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'Dancing in light, shimmering.. like a giant diorama made from mother-of-pearl… was Lake Baikal'
Mike Carter, The Observer, 2009

Siberia's great new railway starts operating to Yakutsk

By Anna Liesowska
01 September 2014

First cargo train on the final link of Amur-Yakutsk line in historic expansion of Siberia's great railways.

The new line presents a major new tourist attraction for rail explorers from around the world, and for Russians. Picture: SakhaLife

The first train completed the route from Tommot to Nizhny Bestyakh, a station across the Lena River from Yakutsk city, on 30 August. A ceremony to mark the arrival of the first cargo train was attended by head of Yakutia, Yegor Borisov, Deputy Transport Minister of Russia, Alexei Tsydenov, deputy head of the Federal Agency for Railway Transport, Evgeny Lukovnikov, and the leaders of holding 'Transstroi'.

Full commissioning of the line - a major transport boost for the Sakha Republic, also known as Yakutia - is expected next year.

Eventually passengers will be able to connect to Nizhny Bestyakh - close to Yakutsk - from the giant Trans Siberian Railway and the Baikal Amur Mainline. 

Plans are in place for a 3 kilometre-long bridge over the Lena to enable the line to fully connect to Yakutsk, and then opening the possibility of the railway going all the way to Magadan of the Sea of Okhotsk. 

Siberia's great new railway starts operating to Yakutsk


Siberia's great new railway starts operating to Yakutsk

48 billion roubles ($1,29 bln) went into construction of Tommot-Nizhny Bestyakh live. Pictures: Ministry of Transport and Roads of Yakutia

CEO of 'Elovskaya-Transstroy' - builders of the railway - Alexander Dudnikov wants the bridge to carry trains and motor vehicles.

'On this also insist Russian Railways (RZD) and it will be a promising solution for the transport hub of the Republic,' he said. 'At the same time we must not forget that the railway will connect Yakutsk and Magadan. This is possible only under the condition that the bridge is combined.'

The full length of the new track to the Trans-Siberian railway is 1239 kilometre (770 mile), much of it built on permafrost. 

Our pictures show the extraordinary scale of a new venture that has been rather downplayed by Russians but which is likely to generate real excitement for travel enthusiasts from around the world. The new line presents a major new tourist attraction for rail explorers from around the world, and for Russians. 

Called AYAM - the north-south Amur-Yakutian Mainline - the line has links for travellers either coming from the east or west on the Trans Siberian and also the Baikal Amur Mainline. 

Siberia's great new railway starts operating to Yakutsk

The Trans-Siberian (red), Baikal-Amur Mainline (green) and AYAM (yellow) railways. Picture: Ministry of Transport and Roads of Yakutia

At its most southerly point, is the station of Bamovskaya station on the Trans-Siberian line, in the west of Amur region, some 32 km north-west of Skovorodino station. From here the mainline goes north, joining the Baikal-Amur Mainline at Tynda station. It then proceeds and goes along the BAM for about 27 km, before heading northwards.

Currently passenger traffic operates from Tynda to the town of Tommot, located on the Aldan River, with population of more than 8000 people. 

Tommot is some 390 km (240 miles) southwest of Yakutsk and 70 km (43 miles) southwest of Aldan. This part of the route has been in operation for passengers for a decade, and for freight since 1997, but the excitement is in the link though some of Russia's remotest territory to the outskirts of Yakutsk, diamond capital of Russia. 

Beyond Tommot station, the railway crosses the Aldan River on a 350 metre bridge, the longest on the line - except for the planned bridge across Lena on the 29.8 km (18.5 mile) stretch between Nizhny Bestyakh and Yakutsk. 

Siberia's great new railway starts operating to Yakutsk


Siberia's great new railway starts operating to Yakutsk

Project of the railway bridge across Lena river. Pictures: Transmost 

Going north from the Aldan, the line continues to the settlement of Verkhnyaya Amga - the station simply named Amga - where it crosses the Amga River. 

Dreams of such a line began even before the Bolshebik Revolution in 1917. In 1904, French entrepreneur Loic de Lobel with American collaborators offered Russia a plan to construct a railway from Siberia to Alaska through Yakutia - now also known as the Sakha Republic - and Chukotka. But the Russian government declined this project. 

The Russian-Japanese War did not help and the plan fell out of favour - though in the last decade this idea has been revived with the possibility of an undersea tunnel linking Chukotkha and Alaska, and a railway ultimately connecting Beijing, Moscow and even London to such distant places as New York. 

In fact, construction of the AYAM began under Stalin as long ago as 1930, with work on line from Bamovskaya - Tynda (then known as the village of Tyndinskiy) as part of the planned construction of the Baikal-Amur Mainline. In 1940-41 the line was actively built and rails were laid, but in 1942 it was dismantled as the USSR threw its energy into the Second World War.

