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The Art of Bridging

The editors of EastRussia understood why the Russian-Chinese bridge across the Amur still exists only in dreams and who is responsible for the project

The Art of Bridging

The start of construction of a Sino-Russian bridge across the Amur in the Jewish Autonomous Region is again postponed. The Chinese, who need to lay 1800 meters of the railway crossing, have launched a rapid construction project, taking out a loan of 400 million yuan. The Russian 300 meters are still hanging over the Amur with a big question mark. At the end of March, First Deputy Prime Minister of the Jewish Region Viktor Gozhiy said that the general contractor had not yet been decided on our side, it was not clear who would finance the project, and the working documentation was not ready. Analysis of the situation around this project turned into a quest called "Find the Responsible". The task was not easy: no one wants to be extreme.

Who and why will build the bridge

The agreement on the construction of a bridge on the section of the Russian-Chinese state border near the settlement of Nizhneleninskoye of the Jewish Autonomous Region and the city of Tongjiang (China) was signed 27 October 2008. Responsible for the implementation of the project - the government of the EAO from the Russian side and the mayor's office of the city of Tongjiang with the Chinese side. The coordinator of the work is the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Railways of the People's Republic of China.

The railway bridge across the Amur should be the first along the entire length of the Russian-Chinese border along this river. It will reduce the time of transportation of goods between Russia and China by 7 hours, shorten the transportation distance by 500-700 km.

The initiator of the construction is the private company "Petropavlovsk". It exports iron ore to China. Since there is no bridge, the ore has to be transported by rail through border crossings, which increases the time, route length and transportation costs. According to the law, there can be no private property on the state border. Therefore, LLC Rubikon was created, a daughter of Petropavlovsk, which was bought by the Russian-Chinese Investment Fund (RCIF, it was created by the Russian Direct Investment Fund and the Chinese Investment Corporation) for 174 million rubles. The Rubicon company is the customer of the construction.

There are no barriers to start building the bridge

4 April in Khabarovsk, chaired by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, a meeting was held to ensure sustainable development of the economy and social sphere of the Far East. At the initiative of the provisional Governor of the Jewish Autonomous Region Alexander Levintal at this meeting, among others, the issue of control over the construction of the bridge was discussed. Levintal stressed that for the region this is a very important anti-crisis project: the absence of a bridge hinders the economic development of the region. At a meeting with journalists, the provisional governor said that before the meeting Medvedev had signed an order to support the construction of a cross-border bridge and agree on its financing.

After the meeting in Khabarovsk, Alexander Levintal returned to Moscow, where he met with the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) Kirill Dmitriev, according to the Department of the press service of the governor and the government of the Jewish Autonomous Region. “The roughness of the project financing agreement has been eliminated, the critical points have been passed, the main risks have been removed, and taking into account the instructions of Dmitry Medvedev, this issue should be resolved positively. I see that there are no direct barriers to starting the construction of the bridge, moreover, RDIF has begun active organizational work. The head of the Rubicon company has been appointed to accelerate this process. Therefore, I hope this project will finally take its final shape. There are, of course, a number of working issues that need to be addressed and clarified, ”said the hopeful Levintal following the meeting.

China will help us

Andrei Ostrovsky, deputy director of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, head of the Center for Economic and Social Research of China, IFES RAS, Andrei Ostrovsky recalls that talks about the construction of this bridge have been going on for eight years - and every time puffs and delays interfere. “Since we have problems with financing, the Chinese side proposes to fully invest in the construction of this bridge. China has that kind of money, China is very interested in construction. But our Ministry of Transport, naturally, says - what will we get from this? If China invests money 100%, then it will also receive 100% benefits. As far as I know, the local authorities are interested in building this bridge, but they have no money. We, however, have no money now, loans at such rates cannot be taken, ”Ostrovsky says emotionally.

The expert laments that the years go by, contracts with the Chinese are being signed, and not a single bridge over the Amur has yet been built. Russia needs this bridge for at least one reason - it is necessary to develop the Far East. Without the support of China, according to Ostrovsky, today we will not raise this region. “If ten years ago this issue was debatable - we can get by ourselves, Japan, America, the Republic of Korea will help us, but today it is already clear: the main source of assistance is dynamic, rapidly developing China,” explains Ostrovsky. - China has potential, China is interested in investing money. But they see our attitude towards these projects, the actual failure. That is, no one refuses outright, but in fact there has been empty talk for 20 years. An interstate agreement on another bridge across the Amur - Heihe-Blagoveshchensk - was signed back in 1995, and there is still no bridge there ”.

While there is no bridge, there can be no wholesale trade, all goods are transported by ferries and boats. “We plan with China to reach a trade turnover of $ 2015 billion in 100 and $ 2020 billion in 200. But the share of cross-border trade is only 15%. And since it is difficult for Russia to communicate with China because of the huge water barriers - the Amur, Argun and Ussuri rivers, this greatly restricts and restrains the volume of foreign trade between our two countries. Those who hinder the construction of the bridge actually hinder the development of trade and economic relations with China, ”Ostrovsky said.

According to him, first you need to determine who is responsible for this bridge, from that and ask. A tender for the construction of a bridge should be held, the general contractor selected. As an example, the expert cited the Kerch Bridge. The company Arkady Rotenberg became the sole contractor for the design and construction of the ferry to the Crimea. If after a set time it will not be built, there is someone to ask. Until the general contractor appears at the Nizhneleninskoe-Tongjiang bridge, construction will not begin.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund is counting on a partnership with the Far Eastern Development Fund ...

