外文标题：Russia, China Move Ahead on $25 Billion High-Speed Railroad Project
A memorandum signed Monday paved the way toward long-anticipated Chinese participation in the construction of Russia’s first high-speed railway, which will stretch from Moscow 800 kilometers east to Kazan.
State-run railway monopoly Russian Railways told news agency RIA Novosti the grand aim of the agreement is to develop plans for a Eurasian high-speed transport corridor from Moscow to Beijing that would include the segment between Moscow and Kazan.
The agreement was signed by Russian Railways president Vladimir Yakunin, Russia’s Transportation Minister Maxim Sokolov, the chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, Xu Shaoshi, and Chinese Railway Minister Sheng Guangzu.
The total cost of the Moscow-Kazan railway is estimated at more than a trillion rubles ($25 billion). Chinese companies are prepared to invest about 400 billion rubles ($10 billion) in the project, a representative from High-Speed Rail Lines, a Russian Railways subsidiary, told RIA.
Not to mention all the pleasures and “advantages” of doing business with China, the estimated cost tells you immediately where this project, like so many others, is heading: “The total cost of the Moscow-Kazan railway is estimated at more than a trillion rubles ($25 billion)”
As the article states, the distance Moscow-Kazan’ measures about 800 km. That yields a cost of more than $31 million per km. Mind you, the track is going to be built by China. According to a current World Bank study, “China’s high speed rail with a maximum speed of 350 km/h has a typical infrastructure unit cost of about US$ 17-21m per km, with a high ratio of viaducts and tunnels.” In Europe, the World Bank writes further, costs range between US$25-39 m per km. Mind you, that’s Europe–densely settled, often mountainous, where almost all land is privately owned, where property rights are actually respected and enforced, with European wages and labor and safety regulations, and, above all, with the need, in most cases, to pick completely NEW ROUTINGS for high speed rail (this, by the way, is also true for China)–as it is often impossible to realign existing century-old rail lines so that they could accommodate high speed rail traffic.
And now, buckle up: The track Moscow-Kazan’ ALREADY EXISTS and its routing is almost entirely straight, the terrain is absolutely flat, no tunnels, few bridges, and very few other artificial structures will be required, few, if any pieces of land need to be acquired (and if so, then at minuscule costs). The high speed rail line is going to be built by China, under the conditions of the Russian institutional framework. And yet Russia already announces a PROJECTED per-km cost that sits comfortably in the middle of the range of DE FACTO costs for completed European high-speed rail lines.
After reading this, one can only extend, as so often, one’s commiserations to the Russian tax payer.