Russia to bolster famed Eastern Railroads

11:39 11.03.2024 •

The Trans-Siberian railway in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.
Photo: Getty Images

Russia’s growing trade with China has helped its economy withstand Western sanctions. Now Moscow is preparing to spend billions to upgrade its vast eastern railroads to speed up the burgeoning cooperation, Bloomberg writes.

Vladimir Putin outlined plans to boost annual shipping capacity on Russia’s two longest railroads, the Trans-Siberian and Baikal-Amur Mainline, to 210 million tons by 2030, in an address to the Federal Assembly on Feb. 29 ahead of next week’s presidential election. The rail lines handled about 150.5 million tons of goods in 2023, according to the Kommersant newspaper.

The 8,700 miles of railway tracks, also known as the Eastern Polygon, constitute a vital artery for Russia’s foreign trade, linking its western regions with the Pacific Ocean and China.

Russia has already spent billions of dollars to nearly double the capacity of the rail lines to an expected 180 million tons this year from 97.8 million tons in 2013. Yet, current demand is twice as high as the track can handle, state-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta said in February.

This year alone, Russia plans to spend 366 billion rubles ($4 billion) to improve the Eastern Polygon’s infrastructure. Details of the additional investments Putin announced are expected to be approved in March, Deputy Transportation Minister Valentin Ivanov told reporters last month, according to the Tass news service. That work may continue through 2032 and require 2.7 trillion rubles of investments to increase the capacity of the rail lines to an eventual 255 million tons per year, according to Ivanov.

Trade between Russia and China reached a record $240 billion in 2023.

Investment in a plan to build two new rail links to China by 2030 is expected to be discussed this and next year, according to a government strategy for Siberia’s development. As of now the countries, which share 2,615 miles (4,208 kilometers) of common border, have only four railway border crossings.


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