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The Sakhalin bridge is laid out on the sly

Why Russia has not yet begun to build the Sakhalin-Mainland transition

Last week, the Far Eastern deputy prime minister - presidential envoy in the Far Eastern Federal District Yuri Trutnev put an intermediate point in the issue of building a bridge to Sakhalin. A decision on this matter could be the main news of the fourth Eastern Economic Forum, but due to the cursory statement made by Russian President Vladimir Putin on this score, the news never materialized. EastRussia figured out where the cargo traffic for the new bridge would take and whether its construction wanted someone stronger than the authorities of Sakhalin.

The Sakhalin bridge is laid out on the sly
Photo: Sergey Malgavko / VEF, TASS

As already reported by EastRussia, Sakhalin Governor Oleg Kozhemyako tried to raise the topic of the Sakhalin-mainland bridge at a meeting of the State Council Presidium before the fourth EEF, who asked the Russian President to decide on the start of construction of the crossing. "Sakhalin residents, and residents of the Khabarovsk Territory, are waiting, Vladimir Vladimirovich, for your decision to build a railway crossing between Sakhalin and the mainland. The implementation of this project will have a positive effect on the quality of life of the islanders, in general, on the socio-economic development of Sakhalin and the Khabarovsk Territory, will open the way for the country to ice-free ports in the east of the country, will be the first step in the implementation of a transcontinental project to create a transition between Sakhalin and Hokkaido to Japan, "said the governor. The head of state, however, did not answer directly either yes or no. 

At the plenary session of the WEF, Vladimir Putin tried to bring the discussion moderator Sergei Brilev back to the topic. “You asked about the bridge to Sakhalin,” the president replied. “Yes, this will significantly unlock the potential of Sakhalin ports. But we need to understand the volume of traffic. Therefore, in this sense, it is extremely important for us to establish cooperation with the countries of the region. investment in the development of their own infrastructure. These are not idle meetings and idle conversations. " 

At the same time, the "countries of the region" mentioned by Vladimir Putin remain extremely cautious in assessing the prospects of the project. For example, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a plenary meeting of the WEF that in order to assess "the connection by a railway crossing of the mainland of Russia and the Sakhalin Island, and then reach Japan," "it is necessary, first of all, between experts to carefully study the technical possibilities and economic profitability."

And last week in an interview with the NTV channel, Yuri Trutnev said that "the Sakhalin bridge can only be a decision of the Russian president," and "no one else can solve this task." Mr. Trutnev did not say anything new: everyone understands that the decision to launch a construction site worth hundreds of billions of rubles, which is geopolitically meaningful, can only be taken by a president in Russia. 


In the summer of 2018, RZD published a preliminary estimate of the cost of building a bridge to Sakhalin with infrastructure, including the project in its investment program. According to these data, the project is divided into three components: a six-kilometer bridge across the strait (252,8 billion rubles), 579 km of adjoining railways (287,5 billion rubles) and a new deep-water coal port near the village of Ilyinsky in Delangle Bay (still 30-100 billion rubles). The construction is supposed to be carried out in the concession mode, then transferring to the concessionaire only a bridge, a bridge with a railway, or all this with a new port on Sakhalin. 

In the calculations of RZD it was assumed that 100 billion rubles. will provide the federal budget, 90 billion rubles. - "Development Fund of the Far East" (FRDV), 60 billion rubles. - "Sakhalin Oblast Development Corporation" (KRSO). These plans have not yet been commented on in the FRDF and the KRCO, but it is known that the capital, which the fund and the regional corporation currently can manage, is still smaller than the amounts contained in RZD's calculations. 

The State monopoly has allocated 1 billion rubles so far. on the design of the bridge. Construction work can begin in 2019 year and must be completed in five years. In the RZD promised to submit to the government of the Russian Federation the first results of design calculations performed by the Far Eastern Design and Survey Institute of Transport Construction, in autumn 2019.

Assessment of the cargo base of the bridge to Sakhalin is a key moment for making a decision to start construction. Russian Railways estimates the bridge base at 8,5 million tons, and taking into account the construction of a deep-water port - at 46,9 million tons. A day after the topic of the Sakhalin Bridge was discussed at the plenary session of the fourth WEF, the state-owned company said that they did not expect to return investments in the bridge crossing "earlier than 26 years after the start of its operation," although the project's cargo base was estimated at 30 million tons.

Answering the question of where these volumes will come from and how they relate to the current cargo transportation in the Far East, you need to go back a month - to the August commission on the development strategy of the fuel and energy complex and environmental safety, which Vladimir Putin held in Kemerovo. Whereas already reported EastRussia, cargo turnover of the ports of the Far Eastern basin was estimated at 191,7 million tons. Most of it is export coal. The head of the Ministry of Energy Alexander Novak on the commission estimated that Russia for 2018 year exports through the Far East 100 million tons of coal. By 2025, these volumes will double, reaching 207 million tons. Of these, 195 million tons will need to be transported by rail. Only on the basis of these estimates, the RRD believes that about 30 million tons of coal can be redirected to Sakhalin, if, of course, by that time the port will have the appropriate port capacities.

