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Alaska To Siberia... By Rail? 306

Posted by Hemos
from the pretty-damn-cool-if-they-do-it dept.
SlushDot writes:This article describes an unbelievably ambitious project that would make the "the chunnel", the underwater tunnel connecting England and France, look like a high school science project. Russia wants to build a tunnel from Eastern Siberia to Western Alaska, right under the Bering Sea. At a projected cost of 1.7x10^12 Russian Rubles (That's 4x10^10 GBP or $6x10^10 USD), I'm not sure where Russia will get this money, but wouldn't it be fun to ultimately travel from Tierra del Fuego to Johannesburg by train?"
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Alaska To Siberia... By Rail?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's cold up there -- you could get a frost pist real easy like...
  • by arothstein (233805) on Tuesday January 02, 2001 @07:05PM (#535771) Homepage
    All the 10^x crap is fine, but let's call a spade a spade.

    $60 billion US.

  • by scotpurl (28825) on Tuesday January 02, 2001 @07:05PM (#535772)
    ... put all that money into an investing account, then use the interest to build big ferries, drive all the trains onto those ferries, and shuttle everything back and forth.
  • Im looking for reasons to make it worth the 60 billion dollars.
  • by piohhioh (263573)
    Hence more proof that the "Soviet Union collapse" was a farce... The USSR collapsed, but its rulers didn't, and this is one more step the world will soon find out... Whaddya think they gonna build a railroad to ship sardines from USSR to the US?
  • Wasn't the England-France train called the Shuttle, not the Chunnel ?
  • this would have a drastic impact on the world's view of russia, and may be worth that price in publicity alone.

    remember that labor is dirt cheap for russia, so the dollar figure is a bit misleading. (that's how muc the labor it "worth", but not how much it costs) they'll part with much less cash in that, paying for raw materials and equipment, but equipment will also be made russian so that's cheap as well.

    not much of a touristy idea tho (unless you like the coal trains of west virginia! :-)

  • Yeah, its a neat idea, and perhaps it could pave the way for things like space elevators and the like, but, is it REALLY cost effective to build a tunnel of that size and scale and length -- in such a remote place?

    I'd think that the cost of shipping things/people to Alaska and Russia to get them somewhere they wanted to go (Say... Moscow, or China, or whatnot) would outweigh the cost of airplanes or large ships.

    This is a cool idea, but the locale doesn't have the traffic to support it.

    Poor little no puppy toe!

  • by overlord2 (136876) on Tuesday January 02, 2001 @07:11PM (#535778)
    C'mon... it's just a quick way to start shipping their armored divisions over... ;-)
  • by cybercuzco (100904) on Tuesday January 02, 2001 @07:12PM (#535779) Homepage Journal
    Its a great plan, but it will never happen. There needs to be an economic reason to connect the two points of land. England needed to be connected to the rest of europe because it does alot of buesness in europe, and alot of tourists to europe fly into Heathrow airport in london, so you could make alot of money on cargo and passangers if you had a rail line and highway link that connected the two. Alaskas Main Export is Snow and Cold air. Its third most popular export is Oil. Siberias main exports are Cold and Ex Pollitical Prisoners. Third again is Oil. Alaska already has oil and cold, so does siberia. Nobody wants to live in either place, and we both have too many dissidents, most of whom read Slashdot. Find an economic reason to make a rail link, and itll happen, we have the technology, the $6 million dollars just isnt there.

  • Doesn't a fleet of Jumbo-Jets cost less?

    If you crash a plane, you make another.

    If your cross-sea rail collapses, that's 10^Hells' worth of loss.

    -=-
  • Chunnel. As in CHannel tUNNEL, the tunnel that goes under the English Channel.
  • how does russia plan to pay for all of this? last time i checked, they were up to their necks in debt with a struggling economy to boot.
  • by Yu Suzuki (170586) on Tuesday January 02, 2001 @07:13PM (#535785) Homepage
    Okay, I'll be the first to admit -- this sounds really impressive and would be an amazing engineering feet if they pulled it off. But given the state of Russia's economy, spending $60 billion just to put in a railway, however impressive, seems to be awfully suspect. Remember what happened to the U.S. economy in the 1930s as a result of projects like the Tennessee Valley damming? The worst economic crisis in our nation's history, that's what.

    Unfortunately, the death of communism hasn't done much to improve Russia's economy; there's still a lot of hungry people that must be fed, buildings that must be repaired, and pollution that must be removed (the Communists weren't too good about picking up after themselves). $60 billion would go a long way to repairing Russia's economy and fighting the rampant corruption there.

    Engineering marvels and feats of science are cool and all, but I think it would be foolish to forget that technology is designed to serve the people, not enslave them. For a country as impoverished as Russia, the first order of business should be to help the many poor and/or depressed families get back on their feet.

    Yu Suzuki

  • According to the Academie Francaise and the various defenders of the French language, it is "Le Shuttle", a politic compromise. The press and public generally contract "Channel tunnel" to "Chunnel".

    The French don't like "Chunnel" because they call the body of water la Manche, and not the English Channel.
  • And they seem to forget about a little thing called plate tectonics... If I remember correctly the Bering Strait has a major fault line in the seafloor. Not a nice thing to have near an undersea tunnel.

    But I would love to see it happen.

  • And it isn't the salmon in the north pacific.

    It seems to me that this project will probably be funded by U.S. dollars and not Russian rubles. Although russia may be the face behind the operation, I'll bet that there are either plenty of U.S. investors involved, or the U.S. Federal Gov. will be willing to back the project with good-old taxpayers dollars (we weren't gonna use it anyhow...)

    Either way, I hope the project manages to inject decent cashflow into the Commonwealth of Independent State's economy, God knows they need it.
  • The map in the article shows Fairbanks to the East of the US/Canadian Border. I know that Alaska is remote, but I think we would miss that much of it if the Canadians start redrawing maps to their own advantage! On a different note, the article mentions a tunnel to the Sakhalin (sp?) Islands, enthusiastically funded by Japan. In the 20 year time frame for the Bearing Strait tunnel, extending a tunnel all the way to the Japanese Mainland (Nippon) doesn't seem too far fetched. Forget Tierra Del Fuego to Johanesburg, try New York to Tokyo! -no sig is good sig
  • not much of a touristy idea tho (unless you like the coal trains of west virginia

    I don't know about that; sure, the interior of the tunnel will be rather boring to look at, but put some tourists in comfortable carriages and it makes for quite a trip.. board a train in the US or Canada, and take a ride on the Trans-Siberian Railway.
  • by gbnewby (74175) on Tuesday January 02, 2001 @07:18PM (#535792) Homepage
    First, let me mention that The Times should stick to buying maps, not drawing their own. Fairbanks is in Alaska, folks, not the Yukon...and Prince George is not ~300 miles inland.

