The Russian government has finalized its ambitious plan to open a high-speed rail link between Beijing and Moscow – a project costing $242 billion and expected to take up to 10 years to complete.
The contract to build the link has been awarded to China Railway High-speed (CRH), a subsidiary of the state-controlled China Railway. CRH will work jointly with Uralvagonzavod, a Russian tank and railway car manufacturer. China Railway is best known throughout the rail industry as the operator of the world’s only magnetic levitation train operating in an urban area, the Shanghai monorail.
When completed, the Moscow-Beijing railway would be the longest high-speed rail line in the world, at 4,350 miles long. It is nearly three times as long as the current record-holder, the 1,428-mile link between Beijing and Guangzhou, which also is operated by CRH. The journey, by rail, currently takes about seven days and requires numerous changes. The new rail line will make the trip only 48 hours and won’t require passengers to switch trains. The route will take Beijing-bound passengers through Russia and parts of Kazakhstan and Mongolia before entering China.
The railway is not only a top priority for both the Russian and Chinese governments, it is being supported by a number of major manufacturers, including the German automobile companies—Volkswagen, Mercedes and BMW—who are hoping to speed up the shipping of their cars to the rapidly expanding consumer economy of China.
Originally, Russia had commissioned one of the leading high-speed train manufacturers in the world, Alstom, a French firm, to build the first branch of the railway—from Moscow to Kazan, which increasingly is becoming an important center of commerce—but, according to Business Insider, the Russian government took it personally when France did not deliver its order of Mistral ships last November and decided to switch the branch of the rail line to CRH, which now is in charge of the whole line, from Moscow to Beijing.
The new line likely will replace the historic Trans-Siberian Railway, a network of railways connecting St. Petersburg, in the far west of Russia, to Vladivostok, in the far east. Built from 1891-1916, the Trans-Siberian railway is the longest standard railway line in the world, with a length of 5,772 miles.