New cities and industries could be created from construction of high-speed railway and motorway routes spanning whole of country
This article originally appeared in The Siberian Times
Plans have been unveiled for an ambitious new transport route through Russia with a mega road and high-speed rail network to link Asia with Europe.
At a meeting of the Russian Academy of Science, the head of the Russian Railways Vladimir Yakunin presented the idea for the Trans-Eurasian belt Development (TEPR).
Seen as a powerful and versatile transportation corridor it would join up to other networks and reach from the Atlantic to the Pacific, via the heart of Siberia and the Far East.
The project would see not only a new train network built alongside the Trans-Siberian Railway but the construction of major roads, pipelines for oil and gas, and the laying of facilities for electricity and water supplies.
Mr Yakunin has been engaged in the development of the project with academic Gennady Osipov and the rector of Moscow State University, Viktor Sadovnichy.
During his presentation the head of the Russian Railways said that such a scheme was vital more than ever and would make Russia the new world centre for the creation and development of high-tech industries.
He also said that Western-style globalisation is no longer seen as an incentive but as a hindrance on the economic, scientific, moral and spiritual development of society.
He said: 'This is an inter-state, inter-civilization, project. It should be an alternative to the current (neo-liberal) model, which has caused a systemic crisis. The project should be turned into a world 'future zone', and it must be based on leading, not catching, technologies.'
The project aims to construct the mega transportation route to span the entire length of Russia, and link into existing networks in Europe and Asia. That would create the first ever modern route from the Pacific Ocean in the east to the Atlantic Ocean in the west.
If the idea is successful, it is expected that could create 10 to 15 new industries, new cities and a huge number of new jobs, as well as further development of Siberia and the Far East.
According to Mr Yakunin, TEPR could become the GOELRO of the 21st century, in reference to the large-scale electrification of Russia proposed and implemented by Lenin and Stalin between 1920 and 1935.
Talking about a rough estimate for the costs of the project he said that it will require trillions of dollars, but insisted the economic returns would outweigh these investments.
Viktor Sadovnichy, rector of the Moscow State University, said the network would help the Far East and Siberia feel more in touch with the rest of the world. He said: 'Recently I returned from Khabarovsk, where I met with rectors of universities of the Far East - about 100 of them in total.
'The main problem that we discussed was isolation. Up to 30 per cent of talented young people graduating from schools leave these regions.'
Vladimir Fortov, the Head of the Russian Academy of Science, said the project is 'very ambitious and expensive'.
But he added: 'It will solve many problems in the development of the vast region. It is connected with social programs, and new fields, new energy resources, and so on.
'The idea is that basing on the new technology of high-speed rail transport we can build a new railway near the Trans-Siberian Railway with the opportunity to go to Chukotka and Bering Strait and then to the American continent.'