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Tokyo to London by train? Ambitious new plan links Trans-Siberian to Japan

By The Siberian Times reporter
05 October 2016

Japanese companies consider investment in railway extension via islands of Sakhalin and Hokkaido.

Sakhalin railway. Picture: Oleg Ananenko

A scheme to extend the Trans-Siberian railway - the longest in the world - to Japan is under active consideration, according to the Tokyo media. The future line could branch out from Kabarovsk and cross the Strait of Tartary by bridge or tunnel to Sakhalin, a Russian island almost the size of Scotland.

The track would then cross to Japan via a tunnel to the island of Hokkaido, La Perouse Strait, or Soya Strait, a similar venture to the crossing under the English channel between England and France. 



Our map shows the existing way from Trans-Sib to Sakhalin via the ferry crossing Vanino - Kholmsk (blue line) and the line that should be built to fulfill Japanese project (red dotted line). Picture: The Siberian Times

For the first time it would be possible to travel from London to Tokyo by train. Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun reported that Tokyo companies are considering the project along with the country's government.

The two key crossings would be of 7 kilometres and 42 km respectively. The Japanese plans were revealed by newspaper Sankei Shimbun. Companies are also studying the possibility of speeding up traffic on the Trans-Siberian Railway between Kazan and Vladivostok, it is understood. 


Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun reported that Tokyo companies are considering the project along with the country's government. Picture: Sankei Shimbun

This project has been studied with a view to supplying the complete equipment, including trains, signaling systems, and new railway track.

The ventures are seen as leading to a revival of not only commercial traffic between the two countries, but also to increased tourism and other human contacts. 

The Russian government is keen to make a great leap forward in developing the Russian Far East.

Trans-Siberia railway

Trans-Siberian railway

Trans-Siberian railway

Companies are also studying the possibility of speeding up traffic on the Trans-Siberian Railway between Kazan and Vladivostok, it is understood.  Picture: Russian Railways, Krugobaikalskaya

The Japanese newspaper noted that Moscow has previously submitted to Tokyo around 50 long-term cooperation projects, including the creation of an energy bridge for the transfer of electricity from Russia to Japan. 

Tokyo has offered Moscow a package of economic cooperation in eight areas. President Vladimir Putin is due to visit Japan in December. But Russian is likely to resist linkage between Japanese investment in Siberia and the Russian Far East with any concessions on the Kurile Islands.

Separately, Russia is seeking investment for a $6.5 billion scheme to create a new generation cargo port - Samarga - capable of handling 80 million tons.

Port Vladivostok

In 2015 Vladivostok Commercial Sea Port handled totally only 5.042 million tonns. Picture: Alfa-Transit

Russian logistics firm Samarga-Holding is behind the venture, which would also involve a new 236 km branch of the Trans-Siberian railway connecting Khabarovsk to the new port.

The Samarga International Transport Corridor was unveiled at the recent Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. The project has received backing from the Khabarovsk regional government, with tax relief promised for the first five years of operation.

Samarga-Holding has sought investors throughout the region including the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and the ROTOBO Business Association of Japan, it has been reported.

Comments (13)

Gauge-changing trains are only a temporary solution. Otherwise, fx Spain would not convert their broad-gauge network to standard gauge. The real problem is that Russia is incredibly slow-witted, otherwise they would have realised by themelves long ago that the solution is to split their network: a domestic network in broad gauge, and an international network in standard gauge.
Michael Laudahn, Zürich, Switzerland
25/11/2016 21:29
Service can be assumed by Gauge Changing Train: 1435mm on japanese Shinkansen and Europe and 1520mm in Russia.
Jean-Marc Allenbach, Geneva, Switzerland
12/10/2016 02:12
The reason British Standard Gauge is so widely used around the World is because it was British Railway Companies that developed rail networks across the globe during the latter part of the Nineteenth Century. Also, as Britain developed its own networks, led by independent private companies, it soon became a problem of continuity of service when different companies employed different gauges. This was quickly resolved, and Standard Gauge was widely adopted as a medium between Narrow Gauge and Wide Gauge, which was favoured by a Great railway pioneer Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Simon Robinson, Blackburn, England
09/10/2016 00:30
I have another fun fact for you: Once the standard-gauge Rail Baltica project (see Wikipedia) has been built, Finland's gauge situation will appear in a new light. Especially if also the Tallinn - Helsinki tunnel is built.
Michael Laudahn, Zürich, Switzerland
07/10/2016 10:43
Some fun facts, Russia has about the same gauge (at first 1,524 mm, though in the 1960s Soviet, the gauge was redefined to 1,520 mm, but both are still compatible) as the Finnish railways today, which is because Russia was once part of the Finnish empire! ;)
Vaeltaja, Finland
07/10/2016 06:51