In 2017, Sakhalin, according to the regional ministry of housing and communal services, produced 7,65 million tons of coal. 7,5 million tons were exported. Coal transshipment is possible through a limited number of ports, primarily Shakhtersk, owned by the largest coal mining company in Sakhalin, Eastern Mining Company (VGK). By 2020, the company intends to increase the volume of transshipment in the port to 12 million tons per year. In 2017, Coal Sea Port Shakhtersk LLC shipped 4,6 million tons of coal, the plan for 2018 is 7,5 million tons. However, all volumes are provided to the port by the VGK, and there is no room for third-party shippers at the berths of Shakhtersk yet. 


At a press conference on the results of the fourth WEF, Yuri Trutnev recognized, that the economic justification for the construction of such a large infrastructure facility, as the Sakhalin bridge, "is quite a complex process." A number of media outlets, based on the results of the press conference, published reports with reference to the vice premier that "the bridge to Sakhalin will pay for itself." But Mr. Trutnev did not say exactly. in fact, mentioning the discrepancy in the estimates of the freight base of the future bridge with colleagues from the China Communication Construction Company, a meeting with which was held the day before, Yuri Trutnev said that "it is quite difficult to predict the full payback of an infrastructure facility."

"As for the bridge, there is the same complex process, it is not homogeneous, there are people who say that the bridge will not pay off, the area is hard to reach, the road is long, I hold a completely different point of view.We have prices on building materials in Sakhalin exceed the mainland in two In the year, only the budgetary sphere of Sakhalin buys 90 billion rubles for the construction of construction materials, thus, we estimate that Sakhalin alone will save at least 40 billion rubles, according to our estimates. We will continue to argue with our opponents and prove our position, "the Deputy Prime Minister said. 

With an assessment of the expected effect of the bridge for the construction industry of Sakhalin, Yuri Trutnev got into all the news feeds, but he did not name the payback period of the project - later, we recall, Russian Railways did this, stating that it did not expect a return on the funds invested in the bridge crossing earlier than through 26 years. At the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in the spring of 2018, Yuri Trutnev said that the bridge crossing to Sakhalin is "a big savings on the transit of goods to Sakhalin." "We believed that the annual volume of such savings is in the billions. It will also work for the recoupment of the bridge," he said, adding that the main thing in the project is that "a new geography of the world is being created." 

We are absolutely sure of the need for a bridge to Sakhalin in the region itself. It was not in vain that the regional authorities made the future bridge crossing the central theme of their pavilion on the "Far East Street" at the fourth Eastern Economic Forum. Regional Governor Oleg Kozhemyako told EastRussia that the project, which will connect the region with a permanent message to the mainland of Russia, has no drawbacks. "Throughout its history, the island has always been difficult to access from the point of view of the navigation period, off-season, and stormy conditions. Hence the high cost of transporting cargo in containers. We could not receive fresh products when we were waiting for reloading a week in the port of Vanino", - says the governor. According to him, the new bridge will provide jobs for railway workers and the possibility of additional export supplies to the APR.

"The bridge is hard to overestimate, and there are no other arguments, except that they say it's expensive, but let's make an effort!" The country once built the Transsib, which caused great controversy and doubts, but thanks to this, the Far East developed. The Sino-East Railway, which gave Russia outlets to Port Arthur, to the south, served the development of both our territories and China, which was later transferred, and it is difficult to overemphasize the railway communication and any transport routes, cargo, it is a community of the state, the world economy, the ability to integrate, the ability to live and develop. "" Without trade, trade, production, and tourism are impossible, "the head of the region believes. 

Meanwhile, how Reported EastRussia, experts have doubts about the profitability of the bridge project to Sakhalin. Associate Professor of the Department of International Relations of the Eastern Institute of the FEFU Artem Lukin believes that "a bridge or a tunnel to Sakhalin from the point of view of the flow of goods to and from the island will never pay off," and "there is no real need for it." "Vanino-Kholmsk railway ferries and in-line shipping services from Vladivostok to Korsakova manage to handle cargo traffic, and it is better to use air transport for the development of passenger transportation between Sakhalin and the mainland." Theoretically, a bridge between the mainland and Sakhalin could be expedient in the long term if, in addition to it, the Sakhalin-Hokkaido bridge is built, which will ensure the switching of cargo from the deep-sea to the new Hokkaido-Sakhalin-Komsomolsk-on-Amur railway route and further along the BAM to M and Europe, "- says the expert.
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