The idea of building the North-Russian Eurasian Railway Vanino – Indiga deserves serious attention.
Today, every educated person understands that the Arctic is not just the future of Russia, it is its future, its chance to remain a great maritime power, using its geographical and strategic position to extract economic gain and strengthen its influence in the world. And scientists, specialists of the transport industry have a great responsibility to determine specific scientifically based areas of Russia’s economic development and its use of the Arctic resources, including transportation.
The Great Northern Way or the North-Russian Eurasian Railway, which would connect the main industrial areas of the Urals and Siberia with the seaports of the Arctic Basin by the shortest route, has been a dream of state-minded Russian industrialists, transport workers and economists for the past century and a half.
The need to create ports on independent of Europe directions was well understood by our ancestors, as evidenced by the creation of ports on the coast of the seas of the Arctic Ocean from the semi-legendary Mangazeya to Arkhangelsk and Kola.
However, the Russian politicians of the modern era not only did not develop the infrastructure in the Arctic, which was created in blood and sweat during the Soviet period, but in fact brought it to destruction. Fortunately, a strategic mistake has recently been recognized, and in recent years, interest in the Arctic has manifested itself with a new force.
In accordance with the Strategy for the Development of the Maritime Activity of the Russian Federation until 2030, developed by the State Scientific and Technological University Council for the Study of Productive Forces sea directions not less than 1.1 billion tons of foreign trade cargo. Moreover, a significant increase in capacity in accordance with the previously adopted “Fundamentals of the State Policy of the Russian Federation in the Arctic for the period up to 2020 and beyond” 1 should be provided mainly by building new and modernizing existing ports on the coast of the Arctic Ocean. One of the key points in substantiating the concept of development of the transport complex in the north of Russia is the identification of points for the creation of new key ports and transport approaches to them.
Doubling the volume of cargo transshipment through Russian ports from the current level (535.5 million tons in 2011) will require doubling the transportation capacity of rail transport, and therefore serious development of its transport infrastructure, including to the north.
Considering that the Trans-Siberian Railway is currently heavily loaded, and the transportation of Kuzbass export coal to western ports shows signs of collapse, it is necessary to create a new transport complex based on the new railway, mainly of the latitudinal direction, leading the Arctic and pacific pools. And this is precisely the idea, which is more than 150 years old.
Stages of development of the idea. Concept creation
The idea of building the Great Railway of the North, connecting the future ports of the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, was formed over a century and a half.
Already in 1906, for a more convenient, short and cheap exit of cargo from Siberia and the Urals to the Western European market, bypassing St. Petersburg and the Baltic ports, a number of projects were proposed to create a highway through the Urals to one of the bays on the Arctic coast of Russia such as the Indig Bay. The problems of creating a seaport on the Indig river, its connection by railway communication with the Urals and Siberia were actively debated in the 20s and 40s of the 20th century.
At first, however, preference was given to the Arkhangelsk port due to the centuries-old experience of its operation, as well as the limited technical and economic capabilities of the country to create an additional transport hub. With all the preference for the Arkhangelsk option, even his staunch supporters agreed that, over time, the creation of a new seaport serving the export potential of the Urals, Siberia and Northeast Russia would become an economic necessity.
With the beginning of the Second World War, the situation of the First World War repeated, when the north-western ports were cut off by enemy troops. Twice the governments of the country had to urgently look for safety options and turn to the idea of building a port in the Indig Bay (which is very instructive). However, to build a new port and the railway to it in military conditions could not be either the royal or the Soviet state.
The concept of transport-geographical development of Siberia and the North for new conditions was developed by the Institute of Economics and Industrial Production Organization (IEEP) of the SB RAS under the leadership of Dr. Sc. Bandman M.K. by the end of the 80s of the last century.
