The past, present and future of a vast region stretching from the Urals to Kamchatka and from the Arctic Ocean to China and Mongolia - in other words the fate of Russia - has always been a matter of great importance. Science in Russia (No. 4, 2002) carried a special article on this subject written by Vladimir Lamin, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Director General of the Joint Institute of the History of Philosophy, Philology and Philosophy of the RAS Siberian Branch. In the current issue of our journal this subject is discussed by Dr. Alexander Sukhodolov, Chairman of the Economics Committee of the Administration of the Irkutsk Region in Siberia. His original articles appeared in the Nauka v Sibiri (Science in Siberia) newspaper (Nos. 12, 13, 15 and 16, 2002), and he takes a somewhat different view on the problem of development of Siberia from our previous author.
The idea of intertying all continents with mainline roads for ground traffic is not new. It became a subject for discussions at the turn of the 20th century. But it is only now that the necessary prerequisites appear in sight for translating the dream into reality.
Thanks to its special geographical position Russia possesses a truly great transit potential. The territory of this country is a kind of an overland bridge for traffic links between what we call the main macroeconomic poles-the EEC countries and countries of the Asian-Pacific Region (APR) and in a more distant perspective-with the countries of America and Eurasia.
The building of trunk roads offers advantages to international trade. Suffice it to say that the freight traffic between EEC and APR countries today reaches some 6 mln containers a year. 98 percent of these cargoes are carried by foreign freighters through foreign ports. And the cost of transit freight from APR to Europe along the Trans- Siberian Railway (TRANSSIB) is twice cheaper and quicker (container deliveries along the TRANSSIB take 8 - 12 days instead of 1 - 2 months by sea).
As for Russia, international transit should bring it tangible benefits. Container traffic across its territory should be no less than 1 mln of freight containers a year (10 - 20 percent of the total volume) and if this is so, the revenue could match the export figures for power fuels-the cost of delivery through the TRANSSIB of one standard container is about 2 ths US dollars. According to some expert assessments, translating into reality Russia's transport potential en route from EEC to APR means doubling our national income.
Within the confines of Russia seaports are available on the Baltic, Azov-Black Sea, Caspian, Northern and Far Eastern basins. Stretching from Moscow to the Pacific is the Trans-Siberian Railway, and the Baikal-Amur Railway has been completed and is functioning now. The country has a developed network of inland waterways and automobile roads. All .this makes it possible not only to meet all of the domestic requirements in freight and passenger transport, but to open up transit corridors between the countries of Europe and Asia, between Eurasia and America.
During the economic crisis of the 1990s transit links across the Russian territory dwindled with the Russian railways gaining a reputation of being excessively crime- prone and thus loosing customer confidence. Today this country has regained its socio-political stability. Freight shipments on the TRANSSIB are quite safe and in traffic control stations one can trace on the screen each and every container all along its route.
We now have technical and technological potential for implementing big transnational transport projects. One of the facts of life today is the railway tunnel under the La Manche which inter-ties the British and European transport networks. Today one can go on a tour of Europe without leaving your train or your car. Planned in the Asian region now are trunk railways and underwater tunnels which will link Japan with the Eurasian mainland. Plans are being considered for building a railway link between Eurasia and the American continent.
Building a basically new system of international transport links and transit corridors is necessitated by the globalization and integration of world economics, growing transport mobility of the population, growing volumes of passenger and fright traffic- by the need to deliver quickly and without obstructions freight and passengers from one corner of this planet to another.
DEVELOPMENT OF RUSSIA'S TRANSIT POTENTIAL
Transit is a particular type of export of transport services. As such, it boost the efficiency of utilization of our transport network and promotes its improvements. In a number of European countries (Poland, Germany, Hungary, Austria, the Netherlands, etc.) it has been turned into profitable articles of the national budget. In these conditions the tasks of utilizing the transit potential this country in general, and Siberia in particular, in combination with the development of the world transport network, becomes one of the priority objectives.
The development of Russia's transit potential will be promoted by the fact that we have practically reached the limits of increasing the speed and reducing the prices of marine transport with our seaports being overloaded. The traffic capacity of the Suez Canal is approaching its limit. What we call a qualitative limit has been reached in boosting the capacity of container ships. On the other hand the potential of high-speed railway transport with the addition of networks of automobile roads, inland waterways and multi-mode logistics centers is only beginning to be tapped.
