Bridge Over Tatar Straights Will Be Built

Paul Goncharoff

Whilst the world is busy imposing and fighting trade tariffs, something is happening, quietly in the Russian Far East that could have major implications on the development of the Far East, as well as for Russia-Japanese-Chinese trade in general. Steps towards the construction of a vast bridge and tunnel project between Russia and Japan, which was planned decades ago, are being taken.

Back in June of 2017 while speaking to the public in Russia in one of his “direct line” telecasts President Putin said that extending either a bridge or tunnel from the Russian mainland to Sakhalin Island and beyond is a key part of the Government’s strategy to enhance, extend and integrate the transport system and economic wellbeing of Russia.

The benefits of a Sakhalin Bridge over the Tatar Strait are several, as it would finally open that territory to unencumbered access and development year-round. That is the short-term picture. The long-term view is ultimately to build a direct transport link between the Russian Federation and Japan via Sakhalin. The two countries will then see significant benefits from such a transport corridor with two-way freight flow of greater than 40 million tons per year.

Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe was present at this year’s Far East Economic Forum in Vladivostok when Putin said, “We are planning to build a bridge to Sakhalin. Connecting Sakhalin and Hokkaido are things of an absolutely global nature”. This project will allow businesses to cost effectively deliver goods from Asian Pacific Rim countries to Europe and back through Russia.

Without fanfare on Tuesday July 24 Vladimir Putin officially approved the construction of the bridge to Sakhalin at the federal level during a meeting with the governor of Sakhalin Oleg Kozhemiako. The construction and financial clock is now ticking.

The narrowest point of the Tatar Strait connecting Sakhalin and the mainland is about seven kilometers. Over many decades, several studies have been prepared to link the island to the mainland, but none realized. One piece of trivia – it seems a merchant named Gudkov made the first official proposal in 1892 to link up with Sakhalin. Since Mr. Gudkov, many recognized the logic of this dream, but nothing was approved. Today this dream is reality.

At the end of January 2018, a feasibility study was completed for the bridge. It covered and included all updated data, including financials, as it will have to be supported in large part by the Russian federal budget. Russian Railways has also already deposited into its investment program one billion rubles for its initial share in the design and planning. The estimated cost may be up to 540 billion rubles including road and rail infrastructure. If the bridge over the Kerch Strait to Crimea is any indicator, the Sakhalin connection should be ready by 2022/23.

This news has also served to heat up the demand for property in the Khabarovsk, Sakhalin and Primorye regions by businesses, speculators and developers as it is a magnet attracting to it the need for many peripheral support services and deep infrastructure development throughout those far eastern areas of Russia.