The Hudson Yards neighborhood is equivalent to Four City Blocks and occupies a previously undeveloped parcel in Manhattan close to the Hudson River. The first phase of the project opened in 2019 and has so far seen the rise of four skyscrapers, residential buildings, and an attractive art installation called The Vessel. Hudson Yards is already home to some of the biggest conglomerates including HBO, CNN, BlackRock, Disney, and Meta. Work is now continuing on the second part of the project which will include 3,000 residential units, a public school, and hundreds of low-cost rental units. The second phase is planned for completion by 2024 taking the total cost of the project to 25 billion dollars. Number 9: Frankfurt Four Frankfurt has emerged in recent years as the skyscraper capital of Europe with more than 50 high rises currently in the pipeline for the city. One of these significant buildings is the Frankfurt 4 project – a four-skyscraper complex completing in 2023. Tower 1 will be the tallest of the four skyscrapers reaching 233 meters in height, while the other three will go beyond 100 meters in height. The Frankfurt 4 has structurally topped out and will be opened by the end of the year. However, this is only the beginning of Frankfurt’s skyscraper boom as the Frankfurt Four will soon be followed by taller buildings, including the 288 meters tall Millennium Tower which is set to break ground in the next two years. Number 8: Iconic Tower 2023 is the year of completion for yet another record-breaking skyscraper in the shape of Iconic Tower Egypt.
The tallest building in Africa is also the continent’s first Supertall skyscraper with a height of 393 meters. Construction of the Iconic Tower has been incredibly swift with the massive structure being completed in less than 5 years despite the challenges of the pandemic. Tipped for completion by the middle of this year, the Iconic Tower will serve as the centerpiece of Egypt’s New Administrative Capital. Number 7: Rail Baltica Entering the new year, Europe will be hoping to step up construction on several key transport megaprojects. One of these is Rail Baltica – the biggest infrastructure project in East Europe. Europe is already regarded as the most integrated region in the world and Rail Baltica is yet another step in that direction as it aims to integrate 5 Baltic States into the European rail network. Over a period of 10 years, the project will put down 870 kilometers of rail line through Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland. Construction will include building seven passenger and three freight stations with trains able to operate at top speeds of 234 km per hour. Most of the financing of the 6 billion dollar project will be taken up by the European Union as it takes great significance for the whole continent. Number 6: Fehmarn Belt Tunnel European connectivity is planned to grow further with the commissioning of an 18-kilometer-long immersed tunnel in the Baltic Sea. The Fehmarn Belt Tunnel is designed as an alternative to the ferry service between the German island of Fehmarn and the Danish island of Lolland. Once the tunnel is commissioned the 45-minute ferry ride will be cut to less than 10 minutes by train or car. The Tunnel will be put into place by immersing pre-built tunnel sections 40 meters below the sea bed.These sections will then be moved into place by barges and cranes. The construction budget for one of Europe’s largest infrastructure projects is over 7 billion dollars and will be completed by 2029. Number 5: Brenner Base Tunnel Next on the list is yet another European tunnel project that is also one of the longest tunnels in the world. The 64 kilometers long Brenner Base Tunnel will run under the Alps and connect Italy and Germany via Austria. The Brenner railway network has connected Italy with northern Europe for more than 150 years. However, a 1370-meter elevation and a 26% slope gradient mean that the journey across the region is relatively slow with speeds never exceeding 70 kilometers per hour. The Brenner base tunnel provides a solution as it is built at an elevation of only 790 meters with high travel speeds touching 200 kilometers per hour. Going into the new year, the excavation work on 2 third of the tunnel project is complete. Most of the tunnel excavation is being carried out using giant Tunnel Boring Machines, however, the TBMs can get stuck in the fault zones so some of the tunneling will be done through traditional drilling and blasting. The estimated cost of the project is over 10 billion dollars and after the tunneling will be completed by 2025, the rail network will take another 7 years to open. Number 4: Flamanville 3 In addition to new skyscrapers and massive transit megaprojects, Europe is also accelerating work on Nuclear power megaprojects to meet the rising energy needs of the population.
France’s state-owned energy company, the EDF, is working on a more powerful and long-lasting nuclear reactor to replace its aging fleet and boost French nuclear exports. The Flamanville 3 EPR project, however, is more than a decade behind its original schedule and significantly over budget. Construction on the 3 billion dollar project started in Normandy in 2007 and was expected to start operations by 2013. However, a series of costly delays have taken the cost up to 14 billion dollars. It was announced in early 2022 that the project was now delayed till the back end of 2023 due to faulty welds. However, the repair work is now also running behind schedule. In light of the latest developments, The Flamanville plant won’t start producing electricity till the first half of 2024. Despite the delays, the project is seen as essential for France’s future as a fully operational reactor will produce enough power to light a city like Paris for a year. Number 3: Hinkley Point C Delays are not only impacting France, as a nuclear power plant in Britain has also been hit by years of delays and cost overruns.
Hinkley Point C is seen as a critical megaproject for Britain’s future with the country needing to stabilize its energy production in the wake of the Ukraine war and a retiring fleet of power plants. The HPC is expected to deliver 7% of the U.K.’s clean energy needs for the next 6 decades. It is projected to deliver enough energy to power 6 million homes. However, the new nuclear power station will not start operating until 2027 and the cost estimates have risen from 20 to 30 billion dollars over the last 7 years. Number 2: ITER Nuclear reactors of today are seen as essential sources of power but plans are already in motion to radically alter the way we generate Nuclear Power. Scientists from across the world are working on creating a sustained Fusion reaction that will generate more energy than today’s fission reactors without producing any greenhouse effects and with a significantly lower and above all shorter radioactivity. To make this possible several different approaches are being tested. And one of them is the 22-billion dollar International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or short: ITER. The international megaproject is ongoing in the south of France. The European Union is paying for half of the construction while the rest will be shared equally among China, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the USA. 2022 was a big year for ITER as scientists in China, the EU, and the United States achieved major breakthroughs in fusion. Recently scientists in California successfully carried out the first ever nuclear fusion reaction resulting in a net energy gain. Meanwhile, the JET fusion energy project in the UK broke a 24-year-old record for energy output achieved by nuclear fusion. Chinese Scientists also contributed in a major way by manufacturing the core components of a full-size prototype of the first enhanced-heat-flux wall panel. The panel, which can withstand a surface plasma ion temperature 10 times hotter than the real Sun, is considered the most critical core component of the reactor. Even though ITER is only an experimental reactor, there is still a lot to get excited about, because once the concept can be proven, there could be a completely new method of generating energy. Number 1: New Silk Road China’s colossal Belt Road initiative will continue to achieve new milestones as it closes in on the project’s tenth anniversary in 2023.
The 62 billion Dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor is considered the flagship project under BRI and this year will see the completion of the Gwadar International Airport in Pakistan. A 6 billion dollar upgrade on a 1600 kilometer rail track between Karachi and Peshawar is also in the works which will allow trains to double their current speeds up to 160 kilometers per hour. Pakistan isn’t the only one involved in China’s plans. With investments of over 150 billion dollars, China has signed agreements with 149 countries and 32 international organizations to be a part of the Belt Road initiative. China’s New Silk Road is seen in the west as not just an economic endeavor but a strategic one. The countries inviting investment opportunities from China are constantly warned of a “Debt Trap” and calls for transparency are getting louder and louder. However, China is adding more entities to its investment portfolio and is currently the number 1 Global Investor by a margin. 2023 is poised to be an exciting year for some massive megaprojects