As for Russia, its geographical position and the level of transport infrastructure make it possible for us to enter the international transport markets with sufficiently attractive offers of transit resources in line with the most up-to-date requirements.
Later on the reader will be offered a review of projects and ideas which can translate into practice the sufficiently high transit potential of this country and accelerate its integration into the world transport system. Each of the suggested project is of a unique nature in its own right both for Russia and other countries as well as for the international community as a whole. Some of these ideas go beyond the limits of purely transit projects and are of great importance for the development of Siberia and the Far East.
The length of the TRANSSIB from Moscow to Vladivostok is 9,288 km. This twin- lane line made it possible for our state not only to develop intensively the lands beyond the Urals, but also to strengthen substantially our influence in APR. At the start of the third millennium TRANSSIB can be integrated with the railway networks of other countries and this will make it the most powerful and "long-distance" container carrier of this century.
Even now the electrified Trans-Siberian railway offers the shortest route for many transit shipments. Back
in the 1980s the TRANSSIB carried the bulk of international container freight between South-East Asia and Central Europe. Passing through it annually were more than 100 mln t of freight, including 140 - 160 ths of containers.
At the start of the 1990s nearly half of our foreign clients stopped using the TRANSSIB, and there was a marked reduction of the number of transit freight shipments from the Far Eastern port of Nakhodka. By the mid-1990s only one third of the TRANSSIB potential was still in use with Russia sustaining appreciable financial losses.
Under consideration now is a project for extending TRANSSIB all the way to Japan (across Sakhalin). This will create an Eurasian transit corridor ("container bridge") between the commercial poles of the countries of Europe and APR. This corridor can compete successfuUy with marine transit, cutting down the route between Europe and North-Eastern Asia by 8 ths km.
In a perspective, the TRANSSIB will be able to become a transcontinental trunk line, a "universal" corridor of a latitude orientation being of importance not only to Eurasia. If and when a Siberian-Alaska line is built, the western stretch of TRANSSIB will take upon itself some of the freight turnover between the countries of North America and Europe.
Within this context it is very important even now to start a modernization of the infrastructure of the Trans-Siberian (TRANSSIB) corridor, with a view to its future integration into the world transport system. And work along these lines is already in progress. A reconstruction of marine terminals is under way in the ports of St. Petersburg and Vostochny, approaches to these ports are being improved and modernization is under way of container terminals for handling of 20 and 40-feet containers in keeping with international standards. Within the bounds of the corridor and on the approaches a network of automobile roads in being developed and the structure of what are called intermodal shipments is being perfected. Improvements have been made at the railway stations on the border with Mongolia and China.
The building of a transcontinental railway calls for the establishment of a major logistics center with a capacity of 100 - 150 ths containers a year. A center of this kind is already being built in Czechia (Bogumin). A broad trunk line is being built across Poland to Prague which will make Russian railways even more competitive as compared with marine shipments. Thus in the beginning of the present century
the route from APR to Europe can become the most important commercial route in the world.
And now one more and very important problem-the problem of safety of cargoes. Today things are changing for the better on the TRANSSIB in this respect. All along the line and its branches trains carry armed guards. All cargo movements are traced on the central control panel, including the conditions of the locking devices (fitted with special sensors).
As for the section of TRANSSIB belonging to the Eastern-Siberian railway, the mean speed of freight trains is 47.5 km/h. This is higher than in America (35.4 km/h) or China (31.8 km/h) which is yet another tangible argument in favor of developing international transport.
ARGUMENTS FOR LINKING THE TRANSSIB WITH JAPANESE RAILWAYS
Connecting the TRANSSIB with the railway network of Japan will produce a transport corridor between that country and Europe, will open up a route for a non- stop, or through cargo transport between the two economic poles "from door to door" and without time-consuming marine shipments. The volume of transit along this route-10 - 12 mln tons a year. According to expert assessments, this can be doubled in 30 to 40 years, exceeding 20 mln tons. By that time the volume of trade between Russia and Japan could also exceed 20 mln tons. And beating in mind the mighty resources potential of the Russian territories, the load upon the trunk lines can be even higher.
In Japan itself the idea of having a trunk railway line is arousing general
public interest on a national level. A public organization "For Linking Japan With the Eurasian Mainland" has been set up which advertises the project and works for its implementation. The cost of the project is estimated at 10 - 15 bin dollars (plus the cost of a railway construction from Komsomolsk-on-the Amur to Cape Lazarev).
