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Sunday, December 11, 2016

RZD promise to link Russia and the USA across the Bering Strait


The project to build a railway from the Far East to the US looks not so fantastic

Mar 15, 2012, 21:23

Text: Olga Samofalova

Printable version

The head of Russian Railways Vladimir Yakunin said that Russia and the United States can be linked to Railways, and “not in the very distant future”. Indeed, the relevant plans, including the construction of a tunnel under the Bering Strait really exist. The experts estimated the huge economic impact that the project promises, and no less the enormous costs of its implementation.

“I am confident that the prospects for the continuation of the railway to Kamchatka and farther through the tunnel to connect with the North American roads – a project with the feasibility in the not too distant future”, – said yesterday the President of Russian Railways Vladimir Yakunin at the meeting with the Guild of travel and tourism the UK, where this topic was brought up by one of the interlocutors, ITAR-TASS reported. We are talking about the construction of a tunnel across the Bering Strait.

It should be said that the project of linking the Railways between the two continents in the United States were voiced in the late nineteenth century. In the 90-ies of the last century, the United States even began to allocate money for research on this project and started to negotiate with Russia. In 1996, the project was included among the priority programs of the Committee on cooperation between the countries of the Asia-Pacific region. However, things are there. And Vladimir Yakunin is slightly disingenuous in saying that this project is not very distant future.

Officially in Russia the project to link Russia and the USA by railway across the Bering Strait was announced in 2007 in the “strategy of railway transport development in Russian Federation for the period till 2030”, which was adopted by the government of the Russian Federation. Specific description of this project no, but the strategy States that its implementation is planned until 2030.

“The goal of the project is the creation of a Transcontinental railway, which will link the two continents and ensure a stable land connection of North America – Russia – Eastern Asia through the Bering Strait,” – said the press service of Russian Railways. More information on the report there are unable.

The construction of a tunnel across the Bering Strait is not accidental it is planned only after 2030. The fact is that, before generating the tunnel, the Railways need to link the two parts of Russia: far Eastern and European. First to finish the more than 800-kilometer stretch of railway, which will connect the TRANS-Siberian railway to Yakutsk, and execute plans for transport development of Kamchatka and the Chukchi Peninsula.

With the construction of Amur-Yakutsk railway, which was decided in 1985, everything is in order. The first section to the station Tommot was completed by 1995. Now it is put into temporary operation. After 2004, began construction of the second part of the railroad to Nizhny Bestiah. And here in November last year, the line Berkakit – Tommot – Nizhny Bestyakh station in the Republic of Sakha), with a length of 808 km has been completed. Since the beginning of the construction of the railway Tommot – Nizhny Bestyakh railway with a total length of 437 km disbursed capital investments amounting to more than 35 billion rubles, and in 2011 it was allocated about 5 billion roubles.

Now under construction combined road-rail bridge across the Lena and the connection lines are generated directly from Yakutsk. By 2013 it is planned to finally complete the last piece of the railway Berkakit – Tommot – Yakutsk. This line will connect the capital of the Sakha Republic with the Baikal-Amur railway and Transsib and will significantly reduce dependency on seasonal delivery of goods, dozens of times by reducing the costs of enterprises, population and budgets of different levels. Track let on a commercial basis to begin development of the richest mineral deposits of southern and Central Yakutia.

At the completion of the railroad to Yakutsk Republic on the carriage of goods will save from 2.5 up to 12-15 billion annually. The creation of new industries and jobs will increase the gross regional product of the Republic, the total taxes on 1-4 billion annually.

In the following years it is planned to build a second launch facility from the station Right Lena with a combined bridge across the Lena river to the station of the Yakutsk river port (left Bank). In the Federal target program “Development of transport system of Russia (2010-2015)” accounts for about 77 billion rubles in 2012-2016.

Next in the plans of Russian Railways until 2030 the development of the railway line from Nizhny Bestiah to Magadan, and then planned integration into all-Russian network of the Railways of the two regions of the North-East of the country: Chukotka Autonomous district and the Kamchatka region.

Meanwhile, for the project of joining Russia and the USA by railway across the Strait some ways to Yakutsk is not enough. Here Railways still have to build about 4 thousand km railway from Yakutsk to Uelen directly to the coast of the Bering Strait. Only then can we talk about the tunnel project. But the construction of this site, like the project itself, according to the project of development of transport infrastructure of Russia in 2010-2030 planned only after 2030.

In the project of construction of tunnel and railway across the Bering Strait at least two interested parties – Russia and the United States (and Canada). To connect two rails of the continent, North America also needs to build its network of roads. But they are all much easier. The US needs to pave the entire 2 thousand km of Railways, wrote to The Times last summer.

Russia and the United States needs to build a tunnel from their coasts, and builders meeting may occur under the Bering Strait over the so-called international line in the area of the Diomede Islands: Ratmanov island (Russia) and Krusenstern island (little Diomede, USA). The project, according to the publication, estimated at more than 99 billion dollars. Investment in the project can be recouped in 15 years after entering it into the system, experts edition.

If Russia, USA and Canada really want to carry out this project, it should start now with small projects, the expert of UK “Finam Management” Dmitry Baranov. “We could work together with other countries to begin design and construction of the railway from Yakutsk on to the North-East, the construction of a road in the same direction, power lines and other important objects. Funding for these projects can be equity,” – says the expert.

According to him, the seriousness of the intentions to build a tunnel under the Bering Strait could confirm the agreement between the two countries on joint infrastructure projects in Russia and in the USA and Canada. However, such is still there.

Meanwhile benefit from the project is available for many countries. Freight on highways Eurasia – the U.S. will become less expensive, faster and safer than by sea, say British experts. In the Russo-British chamber of Commerce (RBCC) said that the volume of freight on rail Northern route can be 3% of the global total. Annual benefits from such transport may reach 11.5 billion dollars.

“In favor of the construction of the tunnel say the prospects for growth of cargo turnover between Europe and Asia, which is increasing annually by 7-8%. The second argument is the necessity of development of mineral-rich territories that can’t be mastered without transport availability, a lot of them will just need to develop, given the gradual depletion of similar stocks in Central Russia and Siberia”, – said the expert of the company “Samet” Alexander Filimonov.

The third argument in favor of the implementation of the project, he said, is the need to associate more than 11 thousand settlements of the Eastern regions, deprived of transport connections with the mainland.

“The project was very expensive, and the payback period can exceed called now, but that is why the project can only be realized in wide international cooperation with several countries, because of the benefits it will receive all, even countries that are from the tunnel at a distance of thousands of kilometers. This benefit may not be direct, but an indirect”, – says Dmitry Baranov.

Transport Minister Igor Levitin five years ago, said that the budget money for the construction tunnel to spent will not be. Budget to find money for this project will be really difficult, given the tensions already existing budget. “However, an even bigger question – will the investors in Russia. I think that only Russian companies collect the full amount will not work”, – said Filimonov.

The technical side of the tunnel across the Bering Strait controversial. Some experts believe that the project exceeds all current technical possibilities, since the distance between the shores of the Bering Strait at its narrowest point is as much as 86 km away. Others, such as experts Times, assure that the technical obstacles to the construction of the tunnel does not exist.

However, in the world there are similar-scale projects. For example, the Gotthard base tunnel through the Alps in Switzerland with a length of 57 km and the seikan tunnel, which connects Honshu and Hokkaido length of 53,9 km away, the world was presented to another project of the tunnel construction, which is twice the length of the tunnel across the Bering Strait. This project is an undersea tunnel between Japan and South Korea, with a length of 182 km.

Expert comments

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