    That said, Alaskans (at least the environmental ones) will not be keen to have a road, or even a rail, from Nome to Fairbanks. Alaska includes an immense amount of undeveloped and inaccessible land, and even pro-oil folk want to see this continue.

    Reading between the lines, the real benefit wouldn't be to tunnel cars, but trains. I can't imagine lots of immediate tourism, but trade would certainly develop.

    The thing is, someone needs to do some analysis: is this really better than shipping by sea or air freight? (Anchorage is already one of the world's busiest cargo airports.)

    The bottom line, as usual, is money. The Alaskan Oil Pipeline was an incredible feat of engineering, but was built for money. Who's going to see the money in a Trans-Bering tunnel?
  • To Russia, of course this is worth it. This would be the ultimate trade route for them. That part of Russia (Siberia) doesn't have much more than raw minerals (lotsa rocks) which are expensive to ship by boat. (compared to shipping finished products that have a higher value to shipping cost ratio).

    This would also give Russia a big market for transporting goods from the Pacific rim power house manufacturing countries (ie. Japan, South Korea) if they could do it cheaper and faster and safer than boat. Russia desperately needs to built an import/export industry, because it's slipping so fast into being a part of the third world.

    And heck... it would be cool to take train from BC to Russia (not that there'd be much passenger transit on it...

  • Isn't this a fairly active volcanic area? I know I wouldn't want to be in the middle of the 23 mile stretch when a little one hits, let alone the big one.
  • by Black Art (3335) on Tuesday January 02, 2001 @07:21PM (#535798)

    I don't ever see this getting off the ground (or under it).

    I used to live in Alaska. I moved there just before the pipeline went in. I remember what *that* took. This is a much bigger project with some bigger obsticles.

    First - They are going to have to deal with the environmentalists. That alone is going to be a big task. When the pipeline was built, the various pro-environment groups were not nearly as strong as today. Getting them to even remotely buy-off on this is going to be next to impossible, if not totally impossible.

    Second- They are going to have to figure out a way to make this thing work in tempitures that range from 60 below zero f to +90f in the summer. The climate is not hospitable to things that have moving parts or that can get buried.

    Third - Much of the land is covered in permafrost. In order to build anything on it that will last, you have to dig to bedrock and fill with some other material. (Permafrost melts into a mud/jello-like substance in the summer. Outside Fairbanks you can see roofs of sunken houses that were built on it by foolish settlers.)

    Fourth - There is absolutly NO economic reason to build the thing in the first place. Who is going to use it? The population density in Alaska and Siberia is very close to empty. There are not many people there. For the amount of track you would have to lay for so few people, what is the point?

    Fifth - Good luck trying to get the governments of the US, Russia and Canada to agree on any of the details. I expect the wrangling by them, as well as the unions and other people who would want a peice of this to eat up 60 billion just amongst themselves. And that is before any track is laid.

    Just because you can do a thing, does not mean you should.

  • Yes, math is different there ^^
  • Your knowledge of history seems to be bit...backwards. TVA (Tennesee Valley Authority) was created to provide jobs and electricity to the region of the country hardest hit by the Great Depression. If it helped or not is very debatable, but to say that it caused the Depression is just stupid.

    Also, it was just one of many public works project instituted by the FDR administration to try and alleviate the effects of the Depression.
  • Considering they'd ever do this and get the trains running etc. It wouldn't do much good for transportation of people.
    Sure, in most of the east you can ride a train just about anywhere. But when people get to alaska, they're going to have to get on a plane because of the lack of any popular or intricate american train system.
  • by FFFish (7567) on Tuesday January 02, 2001 @07:23PM (#535805) Homepage
    I mean, who *wouldn't* want to ride a train to Siberia?

    Actually, thinking a bit more, it may be a good idea. Rail transport is surely cheaper than freighter. And there are a pile of Chinese folk just starting to get their shit together to become the biggest consumer market in the world. Might be nice to transport stuff to them cheaply.

    On the other hand, I don't recall there being many rail lines from North America to South America, or a (productively working) rail line from Europe to India, the second-largest mass o' peeples. Or perhaps our media doesn't like reporting on it.

    Except for the Aussies, the major landmasses would all be interconnected by road/rail. That'd be interesting. And what with global warming and all, maybe Siberia ain't such a bad spot to visit after all. :-)


    --
  • by _claw_ (177544)
    Weird, I had that same idea when I was 10 years or so... then I started calculating how long the tunnel would have to be. I remember thinking this is way too long for a tunnel and forgot about it again.
    Anyway, isn't there seismological activity in this area ?
  • by istartedi (132515) on Tuesday January 02, 2001 @07:30PM (#535809) Journal

    These costs have a way of rising. Also, Alaska has a way of rising... and falling... and swaying side-to-side. I'm referring to the tremendous quake that struck the area... in the 1960s was it? What would that have done to a tunnel?

    Build the connecting lines, run some good, sturdy, Ice-breaker ferries for a while. See if they turn a profit, then get back to us. OK?

  • by SubtleNuance (184325) on Tuesday January 02, 2001 @07:32PM (#535811) Journal
    needs to be an economic reason to connect the two points of land

    Yeah - I cant see any reason to have a train connecting North/Central/South America with Asia/Europe/Russia... not much value there eh. You could take a train from any where on the planet to anywhere else. Sounds like it has a small amount of value if you ask me..

    the $6 million dollars just isnt there Lets just hope the other $59994000000 is...

  • What about continental drift? I know the tectonic plates move but slowly, but they *do* move fast enough to cause violent earth quakes. What type of affect would the drift have on such a tunnel?

  • It's $60 thousand million in England (a billion there is 10^12)

    Oh, bullshit. I used to live in England. Everywhere on Earth, the following are the official definitions:

    Thousand million == 000 000 000 == billion
    Million million == 000 000 000 000 == trillion
    Thousand million million == 000 000 000 000 000 == quadrillion

    ... etc. If you don't believe me, listen to the BBC News anchors (on BBC World outside Europe) referring to, say, $5,000,000,000 as "five billion dollars" -- and the same goes for pounds.

    --
  • by Black Art (3335) on Tuesday January 02, 2001 @07:44PM (#535821)

    It does melt when you put something WARM over it. (Like a house or an earthmover.) Building on permafrost is a *BAD* idea. Park a big earthmover that has been running all day and see how long it takes to sink like a stone.