The Russian Direct Investment Fund through RCIF is making every possible effort to start construction. The fund said that a director was appointed in the project company, he took up his duties, the tender to select a general contractor is in the final stage. The press service of the Fund commented on the situation around the bridge: “In accordance with the concluded intergovernmental agreements, the state authorities of the regional and federal levels in the Russian Federation and the PRC, as well as the Far East Development Fund (FEDV), are responsible for the implementation of the project for the construction of a bridge over the Amur. who joined the project in 2013.At the request of the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation in 2014, RDIF joined the project as a co-investor from the Russian side, and significant progress was made: the technical (geological) parameters for the construction of the bridge were agreed with the Chinese side, working interaction was established with the province Heilongjiang and a Chinese contractor, as well as an agreement with the Jewish Autonomous Region to implement the project. RDIF is ready to continue participating in the bridge construction project and expects that the Far East Development Fund will ensure the fulfillment of all its obligations, in particular, to enter the capital of the project itself. After all, it was the Far East Development Fund, as the initiator of this project, that invited RCIF to joint participation ”.

RDIF says that in June 2013, at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, an agreement was signed on the construction of a railway bridge across the Amur River. The document was signed by the governor of the Jewish Autonomous Region, the governor of Heilongjiang Province, the general director of the Far East and Baikal Region Development Fund, the deputy head of the Harbin Railway Administration and the mayor of Tongjiang. Then it was announced that Russia would invest 9 billion rubles in the project. The construction of the bridge was planned to begin in 2013. In September 2013, the Federal Antimonopoly Service of Russia approved the application of the Far East and Baikal Region Development Fund JSC to give preliminary consent to the acquisition of 100% of shares in the authorized capital of Rubicon LLC, the customer for the construction of a railway bridge across the Amur River. In May 2014, the Russian-Chinese Investment Fund joined the project. RCIF and the Fund for the Development of the Far East and the Baikal Region then announced "joint investment in construction." In September 2014, an agreement was signed between RCIF and the Fund for the Development of the Far East, providing for the entry of each of the funds into the capital of the project through LLC Rubicon, but so far only RCIF has done this.

“From the moment RCIF was involved in this project, all negotiations with the parties to the transaction, including the Russian and Chinese sides, all key terms of implementation were discussed exclusively jointly with the Development Fund for the Far East and the Baikal Region. Accordingly, all parameters, risks, and mechanisms for their reduction were initially known to the Fund for the Development of the Far East and the Baikal Region. Now is the time to work together to reduce these risks, ”the Russian Direct Investment Fund's Mass Media Department emphasized.

... and the Development Fund of the Far East is waiting for proposals from RFPI

RDIF names the Foundation for the Development of the Far East and the Baikal Region among those responsible for the implementation of the project. In the Fund itself, they say: "The format of our participation in the project is being discussed." The FRDV representatives said that in 2013-2014 the Fund participated in the preparation of the investment project “Construction of the Nizhneleninskoe - Tongjiang railway bridge over the Amur River”, which is being implemented within the framework of the intergovernmental agreement between the Russian Federation and the PRC. In September 2014, a memorandum of intent was signed between the Fund and RDIF, according to which RDIF independently proceeded to implement the project, acquired 100% of Rubicon LLC and left the Fund the opportunity to become a participant in the project in the future, subject to certain conditions, including associated with obtaining the necessary approvals from the Chinese side and Russian Railways. “Until now, these conditions have not been met. As soon as the project company completes the approval procedures, the Fund will be ready to promptly consider the issue of participation in the project. At present, RDIF owns 100% of the Rubicon company, which is implementing the bridge construction project. The Far East Development Fund has twice sent proposals to RDIF on the formats of joint project implementation, ”the Fund explained.

RDIF does not see any discrepancies in joint work with the Far East Development Fund on the project, says its CEO Kirill Dmitriev, and since the risks have been identified, it means that we need to try to remove them together. According to him, it was assumed that according to the agreement concluded in September 2014, the Fund for the Development of the Far East would also enter the capital of Rubicon LLC, and the shares of both funds were supposed to be 50%. Moreover, it was assumed that both funds would enter the project at the same time, as well as their joint work to develop the project and remove existing risks. RDIF claims that they have thoroughly responded to all the proposals of the Far East Development Fund and have no doubt that work on the construction of the bridge from the Russian side will begin in the near future.

Ministry of Transport is extremely short

For two weeks, the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation considered EastRussia's request to comment on the situation around the construction of the bridge. The answer could have been the envy of the writer Chekhov, who argued that brevity is the sister of talent: "The question is being worked out." It was the Ministry of Transport (and its head Maxim Sokolov), following a meeting in the Far East, that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev instructed until May 5, 2015 "to take measures to start construction of the Russian part of the railway bridge crossing over the Amur River," the official website said. government of the Russian Federation on April 18.

Optimists do not lose hope

Mikhail Blinkin, director of the Institute for Transport Economics and Transport Policy at the Higher School of Economics, believes that if this bridge does appear, it will only be in the format of a public-private partnership with subsequent toll travel. “Otherwise, we will wait for this bridge for another 100 years. Now appropriations for almost the entire road program of the Russian Federation have undergone significant sequestration. Naturally, many objects flew out, including those that experts have been talking about for many years. There has been talk about some bridges across the Amur since the time I was a junior research assistant. We will not find budget money for this project in the near future, which means we need to look for other options, ”the expert explained. Blinkin called himself a great optimist, believing that with the current intensity of Russian-Chinese ties, in the next couple of years, some bridge over the Amur will surely appear. But then he sadly added that his optimism often let down.

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