The implementation of the project includes three key stages: first-building a railway passage from the mainland to Sakhalin; second-building a passage between the islands of Sakhalin and Hokkaido; third-reconstruction of the Sakhalin railway. Now, let us take a closer look at each of the three.
Experts suggest two "versions" of a "Mainland-Sakhalin" passage-a tunnel or a bridge. The most preferable seems to be the former and the idea of linking Sakhalin with the mainland by a railway was originally considered back in the late 1930s. Also suggested at that time was the building of an 8-km tunnel under the Tatar strait (from Cape Lazarev to Cape Pogibi). Preparations for the construction were broken up by the start of the Great Patriotic War of Russia with Germany.
Work on the project was resumed in 1947 and in May 1950 the USSR Council of Ministers adopted a decision on the construction of a railway from Komsomolsk-on- the Amur to Pobedino (on Sakhalin) with a tunnel passage providing a reliable access (by rail) to the ice-free ports of Sakhalin.
The project of the tunnel was no adventure invented by a totalitarian regime, or a freak of the imagination of the Soviet dictator, as it was later denounced. It rested on sober engineering calculations and took into account the tendencies of development and long-term national interests of the country. Even at that time building a tunnel looked like a more economically attractive proposal than having a ferry crossing of a bridge.
The construction began in the summer of 1951 and was conducted by Russian convicts and Japanese POWs. Over a period of two years 120 km of railway tracks were built and a large volume of preparatory operations on the tunnel (geological studies, portal excavations started, the excavations of a shaft started on the mainland together with the building of a power station).
The pace of this work slowed down with the beginning of the Korean war and everything stopped after the death of Stalin. To this day one can see from the mainland and from the island a dam going under the Tatar Strait.
The Vanino-Kholmsk ferry crossing across the Tatar Strait was put into operation only in 1973. Today it remains the one and only link with the mainland and it fails to carry enough supplies for the needs of the island and the region. Powerful and unique ferryboats-formerly the pride of the Far Eastern fleet-have become obsolete both morally and physically (only five remain out of the original ten). And in view of the severe natural conditions and the climate ferryboats can not ensure an uninterrupted flow of goods. The warm period of the year in this region does not exceed 5 months, and frequent cyclones and strong winds, generating waves of up to 4 m pose additional problems for the shipping. As a result, even despite a year-round demand, ferryboats are in operation for only half a year-far from being enough for the reliable links between Sakhalin and the mainland.
After a period of half a century the Ministry of Railways resumed work on the technical-economic substantiation of the tunnel. A project is ready for building a direct transport link with Sakhalin which had been formulated in the mid-1990s by specialists of the Tunnel Association, MOSGIPRO-TRANS, METROGIPROTRANS (Moscow R&D agency of transportation, Subway Design Bureau) and several other agencies).
Having a reliable transport link with Sakhalin is also important because on the island and its shelf large-scale operations are underway, under the projects SAKHALIN-1, SAKHALIN-2 and SAKHALIN-3, for oil prospecting and extraction (including joint operations with foreign companies).
According to expert forecasts the volume of traffic between the island and the mainland can increase up to 30 mln tons a year in a medium-term perspective. The Vanino-Kholmsk crossing in its present conditions will not be able to cope with this volume of goods traffic and trying to restore it to its former level would be more expensive than the building of a tunnel or a bridge. It is also important to bear in mind that a railway passage, as different from a ferry crossing, will provide a reliable link between Sakhalin and the continent, making freight traffic independent from seasonal and weather conditions, ensuring regular deliveries (independent of storms, strong currents and difficult ice conditions in the Tatar strait).
And like 50 years ago the construction of a railway crossing is promoted by the geopolitical situation. But it is basically different now and does not depend on a confrontation like in the "cold war" years. Today the promoting factor is the need for integration between Russia and APR countries. Japanese businessmen and industrialists have vested interests in translating the project into reality. First, a transit corridor across Siberia will make cheaper the transport of Japanese commodities to Europe (savings from the delivery to Central Europe of one container along the TRANSSIB is preliminary estimated at 500 dollars. Secondly, the interests of development of the Japanese industry require supplies from various countries of a range of raws which are available in excess in the regions of Siberia and the Far East through which pass both the TRANSSIB and the Baikal-Amur railways.
