Bridge over the Amur river from Russia to China: goodbye, 3.5 thousand km detour!

Recent news
Recently, during the 27th international trade and economic fair in Harbin, the final version of the concession agreement for the border bridge crossing over the Amur river near the cities of Blagoveshchensk and Heihe was signed.

Bridge of great hopes

The document was signed by the Minister of transport and construction of the government of the Amur region Andrey Tyaglo, from the Chinese side-the head of the transport Department of Heilongjiang province Yu FEI and the General Director of the joint Russian-Chinese company Huang Yun Yun.

The signing of the document was the result of a long negotiation marathon between the two sides. The final stage was held by the Governor of the Amur region, Alexander Kozlov, and his Chinese counterpart, the Governor of Heilongjiang province, Lu Hao.

“The concession agreement is the completion of the “paper” stage before the construction of the bridge. But without this document, it can’t begin. The agreement defines the order of construction of the object, its terms and volumes. After signing the contract, you will need to determine the procedure for charging fees, conclude a loan agreement, get the results of state expertise and start construction directly.”

– said regional transport Minister Andrey Tyaglo.

The Chinese partners also agree with the important assessment of the agreement reached.

“We were lucky enough to sign this document, we were going to this historic moment. A lot is being done, the preparation for construction was conducted for about 30 years. The composition of the working groups has changed, previous governors have been involved in this work, and we are happy to be able to sign this concession agreement with Russia’s youngest Governor. We have very high hopes for this bridge”,

– said Lu Hao, the Governor of Heilongjiang province.

From Economics to geopolitics

The bridge over the Amur river will be the first cross-border railway bridge. The first negotiations on the need for its construction date back to 1993. At the same time, a project with a total cost of $150 million was developed. But it was never implemented.

However, the negotiation process did not fade away, it was mainly attended by the administration of the Amur region and the delegation of the People’s government of Heihe.

In 2003, it was even agreed that the Chinese side would fully take over the financing of the construction of the bridge over the Amur river, which would connect Russia’s Blagoveshchensk and China’s Heihe. However, then the matter did not go further than intentions.

However, the need for such a crossing was so obvious that negotiations were resumed several times. But still with the same result. The reason that the parties could not come to a final decision, according to Galina Buslova, former Chairman of the Legislative Assembly of the Amur region, and now its Deputy, was that this idea was not supported by the Russian Government.

As an argument, the following argument was put forward: we cannot justify and prove our traffic volumes to the Chinese side, and the Russian Federation does not want to build a bridge for our neighbors, even using Chinese investments.

However, it seems that times have changed, and the Russian side has given the final approval for the implementation of this project.

The following facts speak about the need for a new bridge. Now the detour to get to China is almost 3,500 km (!), and in the summer a pontoon crossing is being built. With the introduction of a fixed bridge, according to experts, the cargo turnover will grow 10 times: from the current 300 thousand tons to 3 million tons.

Россия. Благовещенск. Досмотр транспорта на пункте пропуска “Благовещенск — Хэйхэ” Благовещенской таможни. Фото ИТАР-ТАСС/ Игорь Агеенко

From two sides

The cost of the project is 19 billion roubles, but not a penny of the Federal budget will not be spent: especially created for the construction of the bridge of the Russian-Chinese company to receive a loan from the Bank of China for 20 years, and the Deposit return will have the right of levying tolls. By the way, unlike in Russia, the construction of the Chinese part will be carried out at the expense of public investment.

The co-founder of the joint venture from the Russian side is USK Most, part of the group of companies of the same name, owned by the famous entrepreneur Ruslan Baysarov.

The bridge will be built from two sides: Russian contractors on our side, and Chinese contractors on the Chinese side. The amount of funding for the Russian part is estimated at 14 billion rubles.

Two-thirds of the border bridge will be located on Russian territory. Our part of this construction will include an entrance to the Federal highway “Amur”, a bridge over the Kanikurgan Bayou and a bridge over the main channel of the Amur river. The project provides for the construction of a road bridge and a cable car. The remaining third of the bridge will be located in neighboring China.

As stated by Peter Romanenko, head of the Amur Department of JSC “Institute Giprostroymost” (this institution is the main performer of design and survey work on this object), project documentation is currently being developed. A positive conclusion on it is planned to receive in July, and immediately after that, the construction of the road bridge will begin. Its commissioning is scheduled for 2019.

One bridge is not enough

However, the bridge near Blagoveshchensk is not the only automobile crossing that should connect the Russian and Chinese banks of the Amur river.

For more than 10 years, negotiations were held on the construction of a bridge in the Jewish Autonomous region. Finally, in the summer of 2013, a Russian-Chinese agreement was signed on the construction of this facility.

The Chinese side started work six months after the signing of the agreement, and, as is customary with our hard-working and nimble neighbors, did not waste time in vain. The Chinese have already built 1,755 m of railway bridge across the Amur river to the Jewish Autonomous region, installed 17 pillars and 16 spans.

But Russia, as is often the case with us, was in no hurry to fulfill the agreement and was looking for money for the project for a long time. As a result, the construction of the bridge almost stopped for some time, because the Chinese refused to build it from Russian territory. Although, according to the Governor of the EAO Alexander Levinthal, the Chinese have completed their part of the work by 75%.

In August 2015, part of the funds required for the construction of a railway bridge in the amount of 2.5 billion rubles was promised to be allocated from the Far East development Fund.

Now the main snag on the Russian side was the search for a contractor. And here it was found: the bridge will be built… all the same USK MOST, which is also involved in the construction of a transport crossing over the Amur from Blagoveshchensk to Heihe.

The corresponding agreement was signed just a few days ago-on June 2, 2016. Moreover, the company is tasked with reducing the construction time, which according to the plan should take two years.

Investing in the future

When these large-scale construction projects were planned, Russian-Chinese economic relations, as well as the world economy as a whole, were on the rise. However, today the situation has changed, and now the need to build bridges across the Amur is dictated by geopolitical rather than economic reasons.

In 2015 alone, trade between Russia and China fell by $20 billion to $69 billion. Therefore, the economic value of bridges, based on these figures, is unlikely to have grown so much recently.

On the other hand, the appearance of bridges across the Amur river will contribute to the growth of mutual trade. So the money spent on these projects can rightly be called an investment in the future. And, as world experience shows, if such investments are made correctly, in the right place and with good quality, then in the future they pay off handsomely and bring great benefit to all parties.

Vladimir GURVICH

The BTS-MOST Group of Companies