20 Sep 2023 12:55

Russian govt puts cost of four high-speed rail projects at nearly 11 trln rubles - paper

MOSCOW. Sept 20 (Interfax) - The network of high-speed railways (HSR) that Russia's president approved in principle in August will cost about 10.8 trillion rubles to build, national daily Kommersant reported on Wednesday, citing estimates in a presentation of the infrastructure development strategy to 2030.

In addition to the previously reported cost estimate of 1.7 trillion rubles for the Moscow-St. Petersburg HSR (not including approaches to the cities), the document puts the cost of the Moscow-Voronezh-Rostov-Adler HSR, which would reduce the travel time between the terminal points by two thirds to 7 hours and 50 minutes, at 3.2 trillion rubles, the paper said.

The Moscow-Nizhny Novgorod-Kazan-Yekaterinburg HSR, which would cut the travel time between the terminal points by almost three quarters to 6 hours and 36 minutes, will cost 4 trillion rubles, and the Moscow-Smolensk-Minsk HSR, which would cut travel time between the Russian and Belarusian capitals by more than half to 3 hours and 4 minutes, will cost 1.9 trillion rubles, the document estimates.

Estimates are not given for the extension of railways to new territories that was mentioned by the president. Furthermore, the cost estimates (in 2030 prices) are based on the cost of 1 km of the Moscow-St. Petersburg HSR, meaning they are not precise.

The combined 4,370 km of HSR are expected to generate 15.1 trillion rubles in budget revenues and boost GDP by 35.2 trillion rubles, the presentation estimated.

High-speed rail projects have been discussed in Russia in various iterations for decades. Plans have always been revised. In 2019, for example, the authorities decided to pivot from the Moscow-Kazan project to the Moscow-St. Petersburg route, which is supposed to reduce travel time between Russia's two largest cities to 2 hours and 15 minutes. Construction is supposed to be completed in 2028.

On August 17, President Vladimir Putin also designated other HSR routes, including from Moscow to Adler, on the Black Sea coast, from Moscow to the Urals through Kazan, and a possible HSR from Moscow to Minsk and to Lugansk and Donetsk.

The infrastructure strategy presentation also estimates passenger traffic on the new HSRs, putting it at 17.2 million per year on the line to Adler, 21.1 million on the line to Yekaterinburg and 3.8 million on the line to Minsk.

The head of the Passenger Union, Kirill Yankov said research shows that HSRs are competitive against air services given travel times of up to 5-5.5 hours. The lines to Adler and Yekaterinburg do not meet this threshold.

As for passenger traffic between the intermediate stops on the HSR to Adler, there are few population centers along the section between Voronezh and Rostov, and passengers might prefer to fly to Rostov and Krasnodar.

The eastbound HSR should end at the Naberezhnye Chelny-Nizhnekamensk-Yelabuga metropolitan area, since traffic between Kazan and these cities will be comparable to the anticipated traffic between Moscow and Kazan, but there are few major population centers further eastward to Yekaterinburg, Yankov said.

As for the line to Minsk, Yankov agreed with the presentation's forecast for passenger traffic, but said it is clearly insufficient to justify building the HSR. Previously there were proposals to extend this line to Europe, but this should be put on hold given the geopolitical situation, he said. Furthermore, flights are preferable for the travel distance to both Warsaw and Berlin, he said.

The presentation also estimates funding allocations for the development of urban transport. There are plans to extend the comprehensive program to modernize public transport to 2030 in line with instructions issued after a State Council meeting on transport. This will require at least an additional 15 billion rubles per year from the federal budget plus repayable treasury loans totalling 50 billion rubles per year, which will make it possible to update about 50,000 vehicles.

There are also plans to allocate 194.5 billion rubles from the National Welfare Fund for the development of electric commuter trains, as well as restore budget funding cut in 2025-2026 from airport and seaport infrastructure in the amount of 82.3 billion rubles and 68.2 billion rubles, respectively.