Siberia's great new railway starts operating to Yakutsk

Nizhny Bestyakh railway station. Picture: Apsat

Fast forward to 1972 and construction was again begun on the  Bamovskaya - Tynda route, designed to serve as an initial part of AYAM and as a line connecting the Trans-Siberian Railway with BAM at the same time. Construction of the mainline Berkakit - Tommot - Yakutsk began in 1985 under Gorbachev. 

In 2004, it was ceremonially opened for traffic between Neryungry and Tommot. 

Construction of the line from Tommot began in April 2005 and during this and the following year was conducted intensively. So, on 22 April 2006, the bridge over the Aldan was declared fully operational, with the line then carved out of the earth on the 200 km stretch north of Tommot.

On 15 November 2011 was held a ceremony laying the 'golden link' to Nizhny Bestyakh station, which was attended by then president Dmitry Medvedev. 

This station itself was formally opened on 4 August 2013, but still does not operate. To be exact, the railway station is in 10 km (6 miles) from Nizhny Bestyakh village, a transportation hub of local significance, with the joining of two federal motor roads, the 'Lena' and 'Kolyma' routes. 

Siberia's great new railway starts operating to Yakutsk

Dreams of such a line began even before the Bolshebik Revolution in 1917. Picture: YSIA

Yakutsk is currently connected with Bestyakh by cargo-ferry operating in the summer from the end of the ice drift until the start of the winter freeze.

It is said that the Amur-Yakutsk Mainline has become the largest and most complex project in the field of railway construction in Russia for the last 30 years. It can be compared in scale only with the Baikal-Amur Mainline, seen as one of the USSR's great achievements, and not surprisingly AYAM is also called the 'small BAM'.

Comments (10)

I would like to travel under the Bering Straits so get going . . I am already 82 . . . My Trans Suberian trip when I was 80 was glorious. 17 Days in December!!! Came back at 81 to Brit Rail//Scandanavian Pass/ Helsinki to Moscow and loved it. My 12 Days in Moscow were grand. Now looking forward to more (had already done Amtrack east to west northern route and east to west northern route as well as Vis Rail east from Montreal to Vancouver through the Rockies. Beautiful world. Let's travel more fight less. My eyesight is failing so get going soon
Patricis Gothard, USA
16/03/2017 13:45
4
0
Hopefully construction of the Bering Tunnel begins BEFORE the number of miles of railroad remaining to construct lowers to 500. Since the tunnel would take only 6 years to complete at most, based on how long it took the British to complete the English Chunnel. The 31 mile long English Chunnel was completed in 6 years since they were able to start from both shores and meet halfway. The Bering Tunnel would be 64 miles long, but thanks to Big Diomede Island at least, the tunnel link would have 4 starting points. The Russian shore, the American Shore, and the west and east shores of Big Diomede Island. Each TBM machine would have to drill 16 miles of tunnel just like the TBMs for the English Chunnel. And we could afford enough TBMs for simultaneous construction of all portions and sections and complete the Bering Tunnel in just 6 years. Since the length of the Trans-Alaskan railway would be over 1,000 miles less than the length of the Trans-Siberian railway, the construction of the Bering Tunnel could begin after, not before or during construction of the Trans-Alaskan railway and still be ready by the time the Trans-Siberian railway is completed.
Richard Diaz, Anchorage
20/02/2017 14:30
0
0
I sat on a bridge and loked at a train in 1987. It was nice. I was eating biscuits at the time and my wife had an ice-cream. We do not own a dog.
Brian Davidson, Aberdeen, Scotland
15/04/2016 16:57
3
0
Hermoso y admirable los esfuerzos de los rusos .... sin palabras
Cristián, Chile
24/02/2015 02:39
1
0
dear Sir, did the train line to Yakutsk are for passengers ? if so, where i can have details ? regards GIDEON@MISGAV-AM.COM
gideon Rapaport, misgav-am Israel 12155
28/01/2015 17:08
1
0
dear Sir,
did the train line to Yakutsk are for passengers ?
if so, where i can have details ?
regards
GIDEON@MISGAV-AM.COM
gideon Rapaport, misgav-am Israel 12155
28/01/2015 17:06
3
3
The history of scneice has been nothing less than constant proclamations of Oops, we were wrong. For someone who acts like they know everything you're ignorant of this basic fact. Example: When Hubble Telescope started sending back pictures the scientific community was shocked to find out the universe is infinite. Do your homework before you preach your religion, it's embarrassing.
The history of scneice has been nothing less than constant proclamations of Oops, we were wrong. For someone who acts like they know everything you'
27/10/2014 12:43
1
0
Beyond the capability of Americans or Canadians to build such a Railway, it would cause thousands of lawsuits and every corrupt politician would be looking to make a dollar.
Kurt J, USA
14/09/2014 09:35
3
1
It looks the first step towards a Railway from Harbin to Anchorage connection Europe-China-USA by rail...
Enrique, Spain
02/09/2014 02:25
2
3
Невероятную работу строительства моста на реке Лене, проект завидовать ...
Giorgio, (Trieste)Italy
01/09/2014 13:40
2
2
1

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