On August 09, 2021, Russian Railways (RZD) proposed to construct a new railway line, connecting Kuzbass and China via the Altai region. Under the deputy CEO of RZD Aleksey Shilo, the project has three possible scenarios of the railway line development:
· from Biisk station on the West Siberian Railway (part of the Trans-Siberian Railway) to Awaitan station in China, 1006 km long;
· from Tashtagol station of the West Siberian Railway to Awaitan, 1081 km long;
· from Abaza station in Khakassia to Awaitan, 1276 km long.
Under the estimates, the new railway line with the expected carrying capacity of 30 mio t of cargo may reduce the load over the Trans-Siberian Railway (TSR) and the Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM) and let coal producers from Kuzbass, the Novosibirsk region and Khakassia supply coal directly to China, bypassing ports in the Russian Far East.
Nevertheless, the promising project doesn’t appear viable, given mountain landscape of Altai region, where the railway line is expected to be built, and environmental restrictions imposed on the construction works. Under the experts, at this moment the initiative seems not economically feasible that’s why private investors may participate in the project only if they assume full control over constructions works and the subsequent operation of the facility. The current initiative is not provided for by the strategy of RZD until 2025.
In the past, the idea of the railway line to China through the Altai Mountains was considered in the context of many Russian infrastructure projects, but it has never been implemented due to the technical complexity and the need to cross the Ukok Plateau, which is a nature reserve that cannot be bypassed.
Source: CAA Analytics