Another important consideration is that the tunnel will give Russia a reliable access to the ice-free ports on Sakhalin which will improve transport servicing of Magadan, Kamchatka and the eastern sector of the Arctic, reduce the length of the operating marine communications by 500 - 1,200 km, which is equivalent to getting rid of 10 carrier vessels in one navigation period.
From the technical angle, the construction of a tunnel poses no particular problem. The width of the strait in its most narrow section is only 7.8 km (for comparison: the width of La Manche is close to 40 km).
The length of the construction would be 2 to 3 years, its estimated cost-more than 3 bin dollars (the total cost of the project will be 10 to 15 bin dollars and the outlays can be repaid in 8 to 10 years. To speed up the construction it was suggested that after the construction of the Severoamursky tunnel on the BAM (Baikal-Amur railway) the redundant building equipment by moved onto the new building site.
As an alternative to the tunnel it has been proposed to build what they call a complex bridge crossing across the Nevelsky strait. The authors of the project include several researchers of the RAS Far Eastern Branch who suggest intertying in one structure a railway and an automobile crossings and also oil and gas pipelines. In the body of the crossing one could even place low-speed turbines for wave and tidal electric generators, and the supports could be used for breeding of aquacultures and many useful marine organisms. At the same time, because of unstable climate conditions a bridge can be less reliable and more difficult to operate as compared with a tunnel.
A railway passage from continental Russia to Sakhalin represents only the first stage of the transcontinental project. The second will be the building of a railway crossing between the islands of Hokkaido and Sakhalin. In this case Sakhalin will turn into a kind of a dryland bridge between Russia and Japan.
This idea was discussed by Japanese experts in the late 1960s and different projects were put forward. One of them called for the construction of an undersea tunnel across the Tsusima strait to South Korea. But its implementation involved a number of problems, mainly due to high costs of construction and the lack of reliable technologies for building undersea tunnels of considerable length and at great depths.
Even then it was pointed out that it would be much faster and cheaper to link the Japanese railways with the TRANSSIB across Sakhalin, building in advance undersea tunnels between the straits of Tsugaru, Laperouse and Nevelskoy.
It was only 30 years later that the first prerequisites appeared for translating the idea into practice. In the late 1980s the Seikan tunnel was built (53.9 km long) dug at the depth of 140 m. Ten years later the islands of Honshu upon which Tokyo is located and Hokkaido.
Thus three projects remain to be implemented for linking Japan with Eurasia. First, to build a tunnel of about 50 km between Hokkaido and Sakhalin (across the Laperouse strait; at maximum depth of 71 m). Second, complete the construction of an undersea tunnel between Sakhalin and the mainland, started in the early 1950s (or a railway bridge across the Nevelskoy strait). Third, reconstruct the railway on the Sakhalin. Modern technologies make it possible to complete this construction within brief spans of time.
In the project under discussion Sakhalin should play the role of a bridge, Unking TRANSSIB with the railway network of Japan. This being so, one has to say a few words about this "island railway"-the only one in Russia. Before October 1991 it belonged to the Far Eastern railway as a structural unit of its Sakhalin branch. Today it is an independent unit of Russia' Ministry of Communications.
All along its length from north to south (some 1 thous km) the railroad has a narrow track (1,067 mm). This was the standard adopted at the start of the 20th century following the signing of the Portsmouth peace treaty in 1905. It was then, after the end of the Russo-Japanese war, that the southern part of the Island was handed over to Japan which was the reason why the railway track was designed and built according to Japanese standards.
The flow of passengers and freight passes through 32 stations. Passenger cars are of Japanese make and freight cars were built in Russia (produced in the 1960s specially to fit the Japanese narrow-gage standard). Today this obstructs the growth of the volume of freight traffic, same as the small dimensions of tunnels and bridges.
The advent of TRANSSIB on the island will speed up the reconstruction of the railway (will have a track of 1,524 mm) and provide an impetus for the development of the whole Sakhalin Region. It will be possible to deliver freight to the ice-free eastern Russian seaports all year round. In a perspective the Sakhalin railway will be part and parcel of an international transit corridor of Japan-Russia-Europe.
Different track, or gage, width on the railways of Russia, Japan and festern Europe is one of the biggest problems obstructing the transit of international railway traffic through several countries our rail gage- 1,524 mm, standard gage of a Japanese superexpress-1,435 mm, and narrow gage of Japanese railways-1,067 mm). This being so rail-
way cars have to be "remounted" at border crossing.
