MEETING in Moscow on August 4 (p572), Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean President Kim Jong-il backed plans to connect the Korean rail network into the Trans-Siberian landbridge corridor, confirming that ’the two countries will start working on reconnecting [the two lines] in the very nearest future.’

Following the accord, Russian First Vice-Minister of Railways Alexander Tselko and North Korean Vice-President R H Kim held detailed discussions on August 6 and 7. Russia has offered to assist with modernising North Korea’s east coast route over the next 10 years at a cost of US$10bn. Russia expects to earn up to US$2bn a year from additional traffic using the Trans-Siberian route, which celebrated its centenary on July 28.

Meanwhile, the Russian Transport and Railways ministries are jointly preparing proposals for submission to the State Duma seeking a massive increase in investment to modernise the country’s transport network. Transport Minister Sergei Frank warned that ’our transport system is inhibiting socio-economic progress ... it limits the mobility of the population and weakens economic cohesiveness.’ The total package is costed at 4900bn roubles, of which 1600bn would go on the rail elements.

The proposal firms up some of RZD’s spending plans announced during the IHHA Conference in Brisbane (RG 7.01 p446). Construction of 1029 km of new line and upgrading of 8014 km would be accompanied by electrification of a further 7778 km. New rolling stock to be ordered would include 2824 electric and 5793 diesel locos, 12088 coaches and 351200 wagons. The package is expected to boost passenger traffic by 21·4% to 1·95 billion journeys in 2010. Freight traffic would increase by 47·1% to 1·53 billion tonnes.

  • Presaging development of the Trans-Korean link, which could see the start of Trans-Siberian landbridge traffic as early as 2003, the government of South Korea is planning to apply for membership of the Organisation for the Co-operation of Railways (OSJD), which groups many of the former eastern bloc countries.