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.