Construction of the bridge over the Amur river Blagoveshchensk-Heihe: from idea to implementation

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Retrospective of the bridge construction project across the Amur river Blagoveshchensk-Heihe.

It was not so easy to trace the exact year of negotiations on the construction of a cross-border bridge over the Amur river between the cities of Blagoveshchensk (Russia) and Heihe (China). According to the data on the website Of the government of the Amur region, the project has been discussed for a long time at various Russian-Chinese meetings, exhibitions and forums. Moreover, the terms for selecting an investor and starting construction have already been mentioned. And the bridge, in General, even had to be built today. However, for various reasons, first of all, we must assume that delays arose due to the financial side of the issue, so far Blagoveshchensk and Heihe are connected only by a pontoon bridge, which runs buses for tourists from January to March. When it is disassembled, you can get to China and return back on motor ships or hovercrafts. This year, the project to build a bridge over the Amur river has finally ceased to be an ephemeral idea and an eternal topic of negotiations and has acquired a more real shape.

When did the idea of building a bridge across the Amur river in the Blagoveshchensk region arise and how did it develop?
In the summer of 2011, a trade and economic fair was held in Heihe, where bilateral negotiations were held on the construction of a road bridge and a pontoon crossing over the Amur river. Representatives of the government of the Amur region and the leadership of Heihe participated in the discussion. It was during these negotiations that an agreement was reached that the Russian investor who will build the bridge will be selected through competitive procedures by the end of 2011. However, this did not happen.

In 2012, the government of the Amur region approved the Strategy for socio-economic development of the Amur region until 2025 (the document is published on the website of the Ministry of economic development of the region. in this document, the bridge over the Amur river Blagoveshchensk (Russia) – Heihe (China) was included in the List of priority investment projects in the region. The start date of the project implementation in the Strategy was set for 2014, and the end date is already 2015. Moreover, in the new version of the Strategy dated March 30, 2015, these terms were left the same… The fact that the bridge at that time did not even begin to build, no one was confused.

Just a year later – in the fall of 2013-the bridge over the Amur river again became the subject of discussion at the Russian-Chinese meeting in the government of the Amur region. The need to implement the project was stated in the final joint communique of the heads of government of Russia and China. It was signed during the visit of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to China on October 22-23, 2013. As the press service of the regional government reported, at this meeting, the parties have already outlined ways to solve issues on choosing the optimal bridge model, ways to Finance the project, and the distribution of responsibilities during construction and operation of the structure.

In the following year, 2014, it was proposed to create a special economic zone near the bridge that has not yet been started. The author of the idea was the then head of the Amur region Oleg Kozhemyako. According to the ex-Governor, the border zone in the area of the future bridge over the Amur river would be suitable for creating a high-tech industrial complex with a developed transport and logistics infrastructure. It was proposed to conduct deep processing of export agricultural products, forests, and create large-scale Assembly and innovative production facilities on the territory of the bridge. The Minister of economic development Alexei Ulyukayev, who was presented the idea of creating SEZ has approved and instructed the relevant departments of the Ministry of economic development to prepare feasibility study for establishing a special economic zone.

In early July of the same year, Kozhemyako, at a meeting with the Governor of the Chinese province of Heilongjiang, Lu Hao, during the Russian-Chinese EXPO, promised that the bridge over the Amur river would be built in 2015. At the same time, by mid-July 2014, it was instructed to prepare a feasibility study for the construction of the crossing.

Just a month and a half later, the next round of negotiations on the implementation of a large-scale project took place. At that time, the two countries ‘ delegations were headed by Russian transport Minister Maxim Sokolov and transport Minister of the people’s Republic of China Yang Chuantang. Sokolov at the meeting noted that the work does not stop, an algorithm has been found to solve the construction of cross-border bridge crossings (it is also planned to build railway bridges-ed.). According to the Minister, by August 2014, China and Russia were already close to the practical implementation of the Blagoveshchensk – Heihe bridge construction project.

The end of autumn 2014 was marked by a new meeting of representatives of the Russian Federation and China, at which several specific instructions were given. In particular, the parties finally agreed to create and register a joint company that will be responsible for the implementation of the project. Before November 21, 2014, JSC “Institute Giprostroymost” had to send a proposal to the Chinese side on the implementation and mutual coordination of engineering and geodetic surveys. At the same time, the Chinese partners pledged to provide detailed information about the project’s lending conditions and ways to secure credit in Chinese banks. More until the end of the year, the Ministry of transport and construction of the Amur region did not officially report on the promotion of the project.

