A new perspective over the role of high speed railways is taking shape. From a sustainable transportation solution connecting large national cities, or
neighboring countries, high speed rail is evolving towards connecting cities from macro-regions and further to linking metropolis on different continents. High speed rail networks are acclaimed for bringing environmental, economic, social and cultural benefits to the cities they cross. In the future, HSR could also play a geopolitical
role in the regions they unite, being portrayed as vector of political cooperation, peace
and societal change.
This is the bold vision of MIR Initiative, the organisation which developed the concept of the intercontinental peace metro, a first high-speed railway network linking the main cities of the METR (Middle East, Europe, Turkey, Russia) region to Beijing, China. “The point is that the implementation of this large-scale project will allow making the region both more mobile and safer. Greater transportation mobility would cause increased social mobility as well, thus easing tension among various parts of the region. Lowering of barriers and economic integration would become natural processes, implying simultaneously higher income and wider opportunities for the majority of the region’s population”, states Aleksandr Misharin, First Vice President of the Russian Railways, one of the supporters of the initiative (1).
The project with an estimated time-frame of 35 years aims to extend the European high-speed transport corridors towards the East to the Chinese capital city, and towards the South-East in the Middle Eastern areas currently hosting cruel political and religious conflicts. The route extends along the main Beijing-Astana-Kazan-Moscow-Minsk-Warsaw-Lodz-Berlin-Rostock rail network and is connected to the existing European corridors. Upon competition of this project, it will be possible to cover the 10,500 km distance between Turin and Beijing in less than two days on a high-speed train.
The development of the Eastern end of this high-speed railway axis is advancing with Chinese financial support. China and Russia signed a memorandum of cooperation on Beijing-Moscow Eurasian High-Speed Transport Corridor in May 2015. RZD has signed a contract with Mosgiprotrans-led consortium including Nizhegorodmetroproekt and China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group (CREEC) for preliminary surveys and design services. The German Initiative for High Speed Railways in Russia (2) has also express interest in providing financing for the 770 km long high – speed line construction project. “We have a proposal from our German colleagues on signing a similar (Russia-China) memorandum on cooperation, where they make commitments on financing of up to €2 billion in the project on various conditions,” Misharin has recently told journalists. He also noted that as early as Q1 2016, an investment of RUB 5 bn would be required. The Russian government has recently allocated RUB 650 million for the project. In the Western end, Europe is heavily investing in developing the nine core network corridors, representing the backbone for transportation in Europe’s single market. As part of the development plan, 15,000 km of railway line will be upgraded to high-speed.
China is supporting the intercontinental high – speed metro idea and has already taken financial commitments. “Along with the development of economic globalization and social informationization, it is urgent time for Asia and Europe to strengthen our mutual connection and communication. As the fastest and safest transportation method, railways would undoubtedly become the major driving force to realize the strategy of “Silk Road” and “Interconnection between Asia and Europe”. That is why we support the idea of creating the Eurasian high-speed metro and establishing the Railway Silk Road Cities Forum that is aimed at supporting mobility development in the region”, declared Yao Guiqing, General Manager, China Railway Group – CREC in his speech to the participants at the first edition of the “Railway Silk Road Cities Forum” held in Turin (Italy), in November 2015.
The signing of the Turin Charter, by representatives of Italy, Germany, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation and Hungary represents an important milestone towards the 87706 km-long Eurasian high-speed metro network connecting 223 cities.
(2) The German Initiative for High Speed Railways in Russia was established in 2013 under the patronage of Russian-German Chamber of Commerce. Among its members are Siemens, Deutsche Bahn, Deutsche Bank, STRABAG, ETC Transport Consultants, PORR, Kapsch CarrierCom, Vössing, Vossloh, RAIL.ONE and Schüssler-Plan.