This problem can be successfully solve thanks to new platform-cars with a variable gage. The appropriate technology has been developed at the Japanese R&D Center of Railway Technologies. It makes it possible within a span of several minutes, and at train speeds of 80 km/h to pass from one track upon another; and now this "remounting" takes several hours.
The new technology can be successfully used on railway traffic between Russia and Japan and on Europe-Russia transitions.
The new cars-platforms with variable gage which are being developed in Japan, are successfully passing tests, including those in bitter frosts (-40 - 45 o C), that is with a view to their use on the TRANSSIB.
SIBERIA-ALASKA TRUNK LINE-A ROAD FROM SIBERIA TO AMERICA
In a perspective one can speak of a no less grandiose project-the building of a transit corridor of America-Russia-countries of South-East Asia. And this is just as realistic as building a corridor linking Japan across Sakhalin with Eurasia.
The idea of building a transcontinental railway from Siberia to America across the Bering Strait (with a bridge or a tunnel) and connecting it with the American railway network is now new.
Back in 1905 one US syndicate, representing the interests of the business communities of San Francisco and Chicago, asked the then Russian government for a concession for the construction of what they called a Siberia-Alaska Railway. According to the original plan it had to pass across the whole of Eastern Siberia up to the Bering Strait and on to Alaska.
The proposed railway had to be built from the TRANSSIB near Kansk, cross the Angara and reach Kirensk from where it went up to Yakutsk along the left bank of the Lena. At that point a bridge had to be built across the river with the line passing on to Verkhne-Kolymsk, and then, crossing the Omolon and Anadyr, and reaching the Vostochny Pier in the Bering Strait. Alaska could be reached through an undersea tunnel or across a bridge.
The vast territory which the new railway had to cross was absolutely undeveloped and scarcely populated. To breath a new life into this wilderness private investments were planned without any support from the Russian federal budget. As a guarantee for their investments the Americans asked the Russians for a long-term (90 years) concession on a belt (12 km) of the surrounding territory along the line.
And one has to admit that by that time the Americans possessed a wealth of experience in railroad construction. Their national railway network was one of the world's biggest, reaching 350 ths km in 1905 (the Russian one-65 ths). And it was no accident that before launching the construction of the Nikolayevskaya Railway, the very first one in Russia, the government sent Russian engineers exactly to America for learning their experience.
The policy of railroad construction in the United States was based on the premise that railways had to promote an influx of population-the colonization of vast regions. This took place mainly with the financial backing of railway companies and syndicates. And the federal authorities, too, did not remain indifferent to these efforts, providing the necessary support and guidance, and allocating to the railway companied the necessary plots of land with the rights for using local mineral deposits. The rest of the territory was offered to the "pioneer" settlers practically free of charge. All of these factors stimulated an influx of capital and labor, mainly emigrants.
Settlers were turning farmers and the cultivated territory started bringing profits. The "tide" of passengers and freight was rising, same as the price of land. In this way the losses, unavoidable at the first stages of railroad construction, turned into profits.
At the end of 1905 the problem of concession was discussed by a special government commission. And the request was turned down with the Russian officials arguing that foreign capital can put Siberia under its control by inviting its nationals to settle on the leased land.
Later on the syndicate sent another request to the Russian authorities, pledging to build the railway under Russian government control and hiring Russian workers and engineers so that the adjacent areas would be used by Russian settlers. The railway companies were prepared to build at their own expense for the Russian workmen churches, schools, hospitals and other accommodations. They guaranteed full property rights of private owners of land which had been bought before the signing of the concession. Russian sovereignty was preserved over territories needed for the implementation of its state and defense interests. The Americans also offered the Russian their means of communication. In 30 years the Russian side had the right to buy out the railway and in 90 years (in 1995) the railway and the whole of its infrastructure would become Russian property. Finally, as demonstration of its sincere intention the company submitted to the Russian side a full list of syndicate members which included some influential and wealthy persons from New York, San Francisco and Chicago.
After due consultations the concession was endorsed by the Russian Ministry of Finances and supported by War Ministry officials, but in the end the grandiose Siberia-Alaska project was shelved. Its main opponent must have been Russian capitalists who were gaining strength. Large government orders for the construction of the railway could yield huge profits, helped to develop the industries of the Urals and offered the prospect of employment to tens of thousands the unemployed in European Russia.