From the end of 2014 to the end of April 2015, the topic of building a road bridge over the Amur river in the area of Blagoveshchensk disappeared from media feeds. Nothing was reported about regular meetings or the signing of any documents within the framework of the project. Suddenly, at the end of April, it became known that three automobile crossings were going to be built at once. The projects were discussed at the second meeting of the Russian-Chinese working group on cross-border transport infrastructure in Hangzhou (China). It was about the construction of automobile crossings Blagoveshchensk – Heihe, Poltava (Primorye, Russia) – Dunning (Heilongjiang province, China) and Pokrovka (Transbaikalia, Russia) – Loguhe (Heilongjiang province, China). They also discussed the construction of a cable car across the Amur river in the area of Blagoveshchensk. To date, almost nothing is known about the construction of cross-border bridges in Transbaikalia and Primorye. The construction of a bridge in Transbaikalia is considered economically feasible, but the project was decided to finalize. The site of the regional government does not indicate at what stage the work is currently underway. By the way, the Governor of the Chita region and the Chairman of the People’s Government of Heilongjiang province expressed a “mutual desire” to build the Pokrovka – Logukhe crossing in 2002, the press service of the government of the TRANS-Baikal territory reports.

At the same meeting, in April 2015, Russia and China agreed to create a joint expert group to develop a forecast of the volume of cargo and passenger traffic across the Blagoveshchensk – Heihe bridge. It was also instructed to complete the approval of the draft concession agreement on the construction of the bridge by June 30, 2015.

In the early autumn of 2015, the preliminary cost of the project – 16 billion rubles-was finally announced. It was named by the acting Governor of the Amur region Alexander Kozlov. It was stressed that the construction of Federal and regional funds: a portion of the amount to invest China, part of a joint company established by the authorities of the Amur region and the leadership of the Heilongjiang province. Kozlov said that this company will take on a construction loan at 6% in Chinese banks. The acting head of the region also announced the collection of tolls for the future crossing, adding that “the cost of travel on the bridge will only be equal to its current operation.” In November, it became known that the start of construction was postponed to 2016.

2016 may be the year of the beginning of construction of the Blagoveshchensk – Heihe bridge
February 2016 was marked by the presentation of promising investment projects in the Amur region to the management of the Far East development Fund. Among others, the automobile bridge over the Amur river was presented. Following the presentation, representatives of the Fund promised to give all projects an objective financial and economic assessment, and then make investment decisions based on it.

In March, the Blagoveshchensk district administration held a public hearing on the project. It became known that the start of construction is planned to be given in July 2016, and the cost of the project (although again estimated) will be 19 billion rubles. The bridge project is being prepared by Giprostroymost Institute. They want to build a toll collection point for the crossing and overpass at the entrance to the structure near the village of Kanikurgan.

To date, the authorities of the Amur region promise:

in may, approve the regulations on the Blagoveshchensk branch of the operator of the bridge construction across the Amur;
in may-June of this year, sign a concession agreement for the construction of the Blagoveshchensk – Heihe cross-border bridge»;
start construction in the summer of 2016 and enter the facility in 2019.
As the first Deputy Chairman of the government of the Amur region Marina Dedyushko recently stated, the bridge project is almost ready and will soon be sent to the state Expertise. Two-thirds of the future crossing will be built on the territory of the Russian Federation: an entrance from the R-297 Amur highway (Chita – Khabarovsk), a crossing over the Kanikurgan channel, as well as a bridge over the main channel. Only a third of the bridge will be located on the territory of China.

The bridge construction operator will be a joint Russian-Chinese company. Part of the bridge on Russian territory will be built on credit funds taken from a Chinese Bank at 5%, said Alexander Kozlov, Governor of the Amur region, at an April meeting on the development of the Amur region under the leadership of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is planned to repay the loan of 14 billion rubles by charging tolls for 15 years. The Chinese part of the bridge will be built at the expense of investments from the state. Initially, it is planned to build a road and pedestrian bridge. But in the future, it may be supplemented by a railway. The construction of the combined bridge will also be provided for by the concession agreement. In 11 kilometers from the future cross – border crossing, the territory of advanced development (TOP) – Rovnoye will be located. As the head of the Amur region explained at a meeting with Vladimir Putin, the Rovnoye TOR will become a logistics center, “where it is planned to put processing and within this bridge crossing.”

The importance of building a bridge over the Amur river between Blagoveshchensk and Heihe has long been in doubt. Trade and economic ties between the Amur region and Heilongjiang province in China have been established for a long time. In recent years, they have only been strengthened and developed. The bridge is also expected by many tourists from both countries, who now have to use water transport for most of the year. The new road crossing will allow year-round cargo and passenger traffic to be established at existing border crossing points and will become one of the links of international transport corridors. We can only hope that now, when both the Russian and Chinese sides are really close to implementing the project, construction will still begin, and not be postponed again until better times.

Photo: press service of the government of the Amur region

Olga Cherukhina

The BTS-MOST Group of Companies