New Russia received a project that included: completion of the construction of the Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM) and its transformation into a link in the Asia-Pacific Region (APR) – Western Europe intercontinental transport bridge (Tokyo-Dublin); reconstruction of the Trans-Siberian Railway and its transformation into a specialized international class highway “Trans-Asian Railway”, as well as the completion of the North-Siberian Railway (Sevsiba) with the commissioning of the Nizhnevartovsk-Ust-Ilimsk section and its connection with the seaport in the southeastern non-freezing part of the Barents seas.
According to the developers, this highway (conditional name – the North-Russian Eurasian Railway) should become the axis of the future northern latitudinal transport corridor and the basis for the integration of the Ural, Siberian and Far Eastern problematic regions of the resource type. The creation of this highway with the new port in Indiga Bay (in the 30s of the last century – the Northern Gate project) will connect the port of Vanino on the coast of the Sea of Japan with the ports of Bely (Arkhangelsk) and the Barents Sea. The western link of this highway Ivdel – Indiga with a length of 1,200 km (Barentskomur) will give Russia a new sea access to world markets through the western sector of the Arctic Ocean, and the middle link – Ivdel – Khrebtovaya with a length of 3,400 km (Sevsib) – access to BAM (Hrebtovaya – Vanino 4358 km).
Passing entirely across the Russian territory at a considerable distance from the state borders of Russia, near the promising oil and gas territories of Western and Eastern Siberia, the main line can significantly increase the effectiveness of BAM, as well as the national and transport security of the country.
The organizing idea of the Barentskomur project is a geostrategic and feasibility study of laying the Ural-Komi-Barents Sea (Indiga) railway, which can not only combine the richest oil and gas reserves of the Siberian North into a powerful macro-regional economic complex, the unique metallurgical industries of the Urals, and the ore , coal and forest resources of the Komi Republic, but also to open to these resources a direct shortest export route from the continental depths of the Asian part of Russia to the coastal Barents Sea zhyu.
According to Academician Alekseev V.V., “this road, bringing together the heart of continental Asia with Western Europe, will create a completely new geo-economic configuration and intercivilizational perspective for the complex of strategic problems that today is characterized as the“ northern dimension ”of European integration” 2.
To solve this problem, scientists of the Siberian and Ural branches of the Russian Academy of Sciences refined the ideas of Siberian industrialists and developed a special scientific program “Problem regions of the resource type: economic integration of the European North-East, the Urals and Siberia” 3, which presents the goals and conditions for the integration of adjacent, but transport-separated regions. Problem regions of the Republic of Komi, Sverdlovsk and Tyumen regions, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Nenets, Khanty-Mansiysk, Yamalo-Nenets and Taimyr Autonomous Districts, as well as the Arctic and Trans-Siberian transport corridors were chosen as the main objects of study.
The conducted studies demonstrate, so far, a rare in science deep synthesis of historical and economic analysis of integration regional processes in the powerful resource-industrial continental core of Russia. The detailed analysis provided in this work turned out to be extremely useful, since historical experience even today speaks about the real background of regional interests and peculiarities of Russian spatial thinking much more than the most ambitious but abstract projects.
It is also obvious that the new highway, due to cheaper transportation by reducing the distance of cargo delivery, will significantly contribute to the development of foreign economic relations in the regions.
Analysis of the structure of the Great Northern Way
The North-Russian Eurasian Railway from the Pacific port of Vanino (Vanino-Sovetsko-Gavansky industrial transport hub) to the proposed Indiga port in the southeastern Barents Sea (hereinafter Vanino-Indiga main) constructively consists of three sections: the Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM), North-Siberian (Sevsib) and Barentskomur. A general view of the new highway is presented in Fig. one.
Fig. 1. General scheme and components of the North-Russian Eurasian railway
BAM has already sewed our immense spaces with “steel stitches”, connecting Taishet and the port of Sovetskaya Gavan. Even in its present state, the BAM with a length of 4,287 km (and together with its branches – 5.5 thousand km) is one of the largest rail lines in the world. BAM runs north of the Trans-Siberian Railway, branching out from it in Taishet, crosses the Angara in Bratsk, Lena – in Ust-Kut, rounds the lake. Baikal from the north, then passes through Tynda, crosses the Amur in Komsomolsk-on-Amur and ends on the Pacific coast in Sovetskaya Gavan.
