Russian President Launches Siberian Rail Upgrade

This could be the first step towards the realisation of a global railway that links east and west across the Bering Strait, about which I reported for The Times a couple of years ago (see: )


Vladimir Putin gives start to Baikal-Amur Mainline modernization


Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has officially launched modernization of the Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM) and the Trans-Siberian Railway, as he had a televised linkup on Tuesday with the officials, business executives and railway workers gathering in the city of Tynda, the Far-Eastern Amur region, in connection with the 40th anniversary since the start of the BAM project.

The president congratulated the railway workers of the BAM on the occasion of the 40th anniversary and inaugurated the ceremony of laying a silver rail joint — section of the rails symbolizing the launch of construction of a new railway line.

The project envisages a higher throughput capacity of the Baikal-Amur Mainline from current 16 to 32 railway vehicles daily by 2017.

The growing transit potential would give an impetus to development of new raw materials, shoring up the economy of the Far East, Putin said, adding that Russia should preserve its status as “a major transport power, working with which is easy, comfortable and advantageous for partners”.

“The BAM has not only been a colossal construction but also a challenge for the country,” he said. “It had both military strategic and national economic significance.”

BAM is one of the longest railway lines in the world.

Together with the world-famous Trans-Siberian Railroad, it ensures transport access to the Pacific.

The idea of building this railroad emerged at the end of the 19th century, but its practical implementation started during the Soviet era, at the end of the 1930s, when separate sections of the new line were built.

Full-scale construction works began in 1974, with thousands of young college graduates and workers from all over the USSR coming to different places along the route of the future line.

Ten years after the start of construction, BAM became an integrated railway line, but its construction continued.

Its length from Taishet in the Irkutsk region to Sovietskaya Gavan, a port city on the Sea of Japan, reaches 4,300 km.

It stretches across vast swathes of permafrost, down to 300m deep in some places, and the zones where seismic activity can be as high as 9.0 points on the Richter scale.

BAM crosses eleven full-flowing rivers and seven mountain ranges, and the total length of its tunnels exceeds 30 km.

A year ago, President Putin issued an instruction to the cabinet to draft a model plan for further steps towards modernization of the BAM and Transsib.

The modernization project will require 562 billion rubles (around $ 16.3 billion) through 2018.

Almost $4.5 billion have been allocated from the National Wealth Fund.

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