The Russian government has approved construction plans for a toll highway that will dramatically cut cargo shipping times between Europe and China, Vedomosti reported on Monday.
Russia is pursuing an ambitious infrastructure plan in President Vladimir Putin’s current presidential term, including developing its portion of the strategic China-Western Europe transport corridor. Russia has reportedly began construction of the first section of the corridor this year: a toll road linking China’s western neighbor Kazakhstan with Belarus called the Meridian highway.
According to the business newspaper, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev approved the Meridian toll highway last month. Medvedev has reportedly ordered cabinet officials to consult the project’s initiator on attracting investment for the project, including from China, and giving it the necessary support.
The initiator, the former deputy chairman of gas giant Gazprom Alexander Ryazanov, has estimated the project’s initial cost at 594 billion rubles ($9.3 billion), with a timeline of 12-14 years to break even. He said his company, called Russian Holding, already owns roughly 80 percent of the land the road would run through.
The Meridian would span 2,000 kilometers from the Russia-Kazakh border to a junction of an existing highway that connects Minsk, Belarus, with Moscow. It would shorten trucking routes between cargo hubs in western China and central Europe and may offer a faster, if more expensive, alternative to three existing rail corridors.