    The top layer of permafrost does melt in the summer. (I have heard the whole area refered to as "permafrost", so i tend to use that usage.) I know. I have walked on it. (The top layer is covered by a thin and dense layer of vegitation. Kind of like walking on a carpet covering jello.)

    My point was that the heat and weight of putting a rail system on that kind of ground is VERY expensive. You can't just build on top of it. They have tried that before in Alaska and it does not work. Either the road suffers from frost heaves and/or it buckles and sinks. The only way they can build on it in any stable fashion is to dig to bedrock and fill. They had to do it for the pipe, they do it for homes in Ancorage (where my parents live), and they have to do it for any other place where there is permafrost and they want to build.

    No real choice there.

  • Yep, it's true. Here's one link I know of which explains this phenomenon: A concise reference to the Metric System (SI) [demon.co.uk]

    --
  • by Anonymous Coward
    1) If you want to talk about "Space Elevators" read Kim Stanley Robinson's "Red Mars." (pretty good book, I feel).

    2) Forget the rocks... There's Oil in them 'thar hills! Wouldn't that make Russia possibly the biggest seller of Crude Oil to the country that uses most of it anyways (Cha-Ching!)? Making it cheaper for US companies to transport equipment back and forth, thereby giving incentive for companies like Texaco to go ahead and ruin yet another environmentally sensitive area of the world for a non-renewable resource which we no longer have to be dependant on but choose to be so?

    3) As for the plate tectonics (sp?!) deal, I hope that they're planning to somehow compensate for that entire "ring of fire" deal that's down (up) there.

    4) Do Prez Elect Bush and CEO.. err, I mean VP-elect Cheney (The Texas Oil Buddies) have anything to do with this?


    Sign here

    X__________________________

  • It actually makes some sense.. For non-timing-sensitive cargo -- i.e. not people -- a train is damn efficent. And if you run it through Russia for a small cost, they'll make money on the market going between the US and Asia.
  • I read an article about this someplace, so I know you are right. What I wondered is if anybody has tried building pools and then floating the foundations on pontoons? You could pump out the water before Winter, then pump it back in in the Spring. Of course that wouldn't work well for roads, but you can float a pretty big ship in a canal lock, so what's to stop you from floating a pretty big building in a pond dug out of permafrost?

  • Sell the rights to the Major Motion Picture. That's probably what they're planning on to pay back the 60 gigadollars.

  • Ummm, no. You see, shipping goods by sea has always been cheaper than by rail.

    It makes sense for the Chunnel because the cost of putting stuff (especially cars and people) on and off the ships for that short crossing is a relatively large overhead. But that goes out the window if you're talking about halfway around the world.


  • Fifth - Good luck trying to get the governments of the US, Russia and Canada to agree on any of the details. I expect the wrangling by them, as well as the unions and other people who would want a peice of this to eat up 60 billion just amongst themselves. And that is before any track is laid.


    You can start by noting that Russia has a nonstandard track gauge... something about the czars being afraid of the railroad being used by invading enemy armies...

  • There's more to this economic picture than just passenger travel. There's goods and (more importantly) natural resources exchange. There's a great deal of underexploited potential for trade of this kind between the US and regions of the former USSR simply because of geographic isolation; it isn't easy to transport every last thing by air or sea.

    This could be a good deal for both nations, esp. with regard to petroleum.

    Plus, don't underestimate the passenger thing... I doubt whether they'd even make it a passenger line, but I'd pay a decent penny just to be able to say I'd made the trip. I find the idea very cool.

  • The bottom line, as usual, is money. The Alaskan Oil Pipeline was an incredible feat of engineering, but was built for money. Who's going to see the money in a Trans-Bering tunnel?

    Precisely. If the benefits outweigh the costs (throwing non-economic factors such as environmental impacts, positive or negative, into costs and benefits) it's a possibility. If not, it should wait until the costs can be reduced to make it worthwhile. If that never happens, too bad.
  • Yes, water transport is cheapest, but it's also the slowest. In fact, in the US the big railroads carry quite a bit of container traffic for the shipping companies like Maersk and APL. The ships call at Seattle or Portland or Oakland or LA and the railroads carry them to Boston or New York and the containers are put back on a ship to get to Europe. It's a lot faster than going all water via the Panama Canal.
  • 60 billions bucks is not that much. After all, some oil company in Siberia generates so much money quite quickly and if this project is serious, I would not be suprised to hear about some Siberian Oil export.
    BTW, I am a bit afraid of the human issues, especially when we know about what happened to Tchernobyl or the Koursk craft.
    Maybe they'll have to prepair a rock-solid hi-tech project so that they can safely proceed ?
    --
  • Ha! We're going to build our own Australia-Antartica railroad and teach you all a lesson ...
  • First: Ya, that could be the show stopper, though I'm not sure that if Russia builds it and offers the US cheap oil the politicals won't find some way to push it through. Esp given the reps won your last election.

    Second: Looking at ye olde map the US has this chunk of land, Alaska... it's a decent sized chunk of land... BUT Russia has Siberia. I think they probably have some small idea of what they are getting into in building in Alaska, and probably more experience. Muskag is a bastard to run rails over, agreed (I did a 5 yr stint in the Yukon) but it's doable, just look at the Whitepass Railway, and that was done with much more primitive technology then we have to work with now.

    Third: See second (oops, I rambled :))

    Fourth: Oil, coal (remember much of the US's power is coal and oil produced, and the US certinally doesn't produce enough to meet its domestic needs, neither does Canada, nor much of North/Middle/South America. The other direction you can send American consumer items, etc that are always popular in Russia. Russia sells the oil at a cut rate price and gets hard US currency for their economy. Ya I can see how this would pay. And as a bonus environmentalists have less supertankers sailing the ocean which are harder to clean up after then derailments.

    Fifth: *laughs* yes that should be fun :)... Having worked with the Yukon Territoral Govt, I'll be interested to watch the fireworks :).

    --
    Remove the rocks to send email
  • Last I heard, Russia was facing severe unimployment, economic trouble, a suffering economy, and so on. One way to solve these problems is to get some really huge project that will need massive ammounts of manpower, and this tunnel seems like it will fit the bill. Some thoughts as to what it would need: Basic Labor (digging, hammering) Skilled Labor (Rivitting, welders, engineers, masons) Surveyors Logistics People Mess Crews (since we can assume they'll work on site) Tents and houskeeping Drivers Heavy Machinery Operators The people back at farms or foundries to provide materials As you can see, the list is enormous, and everybody's being paid, boosting their economy. In principle, it would be like the public works projects of the Great Depressions.
  • by leiz (35205)
    I can finally ship packages via UPS Ground to Asia and Europe!!!



