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China jumps aboard a Russian Arctic-bound train

China is interested in the Belkomur railway project.

The state-owned China Civil Engineering Construction Company is joining the development of Belkomur, the long-projected railway line stretching towards Russian Arctic waters.

Location

The Chinese company, a large-scale state-owned enterprise specializing in infrastructure investments, has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Republic of Komi with the ultimate goal of developing the Belkomur, the  railway line connecting the northern Russian cities of Perm and Arkhangelsk.

The memorandum was signed in Shanghai in a meeting with Komi Deputy Governor Aleksandr Burov, the Komi regional government informs in a press release. The two sides will now establish a working group, which is to “start developing a mechanism for the joint implementation of the project with assistance from the Chinese and Russian governments”.

The new agreement could mark a turning point in the long-dragged Belkomur story. A project development company with branch units in the three involved Russian regions was established in 1996. However, the project company soon collapsed following a lack of funding and political interest from federal authorities. In 2007, regional authorities resumed their lobbying of the project.

If built, the railway line will establish a new far shorter link between Siberia and the Ural region with the Russian northern port of Arkhangelsk. The line will be 1252 km long of which about 712 km remains to be built. The price tag for the whole project is estimated to almost 600 billion RUB (€15 billion), of which more than 80 percent is to come from private sources.

The China Civil Engineering Construction Company is a major international investor in rail infrastructure. By the end of 2011, the number of CCECC’s projects under execution amounted to 128 with total contract value of more than $8.3 billion, the company website informs. A lion’s share of the company’s investments is made in railway infrastructure in African countries.