Northern latitudinal way: just one spoonful of tar
In Russia, there is another "building of the century." Quietly, without much pomp, work began on the construction of the so-called Northern Latitudinal Railway. This, if in brief, is the railway that will have to connect the west and east of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District. The project plans to connect the Northern Railway with the Sverdlovsk Railway, having laid and reconstructed railway tracks almost from Vorkuta to the Korotchaevo station.
It would seem, nothing serious: the length of the path will be 686 km (previously called the figure 707 kilometers). In both cases we agree: for the Russian scale this is not very much, and it seems that some of the epithets given to this project in the media (such as “building the future” or “strategic breakthrough”) are at least somewhat excessive. Moreover, this project is the first in Russia stories implemented on the terms of a concession agreement, and the direct participation of the Russian state in it is not so great.
However, things are not so simple, and the Northern Latitudinal Railway does deserve to be distinguished from just a series of large infrastructure projects. And that's why.
The most obvious: the construction will be carried out in the conditions of the Arctic. Cold, permafrost, difficult soils, huge (without exaggeration) rivers - all this builders will have to overcome, and in a fairly short time. One bridge across the Ob, in the lower reaches of this mighty river, almost at the entrance to the Gulf of Ob, is already quite drawn to a small "national project." And all this is scheduled to end in the 2023 year. You can judge whether this is a lot or a little, for example, by the fact that a strategically important section of the railway, bypassing Ukraine, was built for about three years. And this is under incomparable climatic conditions.
Expected cost of the project - 236 billion rubles. Moreover, the state will have only 30 billions, which will be allocated for guarantees on borrowed funds. It is clear that the funds of the government of the YNAO are also not private, and Russian Railways, which allocate 105 billions to the project, is also not a private shop. But all the same, we have to agree - the load on the federal budget is expected to be minimal, and with the calculation of the five-year project implementation period, it is almost imperceptible at all. Especially considering the expected benefits from it, which is so far even difficult to measure with a ruble.
It is expected that about 24 million tons of cargo will be transported annually by the new railway. Basically, of course, it is gas condensate and oil - the resources traditional for this region. Back will go building materials, equipment, supplies and supplies, products and more. Also, the new expensive will make it profitable to develop several large fields in the region, which are now considered difficult to access.
This project is also important from other points of view. First, it will connect the Northern and Sverdlovsk railways, making it possible to freer cargo maneuvering, unloading the already heavily loaded Transsib in some situations, as well as giving new impetus to ports on the Arctic Ocean.
Secondly, in case of successful implementation of the project, the lower currents of the great Siberian rivers Ob and Yenisei will be interconnected, which, among other things, also has some military strategic importance.
Thirdly, it will literally be easy to get to Igarka, Dudinka and Norilsk. This is a few hundred kilometers in the most difficult polar conditions. And yet the likelihood of such construction is considered now. If the experience of laying the Northern Latitudinal Railway is successful, the construction of its continuation to Norilsk and Dudinka is expected no later than 2030.
Well, there, probably, it will be possible to think about the huge throw through the permafrost to Lena, Yakutsk and, probably, Magadan. Does it look fiction now? Far from it! If we assume that the construction of a kilometer of a polar railway costs not much more than the construction of a high-speed railway, then the experience of China, which has already hit 20 000 kilometers of naval forces, shows us that everything is real ...
But let's not get too far ahead. So far we are just stating: the NL project has both a serious economic rationale at the moment, and the prospect of turning into an extremely important strategic “bridge” between the west and east of our country over time. Moreover, it will be held at a considerable distance from the border with China, which will ensure both its own high resilience compared to Transsib and the higher geopolitical resilience of our state to the challenges it may face in two or three decades.
The only fly in the ointment is a rather strange and not very clear scheme of participation of the subjects of the concession agreement in the construction of separate sections of the NL. The fact is that each major project participant is assigned a separate section of the road, which he will have to erect.
On the one hand, it seems logical: each company has its own area of work and its responsibility. But we understand perfectly well that in our conditions everything is a little different: our site, and therefore our contractor. And where there is a "own" contractor, a "rollback" is not excluded, which can go into the pockets of a narrow circle of "interested persons".
Perhaps this practice is too common for modern Russia. And many will give up: “if only they would do the work”. And nevertheless I will allow myself to disagree: in the end, Gazprom is not exactly a private shop, and the money he spends supposedly out of his profit could partially end up in the country's budget. But there are still several “concessionaires”, each of which to some extent belongs to the state.
- Viktor Kuzovkov
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