    Zetetic
    Seeking; proceeding by inquiry.

    Elench
    A specious but fallacious argument; a sophism.
  • by icqqm (132707)
    Boston's Big Dig involves digging a 2-mile-long tunnel at a cost of at least $17 billion, or $8.5 billion per mile.

    Of course, people drive through Boston and the tunnel was in high demand because of traffic congestion. I don't see much demand for a tunnel in the middle of the arctic (OK OK north Pacific) ocean.

  • This is a brilliant idea for the Russians.

    They just need to get the United States to partner with them, and then when they fail to meet their financial obligations, the US will cover for them.

    It's working for the space station, why not a tunnel?
  • What most commenters seem to be missing is the fact that Russia would most likely not be paying the whole bill on this thing. The article mentions that they're talking to the World Bank [worldbank.org] about this, which means that they could get a pretty sizeable loan. Also, the US would very likely fork over a good bit of cash, and Canada may want to participate as well.

    Split $60 billion (£40 billion) three ways and you have $20 billion (£13 billion). Assuming Russia gets a nice loan from the World Bank to help them cover their share, this could easily be pulled off. $60 billion to the US is like $6,000 to your average computer programmer. Sure it's a lot of money, but you could afford to spend it if you really wanted to.

    --

  • There is no way anyone could build a tunnel here. Take a look at the earthquake record here and 5.0 magnitudes are very common in the region. In the 1960's Alaska had a 9.0 quake that destroyed hundreds of miles of the sea bed and the shore. NO WAY!
  • Cheap Russian labor gets to the date line. Then the really costly work begins. And that's where the project completely falls apart -- in Alaska.

    I'd be very surprized if a rail line could compete with cargo shipping between the US and Asia -- even Vladivostok or "Chumikan", even without the cost of the tunnel. Maybe I think that because the idea of a terrestrial link between Asia and America sounds so grandiose.

    It is interesting to read that they are breaking ground on the Hokkaido - Sakhalin tunnel. I'll have to look around for more news on that! It makes a lot more sense to link two heavily used rail infrastructures such as Japan's and Russia's. Very cool.

  • Alright I will weigh in because I think this is an interesting idea and it needs the right business model.

    First, this project would not cost $60 billion, in fact, I would peg it at $180 before $60 because people tend to TOTALLY underestimate these types of projects. Since I'm not doing this study we will peg the total costs at $120 billion.

    Second, economics. It must be cheaper for consumers of natural resources to build this tunnel rather then import oil, natural gas, and coal from this region rather then from traditional sources. Honestly, I would say there is an extremely good chance this could happen within the next 20 years. (Think LONG timetable to complete something like this and Alaska isnt too damn forgiving and neither is Siberia). With the uppidtyness of OPEC, deregulation of the power industry in the US and abroad, the instability of the MidEast and South America and increased enviormental conciousness in the US towards offshore drilling getting oil out of the ground in Siberia cheap to the US could stablize energy prices not just in the US but worldwide. Also, international oil and energy concerns (Shell, Texaco, ExxonMobil, Enron, Williams) would be more apt to develop the Siberian oil fields if they had an easier way of transporting oil out of the region.
    Side note: I really wouldn't worry about terroist, reactionary, enviormental concerns on the Russian side of the line because quite frankly this thing would be generating so much hard currency for Mother Russia anyone would be shot dead if they looked at the tunnel crosseyed. Can you say Spentaz --sp commandos patrolling the tunnel.
    Food for thought - PG&E, the California Electric company has taken out $4 billion worth of debt THIS YEAR to cover the spread between consumer prices and actual prices of energy. PG&E could be bankrupt just because of the destablizing nature of the commodity market when it comes to outside forces such as OPEC.

    Finally, this is only the pipe that would run along with the tunnel itself. Trade in coal, manufactured goods (previous post talking about a Tokyo bridge), and a host of other materials could make this a viable project. However, the governmental (US-Russo relations), enviormental (what happens if earthquake), political (OPEC, budgetcutting), human (Who the hell wants to work in Alaska in -60F), and technical (permafrost, LONG tunnel, harsh conditions) are much tougher to overcome then the economic ever thought about being.
  • BC Ferries [bcferries.com] has three catamarans for sale [janes.com]. The PacifiCat Explorer [bcferries.com], and the PacifiCat Discovery [bcferries.com] are currently in service in British Columbia. They're the second-largest aluminum-hulled catamarans in the world, and can do 34 knots. They'd probably run you about $200 million (Canadian) a piece.

    $600 Million (Canadian, or about $400 million US) is a hell of a lot cheaper than $60 billion, and you can take your car onto the ferry... The ferries are almost new, and, while I don't like the decor too much, they're not bad.

  • Oh, come on. It's pretty obvious geographically that all of Alaska, especially the panhandle, should belong to Canada. We'll even give you Quebec if it makes you feel better.

    Or we may just take it [standonguard.com]. :-)
  • by DHartung (13689) on Tuesday January 02, 2001 @11:39PM (#535936) Homepage
    This is actually a pet project of a group calling itself The Global Railway [theglobalrailway.com], which believes rail is a sustainable transportation technology that will assist development while keeping hydrocarbon emissions and depletion of non-renewable energy resources low. The fellow Razbegin has been pumping for the Bering Project [theglobalrailway.com] for some time. This is getting some press not only because of the push forward on the Sakhalin Island fixed link, which the Russians believe to be a precursor to a rail link with Japan, but also because the former railways minister Aksyoneyev has become an influential big-shot [aksenenko.ru] in Putin's government (allegedly as a tool of Boris Berezovsky).
    ----
  • There are some other perspectives on this project:

    - the engineering experience of this project could be worthwhile for other projects (perhaps on a smaller scale) around the planet.
    - the use of the line for goods transport is likely not to be economic. shipping is the number one intercontinental transport medium, and so pervasive and well defined that a long train trek across the north is not likely to be cheaper.
    - it would be fantastic for tourism, because i could see many people wanting to take the journey, but the tourism is not going to cover the massive cost. not just to build it, but to maintain it.

    in short, it is a "neat" project, but ultimately the stuff of dreams.
  • Heh, not only is it a Volcanicly active area, there's a fault line running right up next to where the tunnel would go. It would only take one quake in an area that is very geographically unstable already and the tunnel would convert into a giant garlic press.
  • I am not sure about the width of the track being different in the US and russia, but it seems logical. international trains from the netherlands to germany (or was it belgium..not sure) have to switch locomotives, and it's not much of a problem.

