The First Vice President of Russian Railways Alexander Misharin has stated that the new high speed Moscow-Kazan route is expected to cost 1.3 trillion rubles (USD22.4 billion) as Russia plans to improve connectivity across its vast land mass.
Kazan is regarded as the country’s “third” capital, after Moscow and St. Petersburg, and is Russia’s eighth largest city. The city is important as an engineering and banking center, serving as a de facto gateway to the east for western Russia. It also hosts the largest IT Park in Russia and one of the biggest technical parks in Europe.
The route to Kazan continues the upgrading of Russian Railways, with the high-speed Sapsan train service between Moscow and St. Petersburg reaching speeds of up to 350kmh, which contributes to a journey time of just under four hours. That compares with a road journey taking over twelve hours.
The project fits into China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ plans, with both the BRICS Development Bank, Silk Road Fund, and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, all making multi-billion dollar loans to see the project through.
The Moscow-Kazan High Speed Railway’s total length will stand at around 770 kilometers. Trains may go at a speed of 350-400 kilometers per hour, and the time en route between the two cities could be 3.5 hours against the current 14 hours. The route is expected to be operational in 2020.
For the Moscow-Kazan leg, several companies are involved in the infrastructure development, including Russia’s Sinara, Siemens of Germany, and China’s CRRC, who are already working on the freight train project and may launch production at a joint venture of Sinara and Siemens. Russia, however, is to construct the freight trains on its own soil, in light of the sanctions placed upon it by Western governments.
China is also keen to see the route extended through to Beijing, connecting the two countries across Kazakhstan. According to Russian Railways, the length of Moscow-Beijing railroad would be 7,769 km, with a travel time of about 33 hours as opposed to the current five and a half days.
This project is currently under consideration by both the Chinese and Russian Governments. The Beijing City Government has allegedly tweeted on its Weibo account that the project is to go ahead. Cost estimates for the entire route amount to some USD242 billion.
Should this happen, the rail link will serve as a viable alternative to flying, not because of the alternative method of traveling between Moscow and Beijing, but because of the faster access the route would give to the various stops along the way. If so, and depending upon the routing, this would be a boom for cities such as Mongolia’s Ulaan Baatar, Vladivostok, Siberian stops such as Chita, Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude, as well as key Russian hubs such as Nizhny Novgorod, Ekaterinburg, and Novosibirsk. All of these are significant energy, manufacturing and potential agricultural plays, and all are considered key to China as Beijing seeks to bring more sustainable, regionally accessible resources within its orbit.
Such a route would also have significant implications for the development of Harbin, which already enjoys a position as a key strategic Chinese rail hub and is an important center for freight and passengers spreading out across the Chinese landmass. Simply put, if the Chinese and Russians agree on a high speed link the the entire northern Eurasian land mass will see the advent of the most significant rail infrastructure initiative since the completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway, one hundred years ago.