Monday, June 22, 2009

Vienna to Beijing Railway Proposed

Single gauge line to run from Austria
Shipping News Feature

EUROPE / ASIA: Plans have been announced to investigate the construction of a Russian gauge line between Vienna and Kosice, Slovakia. The Russian, Austrian, Ukrainian and Slovakian railway authorities have agreed to set up a joint venture to develop a track with the aim of linking the European railway network with the Trans-Siberian Railway.

An agreement was signed at the end of May agreeing division of costs for development and construction. With continuing problems involving piracy on the Suez shipping route and proposed high-speed improvements on the Trans-Siberian being considered by Russian Railways (RZD) it is thought that this link could provide a viable alternative to deep-sea shipping routes between Europe and Asia. Projections estimate that the line could eventually carry up to 40 million tons a year.

However, with the construction period expected to be between three and five years and continued tensions between Ukraine and Russia, combined with discrepancies in cost estimates between the various parties, there can be no certainty on how well the trans-national agreement will stand up in the long run. In addition, it is expected that substantial ancillary construction will be required to service the line with funding necessary from public sources and private investment.

Despite these potential problems, RZD’s president Vladimir Yakunin (neighbour, friend and confidante to former President Putin) states that “despite the political turmoil, the railway administrations of the countries involved are interested in co-operation. We are sure that the project will be profitable and expect it to pay back in around 10 years, which is an absolutely acceptable period for such a large-scale infrastructure project.”

The new proposals mirror Josef Stalin’s original concept first mooted in 1947.

(Picture: Vladimir Yakunin and Vladimir Putin)