This railway bridge brings China and Russia closer together

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Rail freight traffic between China and Russia will soon have another border crossing to choose from. The railway bridge connecting Chinese Tongjiang with Nizhneleninskoye in Russia is to become operational in the coming months, with the first test runs currently underway.

Much further east than the popular border crossing at Manzhouli, passing over the Heilong River (known as the Amur River in Russia), lies the Tongjiang-Nizhneleninskoye railway bridge. Initiated in 2019 and completed in August 2021, it is ready to fulfill its main task: providing another land transport link between China and Russia.

Russia officially announced the completion of its part on Wednesday 27 April during a ceremony hailing the new bridge. The Moscow Times speaks of an opening next month. Chinese media earlier named August as the month of opening. China is currently carrying out drills to prepare for the first test runs, the South China Morning Post mentioned.

Cutting travel time

Once it is fully operational, the bridge cuts the train journey from Heilongjiang, a province in the northeast of China that also includes the port of Vladivostok, to Moscow by more than 800km and 10 hours. Moreover, it relieves pressure on the border points of Manzhouli, Erenhot and Suifenhe, the three border points for traffic between China and Russia.

​​It has a length of 2.21km, of which the Chinese section is 1.8km long, while the remaining section is in Russia. The bridge has a designed throughput capacity of 21 million tonnes (Mt) a year and allows for a maximum speed of 100km/h. It will mainly be used for the shipment of coal, iron ore, timber and mineral fertilisers from Russia to China.

Belt and Road initiative

The project is an important part of the Belt and Road initiative of China, which aims to connect China with the rest of the world. However, it increased in importance since the start of the war in Ukraine, as this led to a slowdown in traffic between China and Europe via Russia, and a worsening of the relationship between Russia and Europe.

Russia is increasingly shifting its focus on China as a trading partner. Earlier this month, RZD reported an agreement with China Railways to increase the transfer of trains through the shared border points gradually. In April, compared to March, traffic has already increased by 27 per cent in Manzhouli and by 10 per cent in Suifenhe.

Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is the editor-in-chief of RailFreight.com, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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