Joining Europe and Asia. Trans-Siberian Railroad

The early form of Eurasian Land Bridge

Map of the Trans-Siberian (red) and Baikal-Amur (green) Railways

Sergei Witte responsible for the project as Director of Railway Affairs and Finance Minister

"The global significance of the Siberian Road can no longer be denied by anyone. It is likewise acknowledged, both at home and abroad. Joining Europe and Asia by a continuous rail connection, that road becomes a global means of transit, on which the exchange of goods between West and East will have to flow. China, Japan, and Korea, with a population of half a billion people."

"…with this great steam-propelled transit system producing more rapid and cheaper communication, and exchange of goods, enter into closer relations with Europe, a market, with a developed manufacturing culture, and thereby create a greater demand there for the raw materials of the East.”

"Thanks to the Siberian Road, (…) European know-how, and capital will find for itself an extensive new field of employment for the exploration and development of the natural riches of the Eastern nations.”

Finance Minister S. Witte

The Trans-Siberian Railway and its various associated branches and supporting lines, completed in 1916, established the first rail connection between Europe and Asia, from Moscow to Vladivostok. The line, at 9,200 kilometres (5,720 mi), is the longest rail line in the world.

Construction history of Trans-Siberian Railroad

Construction history

The Trans-Siberian Railway

  • Network of railways
  • Tsar Alexander III appointed S. Witte 1889 to manage the project
  • is a network of railways connecting Moscow and European Russia with the Russian Far East provinces, Mongolia, China and the Sea of Japan. Today, the railway is a part of the Eurasian Land Bridge.

The plans and funding for construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway to connect the capital, Moscow, with the Pacific Ocean port of Vladivostok were approved by Tsar Alexander II in St. Petersburg. His son, Tsar Alexander III supervised the construction; the Tsar appointed Sergei Witte Director of Railway Affairs in 1889. The Imperial State Budget spent 1.455 billion rubles from 1891 to 1913 on the railway's construction, an expenditure record which was surpassed only by the military budget in World War I

The construction of the Far Eastern Railway commenced in May 1891 due to the economic development of the Russian Far East. In 1895, they opened regular train service between Vladivostok and Iman (today’s Dalnerechenskaya railway station). In 1897, they commissioned the Khabarovsk-Vladivostok line. Direct train traffic from the Arkhara railway station to Vladivostok was launched in 1916 with the commissioning of the railroad bridge over the Amur River near Khabarovsk. More than 5,000 railmen were employed at the Far Eastern Railway in 1900.

Finance Minister Sergei Witte’s Trans-Siberian Railroad Policy

Finance Minister Witte had already in 1902 initiated the early form of the Eurasian Land-Bridge - the Siberian Railroad Witte wrote in 1902, "The global significance of the Siberian Road can no longer be denied by anyone. It is likewise acknowledged, both at home and abroad. Joining Europe and Asia by a continuous rail connection, that road becomes a global means of transit, on which the exchange of goods between West and East will have to flow. China, Japan, and Korea, with a population of half a billion people." (Now it's three times as much.) "And already with a turnover of international trade of more than 600 billion rubles in value, with this great steam-propelled transit system producing more rapid and cheaper communication, and exchange of goods, enter into closer relations with Europe, a market, with a developed manufacturing culture, and thereby create a greater demand there for the raw materials of the East. Thanks to the Siberian Road, these countries will also increase their demand for European manufactures, and European know-how, and capital will find for itself an extensive new field of employment for the exploration and development of the natural riches of the Eastern nations." (The Schiller Institute ICLC Bad Schwalbach from the Conference “How to Reconstruct a Bankrupt World” March 21-23, 2003)

The Eurasian Land Bridge, sometimes called the New Silk Road, is a term used to describe the rail transport route for moving freight and/or passengers overland from Pacific seaports in eastern Russia and mainland China to seaports in Europe. The route, a transcontinental railroad and rail land bridge, comprises the Trans-Siberian Railway, which runs through Russia and is sometimes called the Northern East-West Corridor and the New Eurasian Land Bridge or Second Eurasian Continental Bridge, running through China and Kazakhstan. As of November 2007, about 1% of the $600 billion in goods shipped from Asia to Europe each year were delivered by inland transport routes.

