English language Web site on current affairs in the biggest russian region
Topics
00:01 | Nov 29 | 2011

The Life Line

Arterial transport corridor will link Yakutia to the rest of Russia.

In the beginning of the twentieth century the voyage from Yakutsk to the central parts of the country took many months. And it is back then that an idea of building a railroad that would link Siberia with Alaska via the territories of Chukotka and Yakutia was first voiced. Even now this project looks fantastic; imagine what it looked a century ago!

In April 1924 the Chairman of the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars of the Yakut Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic Maxim Ammosov asked the USSR Academy of Sciences to organize a scientific and research expedition that would study Yakutia’s productive and ethnic forces. Separately, an issue of a railroad was raised. The young leader perfectly realized that without a railroad the newborn Republic could not unleash its industrial and spiritual potential. And such an expedition was in fact organized. This happened in 1930. Conclusions were univocal: the Republic needed a railroad!

Difficult kilometers
It was not easy for the idea of building a railroad in Yakutia to hack its way. In early forties first kilometers of rails were laid from Transsib to the North. However, during the Great Patriotic War they were dismantled and used in construction of a lateral route in Stalingrad. In 1947 design and exploration works were begun upon the Tynda – Tommot – Yakutsk – Khandyga route. But the project was not implemented beyond that initial stage, and the idea was again put into cold storage. It was only with construction of the Baikal – Amur Railroad (BAM) that the Republic got its chance to lay steel rails in its territory.
So, thirty years ago, in 1976, the first locomotive whistle was heard at the border of the Amur Oblast and Yakutia. It signified the beginning of the railroad era in the Republic. At that point the Tydna – Berkakit line (220 km) was being constructed as part of the Baikal – Amur Railroad, and the amount of financing and the speed of construction were at record levels. In 1977 the first train arrived at the Berkakit Station, and as soon as in 1979 the first train carrying coal from Neryungri departed from the Station.
Further construction of the railroad Berkakit – Tommot – Yakutsk to the north of Berkakit began in 1985, but was not as successful. Crisis developments in the Russian economy led to the construction of the line de-facto stopping in 1990. A big team of transport constructors got unemployed, and it was only the threat of social unrest that forced investors to keep financing the works. As a result, it took five years to lay a 70 km line from the Station of Aldan to the Station of Tommot, i.e. the speed of construction was only 14 kilometers per year.

The decisions were right
The situation with construction and exploitation of the railroad line changed in 2002, when Vyacheslav Shtyrov took office of the President of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). Critical decisions were taken, and time has shown that these decisions were right. Namely:

1. Construction was separated from exploitation. The Republican Directorate for Construction of the Berkakit – Tommot – Yakutsk Railroad was created.
2. The “Yakutia Railroads” Joint-Stock Company moved from Yakutsk to Aldan, where it was in immediate proximity to the to-be-commissioned Berkakit – Tommot portion of the line.
3. The Government of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) was charged with the task of developing an Investment Program for Completion of Construction of the Berkakit – Tommot Line.

The Program was successfully implemented. In August 2004 the line started to carry passengers.
The Transstroy Engineering Corporation won a tender for construction of the Tommot – Yakutsk, 370 km long or so, portion of the railroad. In 2008 a new construction company called Transstroy-Vostok Corporation was created. Today this company is the main operator in the project for construction of the railroad from Tommot to Yakutsk, which is about 370 km long.

Under conditions of permafrost
Construction of the 802.5 km long Barkakit – Tommot – Yakutsk line is aimed at creating a reliable railway that would link Yakutia’s central districts to the existing Russian rail network.
The length of the railroad line from the Station of Tommot to the Station of Nizhny Bestyakh is 440 km. The railroad is being constructed under conditions of permafrost and at a distance from main transport arteries. On April 26, 2010 the line crossed the border between Aldansky and Khangalassky districts. And on September 25, 2010 construction of the First start-up complex of the Tommot – Kerdem – Yakutsk railroad line was completed.
Upon completion of the construction works, the railroad will become the Republic’s main transport corridor. Transport isolation of the population will become a thing of the past. Availability of the railroad will eliminate the need to rely on the costly schemes that are presently used for delivery of goods to the northern territories.
In the spring of 2010 the Transstroy-Vostok Corporation approached the key object of the construction project – the Nizhny Bestyakh Station. Under a contract with Inzhtransstroy, the Corporation is currently building the passenger terminal, the cargo terminal, the locomotive depot and other infrastructure facilities.
The Corporation actively contributes to keeping the Republic’s population employed. For example, 3100 people are employed on a rotational basis in the construction of the Tommot – Kerdem – Yakutsk railroad. More than half of them are from Yakutia. Many of those engaged in this construction used to work on construction of the Baikal – Amur Railroad, and now they keep building the Republic’s main transport corridor side-by-side with their children. 92 labor dynasties are employed in the construction, one third of the workers are young people under 30. 521 various machines are employed.

The “Golden Link” is there!
In the middle of November fireworks in celebration of a next victory, a labor victory, will be heard in the cities of Neryungri, Aldan, Yakutsk, as well as in the villages of Pokrovsk, Pavlovsk and Nizhny Bestyakh. That day, at an official ceremony the “Golden Link” will be laid at the Nizhny Bestyakh Station in Megino-Kangalassky Ulus. By the decision of the President of the Republic Egor Borisov, an Organizing Committee headed by the Chairman of the Government Galina Danchikova for preparing and holding the ceremonial events in celebration of the railroad’s reaching the Nizhny Bestyakh Station and laying the “Golden Link” was established. High-rank federal officials, federal media, veterans of construction of the legendary Baikal – Amur Railroad (BAM) and many other guests will be invited to take part in the ceremony.
And the main celebratory event will be held at the State Theatre of Opera and Ballet of the city of Yakutsk.