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'Russian efficiency regarding train arrival and departure times is astonishing.'

Siberia’s amazing new railway - the ‘Permafrost Express’ - opens to passengers this month

By 0 and 0 and 0
22 July 2019


Some 900 kilometres of the line will run over permafrost, a fact which makes it a major engineering accomplishment. 

This long-awaited, historic line was first planned in the tsarist era which came to an end 102 years ago.

Construction started under Stalin, but only now is the epic new railway called the Amur-Yakutsk Mainline - known as the AYAM line  - fully opening. 

Some 900 kilometres of the line will run over permafrost, a fact which makes it a major engineering accomplishment. 

The new line connects the rest of the Russian Railways network in Siberia to Nizhny Bestyakh, a station across the Lena River from Yakutsk, the capital of Yakutia, also known as the Sakha Republic, the largest region in the country.

AYAM map

The new line connects the rest of the Russian Railways network in Siberia to Nizhny Bestyakh, a station across the Lena River from Yakutsk. 

This means direct trains will run soon from Yakutia to Moscow and back. 

The first passenger service on the line is scheduled on 27 July. 

For foreign tourists and train fanatics, it will give a sensational new option to travelling  in Russia, branching off from the other two great lines - the world famous Trans-Siberian and the spectacular Baikal-Amur (BAM) route - to head north into the ‘kingdom of cold’.

Indeed the new line presents a major new tourist attraction for rail explorers from around the world, and also from Russia.

The full length of the new track from the Trans-Siberian railway is 1,239 kilometres.

Yakutia is Russia’s coldest region, with winter temperatures dipping below minus 60C.

Train at Nizhny Bestyakh station

The line has been open to carry cargo for five years.

Eventually a three kilometre bridge is expected to be built across Lena River to Yakutsk, the world’s largest city built on permafrost and Russia’s diamond capital, but for now there are summer connections with Nizhny Bestyakh by river ferry and in winter across the hard frozen ice. 

Unlike the other great Siberian rail lines which go west to east, this line goes south to north.

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.

Dmitry Medvedev visits AYAM

It then proceeds and goes along the BAM for about 27 km, before heading northwards. 

For a decade and a half passenger traffic had been open 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.

The excitement is in the link though some of Russia's remotest territory to the outskirts of Yakutsk.

Siberia's great new railway starts operating to Yakutsk

Siberia's great new railway starts operating to Yakutsk

AYAM construction

AYAM construction

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. 

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 and  Chukotka. 


Ferry from Nizhny Bestyakh to Yakutsk

Ferry from Nizhny Bestyakh to Yakutsk

But the Russian government declined this project even though it still remains a dream for the future.

The Russian-Japanese War did not help and the earliest  plan fell out of favour - though in recent years 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. 

First cargo train at Nizhny Bestyakh in 2014

First cargo train at Nizhny Bestyakh in 2014

Cargo trains at Nizhny Bestyakh station

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.

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. 

Passenger train at Tommot station

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. 

The builders of BAM start the construction of AYAM

The builders of BAM start the construction of AYAM

The builders of BAM start the construction of AYAM

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 (4)

How do you buy tickets for the new Yakutsk railway?
CW petrics, USA Killington
15/09/2019 19:05
This is fantastic news at last! I got the privilege of visiting Yakutsk in 2007. I am very eager to take this new line to Nizhney Bestyakh in 2020. Cheers to such an accomplishment!
Michael Robb, Omaha, Nebraska USA
11/09/2019 10:57
I cannot find ticket to Yakutsk on russian railway website, if anyone konw where I can buy ticket?
26/07/2019 20:53
Russia still -can do - .And where there is a will, there is a railway!!!!! Good for them!
MORAK Benedikjt, Moscow
23/07/2019 08:16

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