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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for August 26th, 2011

Bering Strait Tunnel approved

with 10 comments

I did not see this story in our mainstream media this week. It came me from a secondary source that cited The Times and when I did a Google news search I could not find that either but I did get a piece from the Daily Mail. This is the précis from the secondary source

Russia has unveiled an ambitious plan to build the world’s longest tunnel under the Bering Strait as part of a transport corridor linking Europe and America via Siberia and Alaska. The 64-mile (103km) tunnel would connect the far east of Russia with Alaska, opening up the prospect of a rail journey across three quarters of the globe from London to New York. The link would be twice as long as the Channel Tunnel connecting Britain and France. The tunnel across the international date line would be built in three sections through two islands in the Bering Strait and would link 6,000km (3,728 miles) of new railway lines. The tunnel alone would cost an estimated $10-12 billion to construct. Russian Railways is said to be examining the construction of a 3,500km route from Pravaya Lena, south of Yakutsk, to Uelen on the Bering Strait. The tunnel would connect this to a 2,000km line from Cape Prince of Wales, in West Alaska, to Fort Nelson, in Canada.

Now, since it ends up in BC you would have thought, perhaps, that local news sources might have picked it up. Not according to Google.

For one thing, the Port of Metro Vancouver continues to talk about expansion even though their case looks increasingly thin. After all we already face a rapidly changing world as the new Panama Canal and an ice free North West Passage both will cut shipping time and cost. While the UK press naturally likes the story of a round the world trip by train from London to New York, the real issue is going to be the movement of freight, especially containers, between the far east and the United States. This is the market that the Port thinks will expand. I think this in itself is a bit dubious, given the precarious nature of the US economy. But whatever the size of the market a direct train service from China to North America would drastically cut shipping times and by pass sea ports altogether. Moreover such a route could be electrified – and not just the bit under the Strait – meaning it would cut dependence on increasingly scarce and expensive oil for transportation.

For BC a direct rail link also means that our exports of coal, lumber and oil could also start moving by train – but I think that is less likely given the fact that these lower value cargoes are more cost than time sensitive.

But in any event it really does show how sensitive transportation forecasts are to assumptions. And you can be sure that a trans Bering Strait tunnel was not included in any of the Gateway’s forecasts.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 26, 2011 at 8:38 am