Does Russia need the Belkomur railway route?
The Belkomur project is a new railway route (White Sea - Komi - Ural) that will connect the industrialized regions of Siberia and the Urals with ports in northern Russia. The implementation of this project will shorten the route to Arkhangelsk by about 800 kilometers. The maximum capacity of the new railway route should be 35 million tons of cargo per year.
The very first plans for the construction of a railway line that could connect the industrial Urals with the port of Arkhangelsk appeared at the very beginning of the last century against the backdrop of large-scale development of railways in Russia. Then the plans were not allowed to come true by large-scale changes in economic и political the life of the country. They tried to realize the second attempt to implement such a project already in the days of the Soviet Union, it was in the thirties of the XNUMXth century that the existing sections of the future Belkomur began to appear. Unfortunately, by the mid-fifties, most of the work was suspended, the reason was a large-scale amnesty, which deprived large construction projects of the main labor force - prisoners.
They returned to this project already in the days of post-Soviet Russia, in 1996 at that time the President of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin signed a decree on providing state support for all work on the construction of a new railway. The new document emphasized that up to forty percent of the estimated cost of the project would be allocated from the federal budget. Especially for these purposes, the Belkomur company was created, its authorized capital amounted to 30 billion rubles, and four constituent entities of the Russian Federation became the founders of the joint-stock company (the Republic of Komi, the Arkhangelsk and Perm regions and the Komi-Permyatsky district). However, already in 2022, due to various problems associated with the functioning of investment mechanisms, construction was frozen.
Once again, they took up the construction of the railway line already in 2007. A year later, the emergence of a new route was covered in the Strategy for the Development of Railway Transport until 2030 and in the Transport Strategy of the Russian Federation for the period until 2020 (subsequently extended until 2030), which once again emphasized the importance of the implementation of this project. Only the development of design and estimate documentation for Belkomur was estimated at 6-8 billion rubles, and investments in the construction itself could range from 240 to 250 billion rubles. It should be noted that even then Belkomur began to be considered not just as a railway line connecting two points on the map, but as a comprehensive program for the development of the entire North-West of the country.
In 2015, an agreement was signed between the General Director of OJSC MK Belkomur (established in 2002) and the General Director of Poly Technologies, Inc, according to which a company from the People's Republic of China should become the general contractor of the project and will take an active part in financing, design, construction of new sections of Belkomur and modernization of existing ones. It was assumed that active work should start in 2020 and last for five years. At the moment, it is rather problematic to talk about the prospects of this agreement, since since the end of 2022 MK Belkomur has been in the process of liquidation.
As can be understood from the above material, the construction of the railway, which will directly connect the port of Arkhangelsk with the industrial regions of the Urals, has been exciting the minds of the first persons of our state for more than a century. Now let's try to briefly explain why Belkomur looks like such an economically attractive project.
Thus, Vladimir Shchelokov, Director General of MK Belkomur, declares that such a project for Russia is not only profitable, but super profitable. According to him, experts have calculated that the gross regional product of the three constituent entities of the Russian Federation, which will directly pass the route, will increase by 5,4%, about 40 new enterprises will be created. The regions will get another infrastructural opportunity to unlock their natural resource potential.
If you look at the regional context, the new route will allow the Perm Territory to export potash fertilizers from the Solikamsk basin. In addition, it will create additional opportunities for the development of forest resources, which cover 70% of the region's territory. The Komi Republic will have the opportunity to increase production at the deposits of the Pechora coal basin. Infrastructure will also be created to facilitate the development of ore deposits. The Arkhangelsk region will be able to increase the efficiency of diamond mining at the deposits named after. M.V. Lomonosov and them. V. Griba. In addition to this, the region will be able to develop forest resources more quickly.
It is necessary to pay attention to the strategic shortcomings of this project. For example, technical and natural shortcomings of the port in Arkhangelsk raise serious questions. Despite the fact that they are trying to offset the disadvantages of the Arkhangelsk harbor by building a new deep-water port in the city, the economic feasibility of this project remains questionable, since, according to experts, its cost may even exceed the estimate of the entire Belkomur. Questions also arise about the mechanisms for financing this project, as is often the case in Russia, many large projects run into a money issue. For a long time, the public-private partnership under the concession scheme has been seen as the best option that would suit all those interested in the project.
In conclusion, I would like to note that the implementation of Belkomur is inextricably linked with other major Russian projects in the Arctic. We are talking about the "Murmansk transport hub", the "Northern latitudinal way", the construction of a new port of Sabetta and the expansion of the port of Arkhangelsk. It is their joint successful implementation that will give a strong impetus to the development of the northern regions of the Russian Federation, which is especially important in connection with the growing transport isolation of our country and the proximity of the Northern Sea Route, as one of the key alternative routes for the export of domestic products.
- Author: Viktor Anufriev