Investors From East And West Eager To Get A Piece Of Russian High-Speed Rail Action
The HSR race is on.
Investors from both sides of Eurasia are casting their gaze in towards the middle to construct a new high-speed rail line that will be built from Moscow to Kazan, where the portions of the 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held. Three groups of investors from China, Germany, and Italy have so far expressed interest. The German side consists of a consortium, which includes Siemens, Deutsche Bank, and Deutsche Bahn, that has offered nearly $3 billion to construct portions of the rail line. Beijing has offered a $6 billion loan. While a group from Italy has recently surfaced and set up a joint working group with Russian Railways.
This new high-speed rail line will span 770 kilometers between Moscow and Kazan, and will traverse seven regions of Russia, stop in 15 cities, serve 200 million passengers per year, and cost in the ballpark of $21.4 billion to build. The trains on this line will be able to obtain speeds up to 400 kilometers per hour, reducing the end-to-end travel time from 12 hours to just three and a half. A $390 million contract for designing the rail line was already awarded to China Railway Group last year.
The trains on this HSR line will be a special breed created specially for it. Siemens, who provided the trains for the Moscow to St. Petersburg line, has offered to supply the rolling stock, which they claim will be an enhanced version of what’s currently running in Russia. While China, of course, has made a similar offer. These trains will have the capability to travel faster than most other high-speed trains currently in operation, and the Chinese ones will have adjustable wheels that will be compatible with either the Russian 1520mm track or the 1435mm track that is used in Europe and China. Siemens has already proposed a trilateral Russian-German-Chinese partnership for their production.
China’s ambition for the Moscow to Kazan HSR line extends far beyond Russia. They hope to drop $100 billion to extend this line via Kazakhstan to Beijing, 7,000 kilometers away, where it would feed into the country’s own HSR network and create a direct “Silk Road” link between east and west. If built, this monumental transportation project would enable passengers to travel between Beijing and Moscow in just 33 hours.
While direct freight trains are laying the foundations of the present reality China’s international rail presence, the future will be about HSR lines — and perhaps even a hyperloop or two — being built up and down the various routes of the New Silk Road. In addition to the Moscow-Kazan route, plans have been made for Chinese-led high-speed rail lines to be built from China to Thailand, Jakarta to Bandung, Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, Mexico City to Queretaro, Los Angeles to Las Vegas, and Budapest to Belgrade. However, to date only the Indonesian project has gotten off the ground and many of these proposed projects have fizzled out in bitter disputes.
Previously, the prospective partnership between Moscow and Beijing to build the Moscow-Kazan high-speed rail line was used as a prime example of Russia’s pivot to China in reaction to Western sanctions, but with Germany and Italy potentially jumping on board it seems as if the project may become geopolitically re-balanced.