    //rdj
  • A rail connection from western Europe to the contiguous United States, under the Bering Sea would be a looooong way -- perhaps 10,000 miles? That's not an overnite train ride, even at 300 mph. And for the vast majority of people in the US and Europe, spending two or three days on a train would cost well over the price of a plane ticket's worth of lost wages.

    (Understand that it takes three full days to get from Boston to Seattle by passenger rail. Passenger rail service west of Ohio is basically non-existant in the United States. A few very heavily subsidized lines are run, but slowly, and with irregular and infrequent schedules. And for most of the United States, passenger air travel is much cheaper for passengers, even after the very heavy govt. subsidies on rail. Moreover, I can't find any passenger rail from the lower 48 states to Alaska at all, and I doubt it exists, and I couldn't imagine a situation where it would ever be built.)
  • You could finally ride, as a hobo, from buenos aires to bangkok. That is a lot of terrirtory connected by ultra cheap transportation.

    That would be a pretty good trick, since you I believe you can't currently ride from Buenos Aires to Chicago, or Chicago to Fairbanks. Are the Russians going to install a few hundred billion dollars worth of rail line in Canada and South America, too?
  • Well, sort of. When Stalin was in power, Russia attempted to dig a tunnel from the mainland Siberia to Sahkahlin island which (if I recall correctly) is about 20 or so miles from shore on the Pacific side. They used prisoners from forced labor camps (aka the Gulag) to dig this but they didn't get very far. In fact, I don't think they got more than a few hundred feet. You can read about this in a recent issue of National Geographic. I believe the article was about the Amur river but I may be wrong on this one... It was about the river that divides northeastern China from Russia.
  • so does Spain! i guess idiot minds think alike too...
  • AlexBurke wrote:
    Thousand million == 000 000 000 == billion
    Million million == 000 000 000 000 == trillion
    Thousand million million == 000 000 000 000 000 == quadrillion

    Is the correct answer. England and indeed the whole of the UK and EC/EU standardised on these in the early 70's as part of the Standard Units / Metric system.

    Some old fogies still use British Billion (and ounces and gallons, for fuck's sake...) but anyone aged under 30 will have been taught ONLY Standard Units / Metric at school.

    What a shame the US can't get its act together and teach ONLY SU/Metric at THIER schools, eh? :-)

    Speaking as a 29 year old Brit.

    --

  • Back a looooong time ago (more than 4 years) there was alot of talk about an Alaska-Siberia bridge that would carry automobile, train, and data traffic across the frozen expanse of ocean to Asia. Why might one ask if one were so inclined? Well Asia happens to be a pretty large producer of items that are often sold in places like America. While Russia (especially Siberia) might seem like a rather bland place to run railroads, Asia is exciting and warm. Not only could you run things like rail and data lines you could run another thing people like. Yes you may have guess, oil! Say you were a small-ish island nation with a heavy dependence on foreign oil imports vis a vis Japan. You help fund a solid transportation route between Asia and America, run some piping to somewhere like Korea (where you've got decent export agreements) and blamo you can lower the price of your oil a great deal. Korea and China also get the benefit of the foreign exported oil (and thus contributing to the effort to build such a solid transportation route between continents). Russia invested in rail transport instead of road transport (as opposed to the US) during the cold war and have a huge rail coverage area. If you connect this to the North American continent you suddenly have a fairly inexpensive route through which you can ship manufactured goods and consumables. A Chunnel (or bridge) would not only symbolically link the two continents but would also benefit anyone interested in international trade. The Pacific ocean is pretty fucking big and huge container ships are very expensive (especially when compared to rail transport). If you could start shipping goods from here to Asia by an inexpensive means (rail) you can lower the costs (great for cash starved economies) and increase volume. This of course is not a business plan or idea where to get money to build it (hint: get anyone who can benefit from a land route between continents to chip in some cash) but it is a reason (I think it's a decent to good reason) why would you even WANT to get from Alaska to Siberia by rail. Oh yeah, if suddenly vast amounts of exports started going through Alaska people might remember that it is indeed a state of the Union.
  • by DrWiggy (143807) on Wednesday January 03, 2001 @02:49AM (#535958)
    First - They are going to have to deal with the environmentalists. That alone is going to be a big task. When the pipeline was built, the various pro-environment groups were not nearly as strong as today. Getting them to even remotely buy-off on this is going to be next to impossible, if not totally impossible.

    This is completely different - this is a tunnel. This is a project that like the Channel Tunnel will be "built" by boring out soft rock at a depth of several hundred feet below the sea bed. There is no enviromental reason why this project should not go ahead. In fact, most environmentalists would probably realise that if made into a passenger link it may actually be good for the environment rather than all the planes you Americans and Russians seem so fond of using.

    Second- They are going to have to figure out a way to make this thing work in tempitures that range from 60 below zero f to +90f in the summer. The climate is not hospitable to things that have moving parts or that can get buried.

    Again, doesn't matter. We're talking several hundred feet below here - to make it safe they're taking the tunnel in around 20 miles on each side so that it slowly emerges from the depths of the earth in a safe manner. Oh, and apart from the fact it will be quite warm down there anyway, I'm sure that the Russians will have thought about heating if required.

    Third - Much of the land is covered in permafrost. In order to build anything on it that will last, you have to dig to bedrock and fill with some other material. (Permafrost melts into a mud/jello-like substance in the summer. Outside Fairbanks you can see roofs of sunken houses that were built on it by foolish settlers.)

    Now I'm suspecting you're either a troll or a karma-whore. Read the article. It's a tunnel. That's right a TUNNEL. Go and get a dictionary and look up the word "tunnel". Now, read that point you've written one more time - do you still think it applies? No, because it's a TUNNEL. It's several hundred feet below ground. That's what tunnels are like... (the state of education today, eh?)

    Fourth - There is absolutly NO economic reason to build the thing in the first place. Who is going to use it? The population density in Alaska and Siberia is very close to empty. There are not many people there. For the amount of track you would have to lay for so few people, what is the point?

    Who said anything about people using it? It means that large amounts of US exports can be made to Asia and Russia far more cheaply than at present, and vice versa. There is a huge economic reason to build it for cargo, etc. You're being arrogant enough to think you and other will be allowed to ride on it...

    Fifth - Good luck trying to get the governments of the US, Russia and Canada to agree on any of the details. I expect the wrangling by them, as well as the unions and other people who would want a peice of this to eat up 60 billion just amongst themselves. And that is before any track is laid.

    This kind of happened with the Channel Tunnel, and even now the scheme owes a lot of money and the company has been on the ropes many a time. They'll learn from their lessons, I'm sure.

