Author: Andrew West

The Course Of The Trans-Siberian Railway

The centerpiece of the Trans-Siberian Railway begins in the Russian capital Moscow and runs over 9,000 km to the Russian port city of Vladivostok (Pacific). The route leads a total of 89 major cities and crosses 16 major rivers within Russia, for example, the Volga.

Today, the Transsib does not only consist of the Russian section but actually begins with its connecting lines and branches right in the middle of Europe (Berlin, Hamburg, London) and leads to the Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong.

The history of the Transsib

The history of the Trans-Siberian Railway begins under Tsar Alexander II. He approved the construction of the railway line between the then capital

St. Petersburg and the port city of Vladivostok. However, the implementation of the project was managed by his son, Tsar Alexander III.

Tsar Nicholas II, son and successor of Alexander III opened the construction of the eastern section of the Transsib in Vladivostok in 1891. After Moscow became the capital again in 1918, the start of the route was moved to the new capital.

The construction of the original route dragged on from 1891 to 1916.

With a length of almost 9,300 kilometers, the Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest continuous railway in the world. However, there are two continuous train connections that are longer. Namely, the connection between Moscow and Pyongyang and between Kiev and Vladivostok. However, since most of these run on the Transsib, they are not counted. In the history of the Transsib, in addition to the main route from Moscow to Vladivostok, secondary routes were also built, which are often included in the Trans-Siberian railway route. For example, the junction in Ulan-Ude from where the route to Beijing will continue (Trans-Mongolian Railway).

The reasons for the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway were primarily of an economic nature. It was mainly about the transportation of raw materials from Siberia because, until that time, it was only transported with horse-drawn vehicles. This was a very slow method, and there were many accidents. It was about connecting the east with the rest of the country in order to be able to keep up better in world trade. Trade with China was also an important point for the huge infrastructure project.

At that time, the Transsib was also important for the tsar for military reasons. For him, it would have been the basis for capturing Mongolia and Tibet.

Traffic on the Transsib

Every city along the route has trains running to Moscow, meaning the capital. There are also trains from Moscow that covers the entire route to Vladivostok. However, the frequency of the trains is not very tight: depending on the connection, daily, every two days or only weekly.

You can also take the Russian State Railways (RZD) night train to Moscow twice a week from Berlin.

The journey from Europe to China, which lasts several days, naturally has an adventurous appeal for many. That is why the train is used here for tourism, and there are some offers to travel to Asia in luxury coaches.

Passenger traffic along the route within Russia is very important for mobility and the country. They connect the whole country: East and West, Europe and Asia, city, and country.

Freight transport on the Transsib is now of particular importance. The rail link between Central Europe and China is much faster than the ship and cheaper than the plane.

A loaded freight train only needs 18 days to travel from east China’s Zhejiang province to London (approx. 12,000 km).

Many companies, therefore, choose to switch to the train. For example, the German automaker BMW, which regularly sends a train with auto parts from Leipzig to its Chinese location.

The train also has the advantage that the trains can be sent directly to the hinterland. You do not have to reload at a seaport and then overcome another stage by truck or train, which takes time and money.

Disadvantages on the Transsib are very clear that the containers have to be reloaded due to the different track gauges. Because of the many countries that are passed through, there are also numerous customs controls. That still costs a lot of time and money.

The Future Of The Transsib – The New Silk Road

Russia and the Russian State Railways have clear goals: from China to the EU border in 7 days. A test container did it in 14 days under optimal conditions.

Russia also plans to build 20,000 km of track, buy 23,000 locomotives and procure approximately one million wagons by 2030. From the Russian side, there is no shortage of investments around the Transsib.

But there is no shortage of plans and investments on the Chinese side either.

China has launched a EUR 900 billion investment program for the new Silk Road. This is the largest development program since the Marshall Plan that rearranged and rebuilt Europe after World War II. The project involves networking Eurasia. This means that it is not just about the railways, but also about sea routes, pipelines, airports, and roads.

The train is, of course, an essential part of this project since it is the fastest mass transport between China and Europe in freight transport. It also plays an important role with regard to passenger traffic, for example, through high-speed traffic between metropolitan areas.

The project’s rail corridors are shown in dashed lines in the following illustration.

The Trans-Siberian Railway will continue to be an important part of the Silk Road in the future. Even if there are a lot of investments in the route via Kazakhstan, most of the trains in the last section go via Russia and Ukraine.

That is why the expansion and expansion of the Transsib are of course also very important in this project, since it is already being used extensively and is therefore an essential part of intercontinental traffic between Europe and Asia.

The new Silk Road is valuable for national and international rail infrastructures and it shows that the limits of the railroad are far from being reached.

The Trans-Siberian Railway is not just a railway line, but an important trade route between Asia and Europe. It has become indispensable for the economy of both continents and for trade between them.

Personally, we are pleased that Eurasia is growing closer and closer together by rail, as economic competence centers, regions rich in raw materials, large metropolises, but also cultures and societies are linked here on both sides.

We would also like to say once again that only such large-scale projects with the participation of several countries and continents show what the train has to offer in passenger, but above all in freight transport. You can and must simply think, plan and practice across known dimensions and structures.

We are already looking forward to taking the train and exploring the new Silk Road in a few years.