Standard gauge holds more than 60 % of global rail mileage, russian less than 20 %.

As is easily verifiable on Wikipedia (including world map), standard gauge is the dominating gauge in Europe, N and C America (Mexico = part of C America), Australia. It is well represented in major parts of Asia (Japan: Shinkansen use standard gauge), Africa and S America. Whereever new railway lines are built, often by China (!), the gauge of choice is usually standard gauge. Also, european standards are being applied by China.

If there is a part of the world where global standards are defined, then it is in fact the EU, because it has the competent bodies for this type of work. What is accepted in Europe is almost automatically accepted by the rest of the world, because of its superior quality. Just see the GSM example known to everyone. Russia could participate in this work, but with its classical isolationist attitude also shown by you again, they probably don't meet even basic requirements.
Michael Laudahn, Zürich, Switzerland
06/10/2016 15:31
1435 mm - a European local standart and not international standard. in Japan use their standards, in India its etc. EU is not the whole world, and does not define standards for the whole world. the same applies to the US
ED, www
06/10/2016 15:06

Standard gauge (1435 mm) is the winning gauge, seen on a worldwide scale. The goal is to use standard gauge in almost all countries of the world, in the interest of interoperability.

Russia has managed to pressure several east european countries to accept russian-gauge spur lines on their territories, but never made any gauge compromises on its own territory. Plus it pressures CIS states to march in rail lockstep with Russia.

It is therefore high time for Russia to: 1) accept that standard gauge is the global gauge, 2) let CIS states decide rail matters for themselves, 3) act itself according to this insight.
Michael Laudahn, Zürich, Switzerland
06/10/2016 14:49
not one word mentioned that the SIb is 100 years old.... i think from Tokio to London it is even more interesting for freight business than for tourism. the Japan part is not that long, so let them do it in russian gauge width. and,as now, in Brest the wheels are being changed. with modern equipment and a little financial incentive for the workers, the trains can be changed in under 1 hour....
Benedikt, m
06/10/2016 05:27
No mention of the gauge issue? Russia should split its network into a domestic and an international part, then convert/build the international part in standard gauge (1435 mm). Border gauge-changing is not a permanent solution for the future.
Michael Laudahn, Zürich, Switzerland
05/10/2016 23:00
correction: wake up
Enrique, Spain
05/10/2016 19:07
Tokyo-London (12,000 kms) in high speed train (300 kms/h) could be done in just 40 hours, so less than two days.

Get the train on Monday in Tokyo and weak up on Wednesday in London.

That would be impressive.

Three large financial centers (London-Moscow-Tokyo) together by train.
Enrique, Spain
05/10/2016 19:03
It is a good idea. For the 7 km. crossing a long bridge could be built and for the 42 km. crossing a tunnel similar to the Channel Tunnel between Britain and France (50 kms) built over two decades ago (it opened in 1994 but started in 1990) is a great example.

If the Channel Tunnel was built in four years 26 years ago, now the shorter Hokkaido-Sakhalin Tunnel can be built in three years to be opened by 2020 if there is financing for the project.

In fact, now the technology and means have improved a lot compared to what the UK and France could use in 1990, so building the H-S Tunnel in just 2 years after the project of engeneers has been approved would be possible.

Of course, in the case of both crossings, earthquakes will be taken into account as they will be frequent but there are Shinkasen trains and long suspension bridges in Japan which have not suffered any damage these years in spite of the quakes.
Enrique, Spain
05/10/2016 18:58

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