The Russian economy was going through a period of tempestuous growth. At the start of the 20th century
it was ahead even of the United States where the building of trunk lines had been finished in the main. In these conditions the big US capital functioning in this sphere was actively looking for profitable investments abroad, including Siberia. But that went against the grain with the Russian industrialists. They realized that it would be shortsighted to part with such a "piece of cake" especially since similar railway projects for the country's north-east were already in the development stage. Prospecting was conducted and preliminary design assessments made for a railway up to Yakutsk and plans were afoot for building a railway to the Sea of Okhotsk.
Of no little importance for the Russian refusal to grant the concession was the already available experience of concession construction of the Chinese-Eastern Railway across Manchuria that to which the Russian capital gained access to the natural resources of Northern China. The
Russian government was afraid that something similar could happen on the north- eastern Russian territory.
During the Soviet period the project of a transcontinental corridor between Eurasia and America was never put on the agenda.
And now the idea of an America-Eurasia corridor is again under consideration and the related studies have been resumed in Russia, the United States, Canada, Great Britain and they are coordinated by an international corporation. Calculations demonstrate the technical feasibility and economic effectiveness of the proposed project (recommendations have been submitted to the World Bank and the governments of Russia and the United States).
The proposed railway will cut down by four times the distance between North America and the "triangle" of the Near East, the Persian Gulf and South Asia. And transit freight turnover between North America and South-East Asia only is estimated at 30 - 40 bin tons a year. And this does not take into account transit to Central Asia and the Near East or the involvement into the turnover of the rich resources of the adjacent territories of Siberia and the Far East.
If and when it is built, it will open up the way to container shipments from South Korea to Europe across North Korea and Russia (via TRANSSIB). In that case the time of delivery of heavy containers will be reduced from 30 - 40 days (by sea) to 13 - 18 days (by rail), and transportation costs will be reduced accordingly. The real volumes of additional freight attracted to the TRANSSIB are estimated at 200 - 500 ths containers a year.
Both South and North Korea are taking steps for the development of their railway networks. Reconstruction has been started of the Seoul-Sinyichu stretch which will link the railway networks of the North and the South.
The access to the Russian border and TRANSSIB from Sinyidzhu will be provided across Manchuria (China) and Zabaikalsk. And there can also be another route-from Seoul through Hynnam and Khasan to Vladivostok, but this will require capital investment into the construction of second lanes and electrification of some sections.
The construction of a trans-Korean line will produce a transit corridor from port of Pousan (South Korea) to North Korea and on to the Far East, Siberia and Europe. The expected volume of congainer freight by 2010 can exceed 600 ths containers a year.
ALTERNATIVE TO THE TRANSSIB CORRIDOR
What we call transit resources are available not only in Russia, but also in other countries of Asia which also want to take part in building transcontinental railways and international transit corridors. This being so, the aforesaid projects have an alternative. For example, should the construction of the TRANSSIB transit corridor be delayed, the flow of transit shipments from APR to Europe can bypass Russia from the south and go along the ancient Silk Way, passing from the Pacific basis to the European part of the continent across China and Kazakhstan.
And all the economic and technical prerequisites for that are available. There begins industrial-scale oil extraction in Sintsyan-a north-western province of China bordering on Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Russia. Construction has been completed of an automobile road across the Takla-Makan desert, and modernization is proceeding at a rapid pace of the Trans-China railway from Shanghai to Urumchi (the capital of Sintsyan). This road can be linked up with a railway from Semipalatinsk through Taldy-Kurgan and on to Alma-Ata and on to the west-across Uzbekistan to Krasnovodsk in Turkmenia. This route can go on to the seaports of Turkey across Azerbaijan and Iran, or follow the "North-South" corridor leading to Central Europe.
Construction is also considered of an undersea tunnel between Japan, Malaysia (Western Malaysia) and Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Penhuledao Island and this will also speed up the formation of this trans-route.
In these conditions it is important to broaden the possibilities of the existing TRANSSIB trunk line which has been already demonstrating its advantages by conducting container shipments from the port of Nakhodka to
Europe. Nor can one ignore the vast natural resources on the lands along the TRANSSIB and BAM, -in perspective they will be developed both on the Russian and international scale, so to speak.
The threat of an alternative to the Russian route from Japan and Korea to Europe across China makes it necessary for the Russian Ministry of Communications and the Government to pass without delay the appropriate decisions on broadening the potentialities of the TRANSSIB, including linking it with the railway networks of Japan and Korea. As proved by experience, it is much more difficult to re-route transit shipments than to "master" then right from the start.
