RUSSIA: The last single-track section of the route to the Caspian Sea port of Astrakhan has been eliminated as part of an RZD programme to increase capacity in the region.

The line along the lower Volga valley connecting Astrakhan to the junction at Verkhny Baskunchak, east of Volgograd, is the principal rail link into the port, and part of the emerging north-south corridor linking Moscow with Azerbaijan and Iran. However, capacity had been constrained by a single-track section between Buzanskiy and Aksarayskaya, where the line crossed the Akhtuba River 43 km north of Astrakhan.

Construction of a second bridge to duplicate the existing structure has lifted the nominal throughput of the line from 75 to 154 trains per day in each direction. Built at a cost of 3bn roubles, the 494 m structure was officially inaugurated on February 19, with RZD Chairman & Director-General Oleg Belozerov participating by video link.