BAM has branches, the most important of which is the Amur-Yakut Main Line (AYM) with a length of 1078 km, as well as: to Ust-Ilimsk (215 km); on the Chineiskoye field (66 km); to Bamovskaya station (179 km), Elgin coal deposit, Izvestkovaya station (326 km); on Chegdomyn (16 km); to Volochaevka station (351 km), to Black Cape station, where the construction of an underwater tunnel to Sakhalin Island began.
The State Duma of the Russian Federation supported the development of the Baikal-Amur Mainline for the period up to 2025 (the BAM-2 project), stating that the sustainable development of the regions of the Far East and Transbaikalia, as well as solving federal and regional problems of using the resource, industrial and transit potential of the East of the country are possible only with the implementation of the integrated infrastructure reconstruction project of BAM. According to the developers, the total load on the Northern latitudinal railway by 2020 will be 106.8 million tons per year.
The construction of the second section of the North-Russian Eurasian Railway – Sevsib – in contrast to the BAM is only provided for by the Transport Strategy until 2030.
Although by the beginning of the 1980s, on the Sevsiba highway, everything seemed to be ready for action. A serious impetus was given to the project in 1983 by the Ministry of Transport Construction of the USSR. On his behalf, the Central Research Institute for Transport Construction (TsNIITS) of the Ministry produced a desk tracing of Sevsib. In the technical specifications, the need for the construction of the highway was based on the following words: “At the moment, the railway network of Siberia is excessively overloaded. About 70% of rail freight traffic is performed on lines with a cargo density exceeding 70 million tons per kilometer. On a number of sites there are “bottlenecks” that significantly limit the possibilities of increasing the turnover. In this position, the transport network cannot ensure the development of the expected increase in traffic. ”
Government decrees officially recognized the completion of all necessary work for the study, preparation and development of a program for the development of this region and the construction of the North-Siberian Railway. But … struck 91, then there was the August crisis of 1998, which led to the project stopping and gave Sevsib’s opponents a chance to promote the development of the Lower Angara region.
And this is a fundamental flaw in the project – the closeness of the highway in the western direction. You should not count on the current line Surgut – Tyumen – Sverdlovsk – it is overloaded and will not take on several tens of millions of tons of additional freight traffic. The strategy does not imply the development of Sevsib in the western direction and for the period after 2030.
To build ‘besieged’ Sevsib does not make sense. All its multiplicative effects will be fully manifested only as part of a single railway line – the North-Russian Eurasian – provided that it includes all three blocks: BAM, Sevsib and Barentskomur.
The most likely docking point of the Barents Committee and Sevsiba is Ivdel (Polunochnoye station), access to which from Kolpashevo makes sense through Tobolsk (a large port on the Irtysh and the former capital of the Siberian Territory), rather than through Nizhnevartovsk. From Tobolsk highway should be built through Ustye-Akha and send it to Ivdel along the east bank of the r. Tavda In this case, Sevsib will be reduced to the section Bely Yar – Nizhnevartovsk (538 km), and the capital of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area can get a connection to the railway network of Russia through Salym (200 km). Missing sections of the connecting line should be included in the plans for railway construction.
In this variant, the line will pass the Vasyugan bogs and will pass through the newly discovered unique Bakcharsko-Kolpashevsky iron ore deposit of the West Siberian iron ore basin, which will make it possible in the near future to supply the Kuznetsk and West Siberian metallurgical plants with Buchary ore with iron ore and replace the combined combine with the combined plant and combine kombin combine kombin ore mining complex with Bakr ore ore and replace the combined kombin combine ore kombinite complex with the Bakchar ore deposit and replace the Combine with the combined ore complex. (?!), Mikhailovsky, Korshunovsky and Kachkanar mining and processing plants.
