Vladimir Putin proposed returning to the discussion of the construction of a bridge to Sakhalin

Vladimir Putin proposed returning to the discussion of the construction of a bridge to Sakhalin

Russian President Vladimir Putin again raised the topic of building a bridge to Sakhalin, calling for a new “approach to the projectile.” The current estimate of the cost of the project is about 600 billion rubles, said the head of the Sakhalin region Valery Limarenko. Experts note that priority projects for the development of railway infrastructure have already been identified, to which the bridge to Sakhalin does not belong. As a result, the project will either have to be postponed to a later date, or built on deferred payment terms, like the tunnels on the BAM. But the problem with the project’s payback remains: there is only one source of return of funds – the railway tariff, and it is not clear whether shippers will support its increase.

Vladimir Putin called for returning to the topic of building a bridge to Sakhalin. “We have approached this projectile more than once,” he said during a meeting with the Governor of the Sakhalin Region Valery Limarenko. “Let’s come back, because the topic itself is important, I agree. It is necessary to connect Sakhalin with the mainland by a bridge. And development there will proceed at a different pace.”

Mr. Limarenko told the president that the cost of building the bridge was said to be 300 billion rubles, and the approaches to it – another 300 billion rubles. “The bridge can be made through a concession,” he suggested. “If we consider that the approaches are the development of the territory, because the approaches do not pay off.”

The bridge to Sakhalin, the construction of which had been discussed for many decades, came to the attention of the authorities in 2017 – Vladimir Putin spoke about it during a direct line. Then the president said that “its cost will be lower than in Crimea, about 286 billion rubles.”

The project involves the construction of the Selikhin (Khabarovsk Territory)-Nysh (Sakhalin Region) railway across the Nevelskoy Strait, the total length of the line will be 585 km, taking into account the six-kilometer bridge.

The project was previously estimated at 540.3 billion rubles. (of which the bridge is 252.8 billion rubles), not counting investments of about 90 billion rubles. to the railway infrastructure of Sakhalin. The project was present for some time in the investment program of JSC Russian Railways, but over time disappeared from it (see “Kommersant” dated October 30, 2019), and in 2020 the authorities stated that there was no money for the bridge (see “Kommersant” dated December 29, 2020).

Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, about the bridge to Sakhalin, April 3:

“The approaches and interchanges there will cost more than the bridge. This is an area that requires development.”

At the same time, in 2022, people appeared who wanted to participate in this project in concession mode. Thus, about its intention to act as a concessionaire and invest up to 300 billion rubles in this project. stated LLC Multifunctional Cargo District (MGR) of Mikhail Skigin, which is building a deep-water cargo port in Poronaysk under a concession (see “Kommersant” dated May 23, 2022). MGR could not be contacted.

From the point of view of stable connectivity of Sakhalin with the mainland, the project is quite relevant, says the president of the National Research Center for Transportation and Infrastructure, Pavel Ivankin: how much of a priority it is depends on the budget’s capabilities. The small volume of traffic to Sakhalin, the transfer to gauge 1520 and the absence of serious problems with the ferry allow the work on the project to shift to the right.

The President has already decided on the allocation of priority projects, he recalls, and this is the Eastern training ground, the development of a network of high-speed highways, approaches to the ports of the Azov-Black Sea basin and the North-West.

From this point of view, Sakhalin is a second-stage project, unless concession schemes or models for attracting private funds without state participation are used. Now it is advisable to allocate money for research, conducting a feasibility study, and determining a financing model, he believes.

Deputy General Director of IPEM Vladimir Savchuk says that the main difficulty of the bridge project to Sakhalin is the return on investment. The investment program of Russian Railways is very large-scale; in addition, it will be necessary to return investment funds for the third stage of the expansion of the BAM and Trans-Siberian Railways. They can only be returned from the tariff, capitalizing the costs, and it is necessary to assess whether shippers will bear it. At the same time, there is no difference, the expert notes, whether the construction is financed from the investment program of JSC Russian Railways or from bank funds – there is only one source of return on investment: the tariff. Mr. Savchuk also notes the load factor on the construction complex – it is necessary to simultaneously build both BAM-3 and the Moscow-St. Petersburg high-speed railway, and develop the northwestern and southern directions. At the same time, he notes, within the framework of BAM-3, two thirds of the new capacity will be at the Vanino-Sovgavan hub and only a third – in Primorye. It will be necessary to build ports in Vanino and Sovgavan. In this context, a bridge to Sakhalin could relieve some of the load from this region, but then railway approaches and ports would need to be built on Sakhalin, and this is no cheaper than in Vanino.

Natalya Skorlygina

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