Note: This article is from the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph:
(By Adrian Blomfield in Moscow, April 20, 2007, Telegraph.co.uk) – The Kremlin is considering reviving a 19th century dream of linking Russia and the United States by building the world’s longest railway tunnel under the Bering Strait.
Government ministers will analyse a pre-feasibility study prepared by the Russian Academy of Sciences at a conference in Moscow next week. Despite its vast cost – estimated to be in the region of – £32.5 billion – the project’s authors are confident of securing the backing of both the Russian and the American governments.
“This is one of the very few projects that can cardinally change the development of Russia’s far east,” said Viktor Razbegin, the deputy head of research at the economy ministry. “The chance for the implementation now is pretty good.”
Mr Razbegin claimed that in 1998 the United States, Russia and Canada were close to a deal when it had to be abandoned because of the rouble crash.
In fact, there have been many proposals to link eastern Russia and Alaska.
advertisementIn 1890, the governor of Colorado, William Gilpin, envisaged a bridge across the Bering Strait, an idea that was revived – and put to one side – in the 1940s.
It came up again in the 1960s as part of a massive project, which also included a bridge across the Strait of Gibraltar, to link five continents. The dreams were all stillborn, and it is not hard to see why. The Bering Strait is one of the world’s most inhospitable locations.
Mr Razbegin’s proposed 60-mile-long tunnel – which would surface twice on the Diomede islands halfway across the strait – is twice the length of the Channel tunnel. Yet that, in some ways, is the easy bit. The nearest major road to the tunnel’s proposed Russian entry point, at Provideniya, is 1,000 miles away.
Alaska has no direct rail link to either Canada or the rest of the United States. This would mean building a 3,700 mile-long line between Yakutsk in Siberia and Fort Nelson in British Columbia.
Despite the obvious challenges, Mr Razbegin was upbeat yesterday.
“The trans-Siberian railway is 9,200 km [5,700 miles] and took Russia just seven years to build single handed,” he said, estimating that the project would take about 12 years to complete.
According to the plans, the tunnel would carry both rail passengers and cargo. It would also carry electricity and fibre-optic cables, while an oil and gas pipeline could be laid, if the governments agreed.
It is unclear, however, who would fund the project. Thanks to booming oil prices and vastly improved energy production, the Russian government is much wealthier than it was during the economic turmoil of the late 1990s. A transport link would boost trade further.
There have been suggestions that the Kremlin could also seek financial support from Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea football club, who is governor of Chukotka, the remote region where the tunnel would begin.
But most analysts say it would be much harder to find American backers from the private sector willing to invest in so risky a project.
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1. a) Who is Viktor Razbegin?
b) What project has Mr. Razbegin proposed?
2. a) How many miles long will the tunnel be?
b) What is the estimated cost of the project in dollars?
3. Aside from building the tunnel itself, what challenges will need to be overcome to make the project useful??
4. What would the tunnel provide in addition to a passenger and cargo trains?
5. Who will fund this proposed project?
6. What do you think about the project? Be specific.
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