Having received a message from Sevsib, Barentskomur will solve the task of implementing large-scale inter-regional projects of problem resource regions of Russia and, above all, the Ural region, whose reserves as a result of intensive two-century exploitation have become considerably scarce.
In the strategic alignment of the model of transport development in the Arctic, I consider the task of laying a railroad from Art. Sosnogorsk on Indiga Bay and the creation of a base seaport there. This will ensure the shortest passage of large-scale cargoes from the south of the industrial Urals, from Siberia, Kazakhstan, and Asian countries to the Northern Sea Route and further westward to the countries of Northern Europe and America (east coast), eastward to the Asia-Pacific countries, Canada and America (west coast), which is at the same time part of the creation of the Northern Sea Corridor agreed within the framework of the Barents Council, and the Indiga seaport will develop as the Northern Gate of the Northern Sea Corridor project ( QMS), funded by the EU6.
The total length of the railway section Ivdel – Indiga is about 1,200 km, the section of the new transport construction of the railway is estimated to be about 1,000 km, which is about 250 km less than the Belkomur project. If we take into account the fact that the Sosnogorsk – Troitsko-Pechorsk railway line was obviously built with the prospect of continuing to station. Midnight (the project of the 60s, that is, it was more modern than Belkomur), then the conclusion about the greater feasibility of the initial construction of the railway to Indiga Bay follows.
A tangible plus in favor of Indiga is that the distance of goods exported by rail from the Urals, Siberia, Kazakhstan, and the Far East to this sea port is 350-400 km shorter than Belkomur, which also implies significant savings on the construction of the railway and its operation (by about 15–20%).
The construction of the Sosnogorsk-Indiga railway is already included in the Transport Strategy of the Russian Federation for the period up to 2030, however neither the road nor the port are included in the Federal Target Program “Development of the Transport System of Russia for 2010-2015” and, accordingly, are not funded. The need to build this railway in conjunction with the creation of a new seaport in Indiga Bay is not in doubt – the potential cargo-forming base of the region for the port can range from 15 million tons of cargo in 2016 to 120 million tons in 2030.
The creation of a port transport hub in Indigo will turn hundreds of mineral deposits in the Nenets Autonomous District, previously “locked” in the vast expanses of tundra and taiga, into profitable and more economically attractive for investors, both domestic and foreign.
The new multi-sea port Indiga, combined with the new approach line Sosnogorsk-Indiga, as part of the Barentskomur railway, will become the basic element of sustainable socio-economic development not only in the Nenets Autonomous District. In terms of its significance and scale, this project goes beyond the framework of the regional one, since it will be able to make a significant contribution to the formation of the core transport network of the Northeast of the European part of Russia.
Belkomur or Barentskomur?
The western part of the North-Russian Eurasian Railway involves access to seaports in two directions: Belkomur – to the port of Arkhangelsk and Barentskomur – to the port of Indiga.
There is a long-standing struggle between these areas, today it is deploying for state investment in projects: in the first case, to modernize the Arkhangelsk port complex with the construction of a new large port area (Dry Sea) and the 1251 km railway to it (Belkomur project), the second case is the creation of the new port of Indiga and the construction of two sections of the railway to it, 612 km and 412 km, respectively (the Barentskomur project).
Which of the projects is the most profitable and promising?
The large-scale development of the Arkhangelsk Sea Port is hampered by many circumstances. First of all, it is the shallow water of the mouth of the Northern Dvina River, in which the port complex is located, which necessitates the continuous implementation of a large amount of dredging works on the maintenance of fairways and moorings. Also, there is practically no possibility of increasing the carrying capacity of accepted vessels – the limit of their deadweight is 10-12 thousand tons. Although in the planned new port area (Dry Sea), located at the exit from the mouth 60 km from the city, it is possible to ensure the reception of vessels of greater capacity – up to 150 thousand tons, but this is due to the large dredging works and the construction of additional transport infrastructure connecting the port with the city.