    Oh, and to those people who were talking about the differences in rail gauges, this is perfectly normal. The standard British gauge was used for years after we built our railways and the engineers went flying all over the world to manage the construction of other country's railways. The original gauge was determined by the gauge of the wheels made by a particularly popular cart maker in Newcastle in the 1820's because the original idea was to put standard carts onto the tracks.

    Anyway, the difference in gauge is easily solved - the UK and France have completely different gauges but there is some sophisticated technology in place on the Chunnel trains to take care of this, and I'm sure that the same engineers will be able to help out with this problem. In fact, I suspect the same engineers from the chunnel will be brought in to handle this project, given their experience.
  • You're missing the big picture©

    Firstly, the Russians know exactly how to run a railroad through conditions prevalent in Alaska -- what do you think the trans-Siberian railroad runs through, tropical rain forest?

    Secondly, this isn't about trying to link Alaska and Siberia; it's about trying to link Europe and the continental USA© Think railfreight© Think huge locomotives hauling gigantic payloads© Think alternatives to shipping by sea©

    Thirdly, it's about the world as it will be in 2020, not 2001© It'll be 2020 before this is built, and 2030 or onwards before it's profitable© By that point, even the more optimistic projections show the price of oil rising as new reserves become harder to tap© That makes rail transport ¥which is the cheapest form of land transport, in terms of energy per ton moved per mile look increasingly promising©

    Fourthly, does the name "Tennessee Valley Authority" ring any bells? Think of this as a TVA for Siberia and you won't be far wrong©

    Fifthly, it will be interesting to see how the environmentalists cope with the KGB ;-

  • Before we get too fired up about this, there are
    a lot of things to think about. For one,
    rail is not of uniform guage (distance between
    rails) worldwide. Locomotives and cars designed to operate on one guage will not work on another, period. The best one could do with current technology would be to unload and reload all passengers and cargo at each guage change.

    Secondly, standards differ significantly even within North America on things like in-cab signaling (yes, they have that), procedures, etc. While this is not as difficult a problem to deal with (locomotives and operators can be switched), it exists nonetheless.

    Finally, I think a much better investment of capital would be to improve the USA's own rail system, which has been terribly ignored by the government for decades now.
  • by Leto2 (113578)
    Ok then, here it goes:

    USA:
    000 000 = million
    000 000 000 = billion
    000 000 000 000 = trillion

    Netherlands, and from this page [demon.co.uk] I see that we use the official SI standards:
    000 000 = million
    000 000 000 = milliard
    000 000 000 000 = billion
    000 000 000 000 000 = billiard
    000 000 000 000 000 000 = trillion

    There IS a difference between the American way of counting and the official way of counting. The fact that UK citizens are stupid enough to embrace the US version doesn't make that difference go away.

  • Precisely. If the benefits outweigh the costs (throwing non-economic factors such as environmental impacts, positive or negative, into costs and benefits) it's a possibility. If not, it should wait until the costs can be reduced to make it worthwhile. If that never happens, too bad.

    Historically, many things have turned out to be expensive boondoggles for their builders yet economically very important.

    Here in Massachusetts, in the early 1800s a canal was built between Cambridge and Lowell that linked the cities on the Merrimac river to Boston Harbor. The canal ignited massive industrial development in Lowell, Lawrence and Haverhill; these cities today are a giant complex of 19t C mills. Ultimately the canal was a financial disaster for its backers, however, because rail development supplanted it.

    I also understand that there was a 19th C fad in England for railroad investing that, like the dot com fad, left a few early investors who got out rich, and left the country with a large rail infrastructure paid for by failed investments.

    I expect that such a project, if undertaken and completed, would be very economically valuable, but I wouldn't want to be an investor in it.

  • "Telecom cables are flexible, trains dont usually like it when their tracks start to change shape."

    Within a reasonable limit (say a couple of meters per kilometer), railroads are actually quite flexible. Think about the differential expansion on the rails in a mountain railroad when the temperature goes from -15 deg.C to 10 deg.C between dawn and noon, for example.

    Earthquakes are another matter...

    sPh
  • "Trains are among the most inexpensive, most environmentally friendly, and most efficient ways to transport large amounts of anything (people, goods, etc)"

    True in many circumstances when compared to road transport (automobiles, trucks), but not compared to ships. Ships are many times more efficient than trains. Think about the Norfolk Southern shipping coal overseas from the Virginia ports - it takes dozens of unit trains to fill one cargo ship. And the per BTU efficiency of movement is much higher for a ship.

    The Burlington Northern RaiLink, where goods moving from EU to Asia are dropped off at a North American east coast port, shipped by train to Seattle or LA, then put back on a ship for the rest of the journey, is used to save time, not money. The rail part cuts 2-3 weeks off the total transit time.

    sPh
  • The Russians are experts as dealing with different guage tracks, as they have to deal with it already. Just a matter of putting different wheels under the cars. (Note the cars have to be built to support it, which isn't a problem excpet for US cars, but we can solve the problem)

    I cannot belive that there is any railroad in the world that isn't an expert as switching cars around. Taking electric through the tunnel (dealing with exhaust means that electric is the likely choice) and then swithing to american diesel is a trivial task, just get out of the tunnel, stop (you have to stop for customs anyway), unhook, move the electric engine of the way, and hook on a diesel. More engines are needed to get up a mountain then across the great plains, so it is common to have a few extra engines that you hook on just before entering mountains, and dropping them off as you leave.

    There are problems of course. Difficult problems in fact. However there are no problems that cannot be solved. The biggest is not digging the tunnel, but getting lines to the tunnel. Everyone wants to say they were a part of digging the great tunnel. Building anouther railroad line isn't as exciting. There are others.

  • As a railfan, I still think it won't pay. Sea shipping is TOO cheap, and is MORE than fast enough! Remember, the reason container cargo gets transshipped across the US ("The Land Ships") is that the trip down to Panama and back north takes TIME, and you can only use Panamax ships.

    Vancouver or Okland to Tokyo is a 10 day trip, which is about what they get Tokyo to Dunkerque with a US Tranship

    Not worth the money
  • Permafrost melts into a mud/jello-like substance in the summer.

    I thought permafrost never melted. Hence the name PERMA-FROST.
  • by rnturn (11092)

    Then, Michael Palin could do another travelogue.



