When trade turnover between Russia and China was growing, nobody constructed a bridge from Blagoveschensk to Heihe. When it started decreasing, it was decided to build a bridge. We’re Russia - we do it like that!
In the course of the 27th international trade-economic fair in Harbin, the final version of the concession agreement on the borderline bridge crossing construction across the Amur River near the cities of Blagovaschensk and Heihe was signed.
Bride of great hopes
The document was signed by Minister of Transportation and Construction of the Amur regional government, Andrei Tiaglo, on the one side, and the Head of the Transportation Department of the Heilongjiang province, Yui Fei and the Director General of the joint Russian-Chinese company, Huan Yunn Yun.
The signing of the document was the result of long negotiations between the two parties. The final stage was carried out by the two governors: that of the Amur region, Alexander Kozlov, and his Chinese colleague, the Heilongjiang province’s governor Lu Hao.
—The concession agreement is the conclusion of the “paper” stage before the bridge’s construction will be started, regional minister Andrei Tiaglo said. — But it cannot start without the document. The agreement determines the order of the object’s construction, its terms and its volumes. After signing the contract the order of toll payment is to be determined, a credit contract is to be concluded, the results of the state expert assessment should be received, and then the construction itself will be started.
The Chinese party agreed with the appraisal of the agreement achieved. —We are happy to sign the document. We have long been waiting for this historic moment – the preparation for the construction of the bridge has lasted for 30 years! the Heilongjiang province’s governor, Lu Hao, said. — Much has been done, and we are happy that we may sign the agreement with the youngest governor of Russia. We are laying great hopes on the construction of the bride.
From economy to geopolitics
The bridge across the Amur will become the first trans-border railway bridge. The first negotiations on the construction of the bridge date back to 1993. A project costing $150m was developed then, but it was not implemented.
However, the negotiation process did not fade away. In 2003, the parties managed to agree that the Chinese party will finance the project of the construction of the bridge connecting Blagoveschensk and Heihe, but intentions remained just that - intentions.
The necessity of the bridge was so evident that negotiations restarted several times, but the result was the same. The parties could not come to a final conclusion, as the idea, according to Galina Buslova, former Chair of the Amur region Legislative Assembly, and now its Deputy, was not supported by the Russian Government.
This was because we cannot provide transportation volumes from Russia to China, and we did not want to build a bridge for our Chinese neighbors, even with the use of Chinese investments. But times have changed, and the Russian party seems to have approved of the project’s implementation.
The necessity of the bride is proved by the following facts: it is 3,500 km to get to China, and in summer a pontoon ferry is erected. When the bridge is put in operation, the cargo turnover will increase 10-fold, from the current 300,000 tons to 3m tons.
From the two sides
The cost of the project is 19 bln roubles, but not a rouble from the RF federal budget will be spent: a Russian-Chinese company especially created for the construction of the bridge will take a loan from the Bank of China for a 20-year term, and the security of the repayment will be the toll for the bridge usage. As opposed to the Russian party, the construction of the Chinese part of the bridge will be realized at the expense of state investments.
The Russian cofounder of the joint enterprise is the “Most” (Bridge) company, a part of the group of companies belonging to the famous entrepreneur Ruslan Baisarov.
The bridge will be constructed from the two sides: Russian contractors from the Russian side, and Chinese ones from the Chinese side. The volume of finance is assessed at 14 bln roubles.
Two thirds of the borderline bridge crossing will be located on Russian territory. Our part of the object will include the approach to the Amur federal highway, the bride across the Kanikurgan and the bridge across the main flow of the Amur river. The project covers the construction of an automobile bridge and a cable-railway. The remaining third will be located in the adjacent Chinese region.
According to Petr Romanenko, head of the Amur Department of “Gyprostroymost Institute” (which is the chief contractor of the object’s proposal and survey work), at present the project documentation is being developed. A positive expert conclusion is hoped to be received in July, and the bridge will start to be erected. It is to be put in operation in 2019.
One bridge is not enough
By the way, the bridge near Blagoveschensk is not the only automobile crossing to connect the Russian and the Chinese banks of the Amur river.
For more than 10 years, negotiations had been held on the construction of a bridge in the Jewish Autonomous Region. At last, in the summer of 2013, the Russian-Chinese agreement on the construction of the object was signed.
The Chinese party started their work in half a year after signing the agreement and they have already built 1,755 meters of the railway bridge across the Amur River to the Jewish Autonomous Region, and have installed 17 slant legs and 16 bays.
And as far as Russia is concerned, they did not hurry to fulfil the agreement, and had been looking for money for a long time. As a result, the construction of the bridge practically stopped, as the Chinese refused to construct it from the Russian side, though, according to Alexander Levintal, the JAR Governor, the Chinese have fulfilled 75% of their work.
In August 2015, the money for the construction of the railway bridge crossing, totaling 2.5 bln roubles, was promised from the Far East Development Fund.
And now the main difficulty is in searching for a contracting organization. And now it has been found - the same “Most” company which is taking part in the construction of the bridge across the Amur from Blagoveschensk to Heihe.
The corresponding agreement was concluded on June 2nd, 2016. The company has the task of reducing the terms of construction, which is to take 2 years.
Investments in the future
When the large-scale construction projects were thought through, Russian-Chinese relations, as well as the economy on the whole, were on the up. However, now the situation has changed and the necessity of the bridge’s construction across the Amur is dictated by geopolitical reasons, not economic ones.
As of 2015, the trade turnover between Russia and China decreased by $20 bln to $69 bln. Judging by the figures, the economic role of the bridges has hardly grown.
On the other hand, the appearance of the two bridges will add to the development of mutual trade, so the money spent on the projects might be called an investment in the future. World experience shows that if the investments are done right, in the proper place and to a good standard, they will repay the effort a hundredfold and will be mutually advantageous for both parties.