Another negative factor hindering the significant development of the port of Arkhangelsk is the need to ensure icebreaker escort for most of the year. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that the neck of the passage from the White Sea to the Barents Sea between the Kola Peninsula and the Big Land is filled with ice most of the year, being overtaken by currents and pushed out of the northern rivers. Due to only these two circumstances, the cost of maintaining normal shipping in the port of Arkhangelsk is estimated several times higher than in Murmansk and even in the more northern Indiga port, not to mention that the distance of ice from the port of Arkhangelsk is about 4 times longer, than from Indiga (about 800 km to 200 km).
In addition, the development of the port of Arkhangelsk is counterproductive for the organization of transport to the East.
Vladimir Andrianov, Vice-President of the Komi Republican Association of Independent Experts, has been engaged since 1971 in substantiating the development logistics of main railways in the European North of Russia, in collaboration with well-known transport specialists in the article “Geography to be a strategy” (Transport of Russia magazine, April 2009) .) regarding the “Belkomur” project, in particular, indicates the following:
“A significant drawback (minus) in the emphasis on the use of Belkomur appears after the revision review of the technical condition of already existing railways in the areas of Arkhangelsk – Grigorievskaya (Gorky Railway) and Indiga – Midnight. The creators of Belkomur either do not have reliable and complete information, or deliberately are silent about some facts. Consider them specifically.
The railway line from Arkhangelsk to Karpogor was built as a deliberately low-load, dead-end forest-taking route. The technology of construction and the used equipment of the late 40s do not allow its use without cardinal reconstruction. From this it follows that this section of the new railway will have to be built almost anew, since over the 70 years of its operation, the technical conditions of the main railway construction and operation have changed dramatically.
The railway lines from Vending (Yert), located on the border of the Republic of Komi and the Arkhangelsk Region, to Mikun station and further to Syktyvkar are about the same outdated in technical terms. These are also dead-end, low-loaded and technically obsolete railways with an undeveloped production infrastructure. In essence, these areas will also have to be rebuilt. ”
Due to the above reasons, the capital investments in the creation of the highway, which are interpreted by the current developers of the Belkomur project, should be calculated two to three times higher than currently represented.
Now let’s look at the same indicators of the Barentskomur project. In depths, the situation in Indiga Bay is even better than Murmansk — the capacity of the ships there will not be limited to depths, and the construction of the port will not require significant dredging.
In addition, a section of the coast from Cape Saint Nose (the mouth of the Indiga River) to Cape Barmin or the Big Rumyanichny with a length of more than 40 km is completely free and suitable for the construction of a giant port of any capacity with a developed port infrastructure. This section is characterized by the excess of the coastline above sea level of 8–12 m, which guarantees its steady operation with rising sea levels, projected as a result of global warming. At the same time, the port of Arkhangelsk, along with St. Petersburg and Ust-Luga, is subject to such a threat.
The analysis of ice maps, conducted by me since 2000, shows that the movement of ships without icebreaking in the western direction is possible 7-8 months a year, in the eastern direction – 4-5 months. The duration of non-ice navigation in this area is explained by the influence of the warm stream of the Gulf Stream and the systematic destruction of ice in the Indian waters with tidal wave energy.
A big plus in favor of Indiga, as already mentioned, is that the distance of cargo delivery by rail from the Urals, Siberia, Kazakhstan, and the Far East to this seaport is 350-400 km shorter than in Arkhangelsk (savings on the construction of iron roads).
Another significant advantage of the Barents Service before Belkomur is that the organization of export-import operations through the port of Indigo allows for the reduction of the sea route of ships by 500-600 km in the west and more than 1000 km in the east. This significantly reduces the annual transport costs of cargo owners and reduces the investment return on the project.
It is clear that, in General, ‘Barenckomur’ is more favourable and promising project, which if not today, then in the future is destined to be the final link in the railway-Meridian West-Urals and latitudinal North Russian Eurasian. This will ensure stable connection port on the Arctic Coast Indiga and Vanino port on the Pacific, as well as many troubled regions the resource type of the Russian North.