    --

  • by maggard (5579)
    OK, a couple of plusses & minuses no-one seems to be bringing up:

    • The area is a seismic nightmare - "Ring of Fire" mean anything to anyone?
    • The English side of the Chunnel was built through chalk, the French side was less amiable stuff but still relatively soft & consistent; the straits are anything but.
    • Yes, this would allow trains to cross from the Americas to Asia, Europe & Africa - that gives you a potential market of most of the world's population.
    • On the other hand that trip is several days to weeks journey time - is it really going to be cheaper then flying?
    • Just how much stuff & people *now* goes via train between N. America & S. America or between Eurasia & Africa? Sure it's doable but is this traffic really relevant to the economics?
    • Trains are excellent for distributing material to fixed points across a continent but ships are cheaper when coasts are involved. I can't imagine the economics of shipping stuff through Alaska & Siberia via a tunnel would be cheaper then bringing it to the nearest port and using conventional means. Remember the N. America & Europe have excellent inner-continental (as well as inter) ship transportation. For example in the US Chicago is a major port via the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Seaway, St. Louis is too via the Mississippi. Europe has similar services, can trains compete against this?
    • Much of the valuable stuff now shipped around Alaska & Siberia is oil but this wouldn't be carried by train, particularly through a tunnel. Indeed aside from typical container-cargo (non Hazmat of course) all I can think of in bulk would be wheat.
    • All of this additional material shipped through the British Columbian, Alaskan, Siberian & Central Asian environments would be just asking for a problem to happen. The environment is incredibly harsh and although the Siberians, Russians & Canadians have developed very reliable hardware the tracks themselves would be a constant maintenance issue & any failures would be catastrophic. Furthermore there would be considerable air pollution from the fuels running these trains and that would have profound & lasting impact. It's hard to for folks south of 60 degrees to understand how different the evironment & machinery are north of 60 but trust me, this would be *big*.
    • Finally, this is more then the US & "The Russians" (has anyone told the US population they're not all Russians & there's now a bunch of country's where the USSR was?) On both sides there're feeder systems involved & on the N. America side it all goes through Canada. As a US'er living in Canada I can't see these folks being enthused about a busy set of rail-lines going through some very sensitive territory. With the Northern Passage opening up due to warming there's already fear of shipping using it, trains aren't going to be any more popular & the Canadians are not going to roll over & let the US do what it wants, nor do I see a better situation in Central Asia.

    Frankly, after all of the points I can't see what the tunnel would be for. Planes move folks more efficiently (a detour through Alaska & Siberia is not going to be popular for most of the travelling population!) and specialized ships handle the various cargos, again more directly. While the tourist market might be considerable I can't see it justifying a US$60-billion expenditure on something as fragile as a tunnel through a seismically active area fed via high-maintenance tracks in ecologically fragile land against widespread public opposition & likely govermental non-support.

  • ...that if this does go ahead, Railtrack have absolutely nothing to do with this.

    For those of you outside the UK, Railtrack are the company that took over the running of the railway tracks during privatisation. There was a fatal accident a few months ago, then it was realsised that Railtrack had not been performing enough preventative maintenance over the years. Consequentially we had 20 mile-an-hour limits placed on many sections of track. I recently took 4 hours to complete a journey that usually takes less than two.

    I've a journey to make this weekend, from Leeds to Leicester and back. Railtrack are rebuilding Leeds station, and the work was supposedly to have been completed over the holiday period. It hasn't, resulting in trains being replaced by buses. I've no idea if my train will be running this weekend.

  • Regarding the engineering difficulties of building a railroad in acrtic conditions, well, the trans siberian railway runs through similar conditions, so the Russians, if anybody, know how to do it.


    Fourth - There is absolutly NO economic reason to build the thing in the first place. Who is going to use it? The population density in Alaska and Siberia is very close to empty. There are not many people there. For the amount of track you would have to lay for so few people, what is the point?


    It's primary purpose would be to move goods faster than can be moved by sea. You may note that airliners normally take something resembling this route from the US to China and Japan, and if you look on an actual globe instead of a flat map you can see why. This could well be the fastest route between Central Asia, Korea, or China and the North American Free Trade Area. Rail links to China already come within 100km of the Trans Siberian Railroad, and lead thence to southeast asia.

    If a similar project could be built between Sakkhalin and Hokkaido, this might be the fastest route betwen the US and Japan. This would be comparable in length to the tunnel that links Hokkaido and mainland Japan.

    Whether this financially justifies the project is an open question, but it isn't true there is NO economic justification.

    Fifth - Good luck trying to get the governments of the US, Russia and Canada to agree on any of the details. I expect the wrangling by them, as well as the unions and other people who would want a peice of this to eat up 60 billion just amongst themselves. And that is before any track is laid.

    Well, if you say so. You can always imagine overwhelming difficulties on even the smallest project. People who think this way don't become entrepreneurs.

    I think the main problem getting this thing built would be the tremendous financial risk the entrepreneurs would be undertaking. In the US, our westward rail expansion was actually subsidized by enormous land grants that made building the railroad a financial no-lose proposition for anyone with enough capital.

  • one of the big expenses is loading and unloading. also an opportunity for pilferage. some of the companies who unload at docks complain that 10% just disappears -- sort of a tithe to the dockworkers.

    by packing the trains onto a bigger boat, you make a cheaper loading/unloading decision, but you still get some benefit from boat traffic. the rule of thumb I remember is that trucks are cheap, trains cost 10% of what trucks do, and boats cost 10% of what trains do.
  • I suspect those BC Ferries catamarans (the "Fast Cats") would be able to handle the rough seas out there. The Northern Pacific probably has some nasty storms, and the ferry service would be kind of useless if it had to shut down all the time because of bad weather.

    In fact, even though the ferries just go back and forth between Vancouver and Victoria in the sheltered Juan de Fuca strait, they still shut them down every now and then during really bad weather.

    (I went to the University of Victoria, and rode those ferries a lot.)
    Torrey Hoffman (Azog)
  • Arrgh. "would NOT be able to handle the rough seas". That will teach me to preview.

    Torrey Hoffman (Azog)
  • Bah! The only thing we have to worry about from Permafrost is the Ice Giants and Lady Vox.
  • "You could take a train from any where on the planet to anywhere else"

    Well, you're forgetting Australia :)

    You could, but it would still take damn near forever, even if it was high speed. Do you have any idea how FAR most populous centers in the US are from those in Europe, going by way of the Bering strait? I once drove from California to the Queen Charlotte Islands and I started to get an idea...

    This thing would only be worthwhile for commercial shipping or military purposes.
  • Living here, I can tell you something about Alaska's exports. In terms of dollar value, the biggest export is cash. Oil is second.

    After all, what other state gives you a check every year after you fill out your tax form?

