Friday, May 16, 2014

New Rail Freight Route to Join Continents Mooted

Could a Cargo Link Containing the World's Longest Undersea Tunnel Survive Economic and Political Pressures?
Shipping News Feature

CHINA – RUSSIA – CANADA – US – According to Chinese state run media, discussions are being held on a possible 13,000 kilometre rail link to connect China to the US. The proposed route would run through eastern Siberia and cross the Bering Strait via a 200 kilometre underwater tunnel to resurface in Alaska where it would then travel through Canada before arriving in the contiguous United States. The entire trip would take two days with the train travelling at an average of 350 km per hour. Speaking to the Beijing Times, industry expert Wang Mengshu said he understood that discussions were ongoing and that Russia has been considering such a project for many years.

Unsurprisingly not much else is known about the proposed scheme with no other Chinese railway expert coming forward in support of it, or even if the governments of any of the aforementioned countries have been involved at this stage of the consultation process. According to the local press in China, the technology to build the 200 km tunnel is already in place and will be used on the Fujian to Taiwan high speed railway project. To put the size of the tunnel into perspective, at 200 km long it would be the world’s longest undersea tunnel at more than four times the size of the Channel Tunnel.

With any proposal of this size it is rarely the engineering problems which cause difficulties, even with the barriers of frozen wastes and the requirement for a lengthy undersea solution. Raising the finance to join up existing track, sometimes of differing gauges, or construction using new rails and routes would throw up financial constraints and questions of economic viability. The real obstacle however is likely to be political, both in establishing the will of all concerned nations to approve the scheme and to silence the dissenters who will doubt that, even if built, it will always suit all parties to allow free passage in times of political strife.

Photo: The intended route would pass through some of the toughest territory in the world.