THE IMPORTANCE OF TRANS-ROUTES FOR RUSSIA AND INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
You have been put into the picture with regard to some of the projects which will make it possible for the
international community to make use of Russia's unique transit and resources' potential which has so far remained untapped.
Two of these projects stand out by their scale-a railway link between America and Eurasia and a link between Eurasia and Japan across Sakhalin. Both are of an unprecedented nature for Russia and other members of the international community. Both exceed the framework of purely railway projects and should be regarded in an unseparable connection with programs of comprehensive development of the territories through which they will pass. Their implementation will accelerate the development of a unique resources' and transit potentials within Russia's vast and plentiful north-eastern territories which so far remain under populated and underdeveloped economically.
Suffice it to say that it is possible already to use and develop natural deposits within the BAM zone, such as the Elginskoye coal field (a railway is already being built to it from the BAM), Udokanskoye copper deposit, Chineiskoye deposit of titanium- manganese and vanadium ores. And there are also other and no less promising mineral deposits in the area. Japan is already studying the possibility of importing from Russia more than 10 mln tons a year of coal (Elginsk) and 20 mln tons of Siberian oil. And without developing a transport and energy infrastructure it would be impossible to make effective use of the natural wealth of this region.
Transportation of goods between APR countries and Europe by a land corridor will be quicker and less expensive as compared with marine shipments. For example, transit from Japan to Europe by sea takes 1 - 2 months. Along a trunk route linking the Pacific with the Atlantic freight from Tokyo or Seoul will reach London within 15 - 17 days. That will be the shortest route from Europe to Japan or Korea.
And Russia will also profit from the transport of Japanese, Korean and Chinese goods. Transit across its territory is estimated to yield up to 20 bin dollars of annual profits. Additional revenue from increased taxes and population employment will replenish the local and regional budgets of the territories used for the trunk route.
Thus the common benefits in store for Russia and the EEC and APR countries provides a realistic basis for cooperation in building transit corridors, changes the established stereotypes in favor of thinking on a "global scale" and makes it possible to pool together national interests for the common good.
The new trunk lines will act as international transport corridors in a broad meaning of this word. That means that parallel to a railroad (within one corridor), there can be power transmission line, fiber-optics channels and pipelines so that the total cost of such projects will be reduced by 1.5 - 1.8 times.
The construction of the proposed transcorridors will call for vera tangible investments. Thus the building of a transit corridor across the Bering Strait is estimated at 50 - 60 bin dollars, and linking the TRANSSIB with the railway network of Japan at 10 - 25 bin. This is clearly too much for the Russian budget, and the natural question is-how to finance such projects and will the international community be able to shoulder the expenses?
The potential investment resources in the APR countries alone are estimated at 500 - 600 bin dollars. And the transport projects being implemented in these countries are estimated at 200 bin. But not a single one of them, or a combination thereof can exceed in importance any of the two suggested projects. And in order to get at least part of these allocations Russia has to develop an appropriate investment climate and that will require changes in the legislation, improvements in investments legislation and government guarantees. A certain step in this direction could be laws on free economic zones in areas along the trunk line.
As for the concrete sources and mechanisms of attracting investments, there exist different possibilities. First, some support could be provided by companies participating in the development of the natural resources along the route (on Sakhalin- these are oil companies). Second, there is a proposal for setting up a state stock company which will administer the belt of land along the trunk line (of 20 to 50 km) with the right to the use of the available resources. Third, one could attract other members of the Federation (whose territories are crossed by the line) as shareholders. They should be interested in collecting bigger taxes and gaining access to the seaports and the market of Japan and can finance the construction of some small stretches (30 - 40 km) of the "tunnel" line.
It was in this way that the transcontinental line was built in the United States to Alaska. All of the adjacent territory was split into small plots with shares for them being sold all over America. A shareholder received his plot with all of the natural wealth thereupon. The money from the sales of shares was used to finance the construction. This approach can also be acceptable for Russia after the adoption of the appropriate private property legislation.
Finally, the construction of the Russo-Japanese transit corridor can be done together with Japan and with the financial backing of the World Bank.
In the opinion of Prof. Eichi, one of the supporters of the transcontinental trunk line, in translating the project into reality one should get rid of strivings for unilateral advantages. What is needed instead are cooperative efforts. And then the project will be implemented for the common good of members of the international community.
Prepared by Vladimir GOLDMAN