  • by DCookie (142765) on Wednesday January 03, 2001 @08:28AM (#536027)
    You have obviously never lived in Alaska or done a whole lot of boating in the bering sea. I can't say that I'm an experienced bering sea boat captain, but I have lived in Alaska for almost 20 years. I would not want to take a ferry across the bering sea in the winter, I'll tell you that right now. So, we'd have a few months of ferry service and then have to shut down until the next spring/summer.

    I actually live in Southeast Alaska and our ferry service (the Alaska Marine Highway System [state.ak.us]) sucks. It's expensive to keep those things running too! My home town (Juneau) actually does not have a road in/out. We rely heavily on Alaska Airlines and the ferries for travel.

    Don't think that those in charge of this idea haven't thought of the ferry system before you! I'm sure they know much more about the weather considerations and the such than you do...

    -DCookie

    My Sig is a SG-552 Commando

  • An expensive 50 year off tunnel (count planning, engineering, construction, rework due to construction technology changes) is probably not your solution to "shipping is slow, aircraft are costly" Mainly because there isn't all that much cargo that wants to move from alaska to siberia of vice versa. Hence cargo destined elsewhere would have to move to alaska or sibera from its original destination, then under the straight, and then to its final destination. At train speeds, even high-speed (which is so unlikely), it'd take about as long as shipping, and cost more.

    So, I suggest a modest investment of a fraction of the proposed cost in: CargoLifter [cargolifter.com]. A decently large fleet wouldn't cost tens of billions, and would provide cheep fast enough cargo service. We could scrap the alaska-siberia issue (being close is not as nescesary), and concentrate on moving stuff between the pacific coastal areas (like San Francisco up to Vancouver (is it?) over to Japan, Hong Kong and some of China). See also: a summary of the cargolifter project [aerospace-technology.com].

    Now I am a fan of both trains and airships, so ultimately I should like to see both come to pass. But before the bearing-tunnel is a good idea, I should like to see capable, speedy, regular, and affordable rail travel instituted between North American cities at least, then central america and south america too. By regular, I mean Boston to Chicago or Washington at least four times daily (one way), and close locations like Worcester to New York (or even just Boston), or Houston to Dallas, hourly or if they're really close (like an hour appart) then half hourly.

    -Daniel

    Ahhh. The Swiss Rail [www.sbb.ch]

  • On the face of it, This would be a better way to do it. However, reality intrudes:

    1. Ice makes ferry and barge service impossible during some seasons.
    2. The Bering sea is the home of the worst weather in the Pacific. And that's on a good day. Enough barges and cargo are lost in that area that the media doesn't even report them anymore. You just expect it. There is a Coast Guard vessel that does nothing but cruise back and forth whacking seventy millimeter shells through floating cargo containers so that they won't become nav hazards. People travel by air, and the only thing that goes on the barge is stuff that can be replaced.

    On the other hand, If we really want to get to Siberia, we can fly out to Diomede and walk the rest of the way during the winter.

  • I heard about a project for a tunnel Taiwan - mainland China. Would it be more difficult (technically / politically / economically)?
    __
  • I totally see their point of view. Just last week, I was playing CivII on King. I was having trouble defeating the Persians until I captured their first city (took 10 cannons to do it -- all their cities were walled). The problem was that I'd take a turn moving next to their city and they'd get a free shot on my cannons (with 1 defense). When I finally captured that city, I just railroaded in all my cannons to their other cities and captured them in maybe 5 turns.

    Russia had a totally good reason to make railroads a different size -- so we couldn't roll our cannons in!
    --
  • Well, as an American, I must say that I learned Physics in metric. I was annoyed as hell when I went to college and had a foreign professor who thought us Americans wanted to do all of our problems in English units... It took me a year to figure out that the English unit of mass was a slug...
    --
  • Sea shipping is TOO cheap, and is MORE than fast enough!

    Unless, of course, the sea is 90%+ frozen over half the year. Then it takes some time to ship through it.
  • Prudhoe Bay supplies all the oil it can to the other states, as there is little market for it here in Alaska (lack of refineries).

    The Russians, who have lots of oil, are also the masters of oil pipeline technology, and build pipelines that make ours look downright silly. They have lots of transport for their oil. What they don't have are countries with hard currencies willing to purchase the oil.

    If you think that drilling in Siberia is any less harmful to the ecology than Alaska, you have another thing coming. In Alaska, there are strict rules about how, where, when, and what happens in the oil patch, and there are a bunch of folks standing around to make sure the rules are followed. Penalties for infraction are severe. In Siberia, there are no such rules, and no folks watching, either.

  • You can start by noting that Russia has a nonstandard track gauge... something about the czars being afraid of the railroad being used by invading enemy armies...
    So did Canada until about 1880something. But Canada re-gauged all it's tracks so it could be compatible with the US (which, itself, wasn't much standardized until just before the Civil War).

    Russia could very well do the same thing; in Canada, it took only a week-end to change the thousands of miles of track, so Russia could do it fast, too.

    What? How they did it? Well, a thousand of track gangs each changing 5 miles of track in 1 day could change 10,000 miles of track in 2 days... :) :) :)

    Spain would also benefit by doing the same thing, but they also have invented a TALGO, a train that can change it's gauge [talgo.com]at the borders (yes, the same one that runs between Seattle and Vancouver)...

    Hmmm, let's dream... A New-York_Moscow_Paris_Madrid train... That's a trip I'll be glad to take!

    --

  • Everybody so far has it backwards. Water transport is the cheapest, followed by rail, road and air.

    In the part of the world in question the sea is often covered with ice. Thus you'd need either a submarine or an ice breaker, which don't come cheap.


  • You'd be better off with a globe rather than a Mercator map (especially one centred on 0 longitude) to work out distances. The region in question is grossly distorted.
  • BC Ferries has three catamarans for sale. The PacifiCat Explorer, and the PacifiCat Discovery are currently in service in British Columbia. They're the second-largest aluminum-hulled catamarans in the world, and can do 34 knots.

    These boats require relativly calm water to operate in. Also you do you want to hit icebergs at 34 knots.
  • Just take a good book or two (or a laptop and the latest Linux kernel sources, if you prefer). Though looking out the window and beholding the changing landscape can be interesting in itself.

    (I took a train from Melbourne to Sydney (about 11 hours) recently, and found myself doing rather little reading, and a lot of looking out the window.)
  • "Standard Gauge" in Australia is about 4ft8 (presumably that's the British standard which may or may not date back to Roman chariot axle widths), though Victoria uses 5ft3 or so.

    (This is just from memory, so it may be wrong.)

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