Rus­sia's North­ern Rail­way to Ac­cel­er­ate Siberian Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment

Trillions - - Contents -

Rus­sia is the world's largest coun­try but most of its ter­ri­tory is in the far north and with a pop­u­la­tion of only 144 mil­lion it has plenty of room for de­vel­op­ment, and de­vel­op­ing it is.

One of Rus­sia’s most am­bi­tious new in­fra­struc­ture projects in Siberia will soon be­gin con­struc­tion. It is the North­ern Lat­i­tu­di­nal Rail­way (NLR).

It will be built in the Yam­ato-nenets Au­ton­o­mous re­gion of the coun­try, con­nect­ing the Ya­mal Penin­sula to the rest of Rus­sia through the North­ern and Sverdlov rail­ways.

Rus­sia has the largest known nat­u­ral gas re­serves, with about 25% of the world's to­tal and has the eighth great­est amount of proven oil re­serves. The largest re­serves are in the Ya­mal Penin­sula. Some of that gas is now be­ing ex­ported by ship as liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas (LNG) through Sa­betta Port and more has been shipped by pipe­line since 2012.

With the Arc­tic Ocean soon to be al­most com­pletely ice-free in sum­mer, the rail­way will also help speed up de­vel­op­ment of the coun­try’s North­ern Sea Route in­fra­struc­ture. That will in turn of­fer the short­est trans­porta­tion path for ex­ports to reach mar­kets in Europe, North Amer­ica and the Asia-pa­cific Re­gion. Ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, it will quickly be­come a ma­jor trade route for goods trav­el­ing be­tween Europe and Asia. The vol­ume of traf­fic on the rail route af­ter it reaches ca­pac­ity is ex­pected to be 23.9 mil­lion tons a year, which will con­trib­ute sig­nif­i­cantly to Putin's goal of ship­ping a to­tal of 80 mil­lion tons through the Arc­tic by 2024.

Ya­mal’s Gov­er­nor Dmitry Kobylkin said, “We are get­ting a base for de­vel­op­ment of the rich­est min­eral base in the re­gion, in­clud­ing the Kara Sea’s shelf. We thus are get­ting a di­rect ac­cess to in­ter­na­tional ex­port mar­kets in Europe and the Asian-pa­cific Re­gion along the North­ern Sea Route. The rail­road will make con­di­tions open to high-tech pro­cess­ing fa­cil­i­ties on the Ya­mal Penin­sula.”

The VIS Group, an­other Rus­sian com­pany, is build­ing its own ex­ten­sion from the NLR to the re­cently opened Sa­betta Port, which ex­ports oil and liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas.

Di­rec­tor Gen­eral Igor Sne­gurov said in an in­ter­view, “The Bo­va­nenko-sa­betta line will con­nect NLR with the Sa­betta port, which will be a mighty im­pe­tus to the port’s de­vel­op­ment, for growth of its cargo turnover. Be­sides, the project has a cer­tain geopo­lit­i­cal as­pect – de­vel­op­ment of the Sa­betta port opens to Rus­sia a new route to the World Ocean, to West Euro­pean coun­tries. This is ab­so­lutely dif­fer­ent lo­gis­tics, which al­lows us not to use the Bosporus in­fra­struc­tures, and thus not to de­pend on the chang­ing po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tions.”

Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties are also op­ti­mistic about how NLR should help en­cour­age set­tle­ment of the Arc­tic and help deal with em­ploy­ment is­sues in the re­gion. Ac­cord­ing to Ya­mal’s Gov­er­nor Dmitry Kobylkin, “We shall or­ga­nize new jobs both on the rail­road and in the neigh­bor­ing sec­tors–at new de­posits, de­vel­op­ment of which would be eco­nom­i­cally ef­fec­tive with the new rail­road, and at new pro­cess­ing plants, which will be prof­itable due to the NLR.” When fin­ished, the North­ern Lat­i­tu­di­nal Rail­way will cover a span of 668 kilo­me­ters. Build­ing it will re­quire mod­ern­iz­ing the ex­ist­ing rail­way in­fra­struc­ture, plus build­ing 350 kilo­me­ters of new track. The project to­tal cost is es­ti­mated at more than 200 bil­lion rubles ($3.6 bil­lion).

Rus­sia hopes to use all this in­fra­struc­ture to de­velop a strong enough Arc­tic econ­omy that it can dom­i­nate the crit­i­cal and strate­gic ship­ping route across Rus­sia’s north­ern wa­ters.

The NLR, along with other feeder routes noted here, should help make that a pos­si­bil­ity, if cor­rup­tion and Rus­sia's for­mi­da­ble non-gov­ern­men­tal mafias don't bleed the project dry be­fore it can be com­pleted. So far the gov­ern­ment has been suc­cess­ful get­ting a num­ber of Siberian projects built in a rea­son­able amount of time with­out too many cost over-runs but it has done so with help from other na­tions.

The Ya­mal gas plant was built with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of com­pa­nies in France, Ja­pan And China.

China is in­vest­ing heav­ily in Siberia and is claim­ing the Ya­mal LNG plant to be part of its Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive (BRI).

A pre­vi­ously built Siberian rail­way con­structed with slave la­bor from the many Siberian prison camps. The re­gion is lit­tered with the graves of mil­lions of pris­on­ers who were lit­er­ally worked to death as pun­ish­ment for be­ing too in­tel­li­gent or sim­ply in the wrong place at the wrong time or just an easy tar­get for Stalin's many purges. Photo by Com­intern.

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