MEETING on October 4, the Russian cabinet tentatively approved the US$4bn project to build a fixed rail link to the far-eastern island of Sakhalin. A final decision will be taken next year, although Minsiter of Railways Nikolai Aksyonenko says this is dependent upon backing from Japanese investors.

Construction is expected to take around 8 years. As well as the 8 km bridge between Cape Lazarev and Cape Pogibi, the scheme includes a 450 km railway along the Amur valley to Komsomolsk, and another 130 km to connect with the existing 1067mm gauge network on Sakhalin.

Economic Development & Trade Minister German Gref also favours the construction of a 40 km tunnel or bridge between southern Sakhalin and the Japanese island of Hokkaido, which could attract substantial landbridge traffic to and from Europe. Deputy Railways Minister Alexander Misharin says the route could handle around 35 million tonnes a year, earning up to US$140bn in transit revenues over a 35 year period, with net profits totalling US$43bn.

  • The Russian government is due to consider legislation authorising the railway reform programme on November 29.