First train to cross Russia-China Amur river bridge this month

Construction work on a $250m rail bridge across the Amur river between Russia and China is to open for business next year, with the first train to make an experimental crossing on or around the 27 August, according to China’s Global Times.

“There will be a Russian train coming over to the Chinese side as a test to see if everything is fine,” Lin Yonghan, a project manager on the scheme, told the newspaper on Tuesday.

The 2.2km crossing, known officially as the Tongjiang–Nizhneleninskoye railway bridge, will carry rail traffic across the Amur, and will link the city of Tongjiang in China’s northeastern Heilongjiang Province with Nizhneleninskoye in Russia’s Jewish Autonomous Region.

The only other rail and road bridge across the Amur is the Khabarovsk. This was built in 1999 to replace a 1916 structure that carried the Trans-Siberian railway.

Its main cargo is expected to be Russian iron ore, which will be transported to a Chinese steel works. The bridge will reduce the length of travel from more than a thousand kilometres to 233.

The bridge has two tracks, one of which will be China’s standard gauge and the other Russia’s broad gauge. According to Lin, Russian trains will run for about 15km into China before they reach a depot where their cargo will be shifted to Chinese trains.

The project has had a long and fractious construction period.

The project’s inception was an intergovernmental agreement signed between Russia and China in 2008, after which the Russians announced and called off a number of dates to begin their end of the scheme. It was previously reported that the construction would begin in 2014 and 2015.

Work on the Chinese side began in 2014 and was completed in two years, but Russia did nothing to build its shorter portion. Then in 2016, Yury Trutnev, Russia’s deputy prime minister, announced that work would begin soon, and would take 18 months to complete. Contractor SK Most Group was appointed and started work in December of that year.

The structure was eventually completed in 2019, however the commissioning was repeatedly delayed.

The project is one of a number of lines being built to improve communications between China, Russia and Mongolia. Others include a branch line of the Trans-Siberian between Chita, the capital of the Zabaykalsky Krai district, and a land port in Inner Mongolia.  

Image ©GCR, illustration by Denis Carrier

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