Two Chinese companies compete to build a permafrost crossing of the Lena River.
Any crossing close to regional capital Yakutsk, bridge or tunnel, must be built on permafrost. Picture: Transmost
A flurry of discussions involving two major enterprises from China suggests there are realistic hopes of resuscitating plans to bridge the Lena River close to Yakutsk, capital of the Sakha Republic.
A dream for many decades, could it now actually happen? Previous reports had suggested the project was shelved due to budget shortages. So far there are no crossings of the Lena in the Sakha Republic, also known as Yakutia, but might this now change? The two other great Siberian rivers have multiple crossings: the Ob and the Yenisei.
Projects of the Lena bridge. Pictures: Transmost, SK Most
Yet the Lena presents special difficulties, as well as many opportunities. Any crossing close to regional capital Yakutsk, bridge or tunnel, must be built on permafrost, yet such a construction is vital to communications in Russia's largest constituent republic and to hopes of one day creating a road or even rail link from Siberia to Alaska and onwards to the rest of North America.
It is known that the representatives of Chinese company Sinohydro arrived in Yakutsk on 14 March to meet with the republican Minister of Economy Valery Maksimov and Minister of Transport Semyon Vinokurov. On the agenda was bridge across the Lena River.
The representatives of Chinese company Sinohydro arrived in Yakutsk on 14 March. Picture: YSIA
Senior Sinohydro official Chen Shijun said: 'What kind of bridge will it be - a road bridge or combined with railway - depends on a joint decision of the Yakutian government and Moscow. The timing also depends on this.'
A rail link could connect Yakutsk directly to the Trans-Siberian network via a new connecting line from the Baikal Amur Mainline, which stops on the other side of the Lena.
On 17 March another Chinese company arrived in Yakutia and examined the location of the planned future construction. Representatives of China Railway 18th Bureau Group CO stated that the company is also ready to build a bridge across the Lena.
Representatives of China Railway 18th Bureau Group CO stated that the company is also ready to build a bridge across the Lena. Pictures: YSIA
They visited Nizhny Bestyakh railway station, now the end point of the still-to-open Amur-Yakutian Railway, as well as both banks of the river. They were interested in the project requirements.
In particular, they talked about the length and width of bridge spans, and the structural considerations to support the enormous pressure of ice floes during spring.
The map showing the junction of Amur-Yakutian Mainline, Baikal-Amur Mainline and Trans-Siberian Railway (top). The construction of Amur-Yakutian Mainline (bottom). Pictures: Siberian Times, Ministry of Transport and Roads of Yakutia
A tender is likely to decide which company will build the crossing.
In November 2012 the authorities of Yakutia and the Ministry of Transport agreed to build the bridge, but in December 2014, the country's leadership instructed to delay construction until after 2020.
Session seen as a significant step towards improving economic prospects for vast priority region including eastern Siberia.
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