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'Siberia is so big, it’s almost more an idea than a place'
Ian Frazier

The ultimate train journey is poised to get even more special

By The Siberian Times reporter
12 June 2013

Board a train in London and travel across Siberia all the way to Tokyo?

'It is a grand project that will drastically improve our efficiency of physical distribution'. Picture of Tokyo: aviatraveler.ru

Until now this has been a dream but reports this week say it is destined to become reality after Vladimir Putin in 2011 revived a much earlier idea and set officials to work on it. 

'This dream is now set to become reality, as transportation officials from Russia and Japan met last week to finalise the details of the cooperation between the two previously disputing nations, making this railway fantasy a distinct possibility in the future,' reported The Japan Daily Press. 

'The plan calls for a bridge from the Russian mainland to the island of Sakhalin, where the new train route will continue south across the island directly to a 25-mile underwater tunnel that Japan will build under the Soya Strait, taking the train onto Japanese territory - thus making possible a two-week London-to-Tokyo train journey'.

The move can enhance trade relations as well as provide a mouth-watering new route for rail fanatics and those wanting to make an epic once in a life time rail journey.

'In terms of natural resources, this rail link would be a very positive development,' said Koichi Yamagishi, director of overseas projects at Japan's ministry of transport, according to the The Daily Telegraph in London. 'To have direct access to the Sakhalin 1 and 2 oil and gas projects would be very beneficial.'

Sakhalin-2

''The total cost of the project is estimated at 9.75 billion US dollars'. Picture: 'A Translatoe's Guide to Sakhalin-2'

Stalin is credited with first raising the idea of the mammoth route but the scheme was abandoned with his death in 1953. Putin revived the idea, saying in 2011: 'It is also possible to connect (our railways) directly with Japan by a tunnel.

'It is a grand project that will drastically improve our efficiency of physical distribution'.

It was reported that a delegation from the Sakhalin Oblast government met senior officials of Japan's ministry of land and transport in Tokyo on 29 May and outlined the plan. Japan has proposed further discussions, at the vice-ministerial level, in August.

If it comes to fruition given the existing and long standing Kuril Islands territorial dispute between Russia and Japan it would be a major achievement for diplomacy. The two countries have never signed a peace treaty to officially terminate the Second World War because of the dispute. 

'This project has never been pushed that far forward, as the territorial dispute between Japan and Russia over the sovereignty of the Kuril Islands, which Japan calls the Northern Territories, simmered on', The Japan Daily Press said.  

'There are indications, however, that both countries are now keen to improve their ties - starting with a meeting between Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Putin recently. Japan partly motivated by a need to access Russian supplies of natural gas, as its nuclear reactors remain idle after the Fukushima disaster in March 2011. 

'The first phase of the Russian plan for the railway is set to break ground in 2016, with no date for completion made public as of the moment.

'The total cost of the project is estimated at 9.75 billion US dollars'.

Comments (1)

two weeks on the train....:) kind of a once-in-a-lifetime journey, but not sure I would stand it, its way too long
Lukasz, Poland
13/06/2013 20:59
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