Proposed expansion of the Eurasian Land Bridge includes construction of a railway across Kazakhstan that is the same gauge as Chinese railways, rail links to India, Burma, Thailand and Malaysia, construction of a rail tunnel or bridge across the Bering Strait to connect the Trans-Siberian to the North American rail system, and construction of a rail tunnel between Korea and Japan. The United Nations has proposed further expansion of the Eurasian Land Bridge, including the Trans-Asian Railway project.

According to Hofstra University, there is presently renewed interest in using the Trans-Siberian as a route across Asia to Europe. An advantage of the Trans-Siberian route over the China-Central Asian railway route (detailed below) is that trains must change bogies only once, at the borders of the former USSR. Also, the Trans-Siberian links directly to railways which ultimately connect, via Finland and Sweden to the year-round ice-free port of Narvik in Norway. At Narvik, freight can be transshipped to ships to cross the Atlantic to North America. Total transit time between Vladivostok and New York using this route is reportedly 10 days. Rail links from Russia also connect to Rotterdam, but may encounter greater congestion along this route with resulting delays. The trade route between the east coast of North America and eastern Russia using the Trans-Siberian is often called the Northern East West Freight Corridor.

The United Nations Development Programme has advocated greater regional integration along the Eurasian Land Bridge, including development of rail links between the countries of South and Southeast Asia and Central Asia, called the Trans-Asian Railway project.[46] Chinese leaders have called for the establishment of free trade zones at both ends of the Eurasian Land Bridge to facilitate development. Said Khalid Malik, United Nations Resident Coordinator in China, "If this comes true, it will enable the continental bridge to play its due role in enhancing co-operation between Asia and Europe, and promoting world peace and development.

The future of the Trans-Siberian Railway

The Trans-Siberian Railway and its various associated branches and supporting lines has as we mentioned above established the first rail connection between Europe and Asia from Moscow to Russian Pacific seaports such as Vladivostok. The line, at 9,200 kilometres (5,720 mi), is the longest rail line in the world.

The Eurasian Land Bridge, (also called New Silk Road) is a term used to describe the rail transport route for moving freight and/or passengers overland from Pacific seaports in eastern Russia and mainland China to seaports in Europe. The route comprises the Trans-Siberian Railway, which runs through Russia and is sometimes called the Northern East-West Corridor and the New Eurasian Land Bridge or Second Eurasian Continental Bridge, running through China and Kazakhstan. As of November 2007, about 1% of the $600 billion in goods shipped from Asia to Europe each year were delivered by inland transport routes. The Trans-Siberian Railway is the backbone of Eurasian Land-Bridge.

In 1990 China linked its rail system to the Trans-Siberian via Kazakhstan. China calls its uninterrupted rail link between the Chinese port city of Lianyungang and Kazakhstan the New Eurasian Land Bridge or Second Eurasian Continental Bridge. In addition to Kazakhstan, the railways connect with other countries in Central Asia, including Iran, but do not connect all the way to Europe through south Asia.

If we go back to the Soviet times in 1960s it was opened by the authorities of USSR as an international trade route connecting the Western Pacific with Europe. Freight shipments on the Trans-Siberian, however, experienced increasing problems over time with dilapidated rail infrastructures, theft, damaged freight, late trains, inflated freight fees, uncertain scheduling for return of containers and geopolitical tension. As a result, use of the railway for international trade declined to almost zero by the 1990s.

In an effort to attract use of the Trans-Siberian to transport goods from Japan, China, and Korea to Europe, in the mid-1990s Russia lowered tariffs on freight using the railway. As a result, freight volume over the rail line doubled in 1999 and 2000.

Trans-Siberian and today’s Russia

A positive turning point in the realization of the Eurasian development corridors (see below) occurred in Autumn 2000, when Russia’s President Vladimir Putin placed the Trans-Siberian Railroad at the centre of his Asian diplomacy. “We can specify more than one reason, that people in the Asia-Pacific area should choose transportation routes over Russia. These routes are shorter and not a little faster than the roundabout way by sea as, for example, from Yokohama to Rotterdam. You can transport containers with the Trans-Siberian Railroad to Europe, and they arrive in less than half the time… Perhaps a journey across Siberia would remind many people of the mind-boggling natural wealth of Russia. Siberia has unimaginable natural resources, and Russia has only just begun to really make use of them. (…) Just now Russian firms are thinking about new markets for their products, while mining companies are seeking new methods for exploiting the mineral resources more effectively…”

Discussed corridors from South Korea to Europe according to the full plan of the projects.

1.    The northern corridor from Europe via Trans-Siberian Railroad to China, North and South Korea, and Japan
2.    The TRACECA corridor from Eastern Europe via the Black Sea and Caspian Sea to Central Asia
3.    The central corridor, from Southern Europe, via Turkey, Iran, and Central Asia to China
4.    The southern corridor, which runs from southern Europe to Iran, as above, but reaches China via Pakistan, India and Southeast Asia.
5.    A new north-south rail-ship corridor, which goes from northern Europe to Russia, crosses the Caspian Sea to Iran, and via Iran’s southern ports across the Arabian Sea to India.

Creation of three railway corridors from South Korea via Trans-Siberian Railway to Europe:

1. The TKR-TSR  (Trans-Korea-Trans-Siberian Railway; Seoul-(along the Kyongwon line)- Wonsan-Ghongjin-Vladivostok-(along the TSR)-Moscow-Berlin. This connection goes directly across the North Korean-Russian border on the Pacific coast, without having to go through Chinese territory.
2. The TKR-TCR-TMGR-TSR-Trans-Siberian Railroad: Pusan line-(over the Kyongi line)-Pyongyang-Sinuiju-Shenyang-Datong-erenhot-(over the Trans-Mongolian Railway, TMGR)-Unlaanbaatar-Ulan-Ude over Trans-Siperian Railroad - Moscow-Berlin (length about 11, 230 km).
3. The TKR-TCR (Trans-Korea/Trans-China): Pusan line-(over the Kyongi line)-Pyongyang-Sinuiju-Shenyang-Beijing-(over the Second Eurasian Land-Bridge, comprising Trans-Siberian Railroad, - Ürümqi-Aktogay-Moscow-Berlin.

A worldwide movement along New Eurasian Land-Bridge

A worldwide Land-Bridge movement has been born along the New Eurasian Land-Bridge. The German citizen Mr. Lyndon  LaRoche at the Schiller institute, Germany, has organized series of seminars with participants from the various cultures of Eurasia, to deepen the understanding of each other’s scientific, economic, philosophical and cultural traditions – and where they are similar;  to deepen the foundations for a dialogue among our cultures.

As a German citizen Mr. Lyndon LaRoche whished to address the issue also from a specific German point of view. According to him it is self-evident that the development is in Germany’s fundamental self-interest. Because of the relative scarcity of raw materials, the German economy only functions if it concentrates on continuous progress in science and technology, and their application in the productive process, and if Germany has expanding markets with ever more prosperous customers. Mr. LaRoche has also presented a grand vision of a program for the “Paris-Berlin-Vienna Productive Triangle”. It can be seen as a means of infrastructural and economic integration of Eastern and Western Europe and for the development of the East.

From this “Productive Triangle” which means development corridors were to radiate out, from Berlin to Warsaw and St. Petersburg, via Prague and Kiev to Moscow, and through the Balkans to Istanbul. Integrated infrastructure projects with high speed-railways, highways, and waterways, and computerized highway stations, were to constitute the transportations of these 100 meter-wide corridors, along which the most modern technologies and industries could be brought to the East.

La Roche proposed expanding the “Productive Triangle” to the  “Eurasian Land-Bridge”, which should run along three main corridors “Corridor A”, the Trans-Siberian Railway and the line of the ancient Silk Road, “Corridor B”, from China, via Central Asia and Eastern Europe and “Corridor C” from Indonesia, through India, Iran and, Turkey, into Western Europe.

Source: Jonathan Tannenbaum The New Eurasian Land-Bridge Infrastructure Takes Shape Schiller Institute  (November 2, 2001)