• Proposed Bering Strait Tunnel and Railroad

  • General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.
General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.

Moderator: Robert Paniagua

  by krdiaz
I read that Russia and Alaska are proposing to build a new rail line stretching from Fort Nelson BC going through the Yukon ,then to Fairbanks along the Alaska Highway,then continuing to Nome and crossing the Bering Strait into Russia for 2100 miles with the line ending at the Russian city of Yakutsk.My questions pertain only to the Canada and Alaska proposal.How will the rules be governed on a massive line like this.Will they have to operate under the GCOR Rules Since this is one of the most sparsley populated regions on Earth.How can they justify the operation of this line Do they need to establish crew change stations along the way like every 150 to 200 miles.Also how would customs and immigration iissues would be worked out.If anyone would have answers to this massive undertaking please let me know Thank you. krdiaz

  by Otto Vondrak
You're talking about a tunnel that will never get built in our lifetime, and you're wondering what rulebook they will use??

There has been "talk" of a tunnel for generations, I doubt you or I will live to see it completed- if they ever agree to start.


  by Hebrewman9
Otto Vondrak wrote:You're talking about a tunnel that will never get built in our lifetime, and you're wondering what rulebook they will use??

There has been "talk" of a tunnel for generations, I doubt you or I will live to see it completed- if they ever agree to start.

While I completely agree with you, I think his question pertained only to the rules that would be used on our continent.

Never mind the rulebook. What paint scheme will the locomotives use, and will they have Canadien Type agreement cabs, or U.S. styled cabs? (I wanna hotplate, and teapot...... :P )

  by Ken V
Cross-border rules between the US and Canada have already been long established. BNSF and CSX both own tracks in Canada and use their own rule books when operating there. And the White Pass and Yukon Railroad already runs across the same border as the proposed line. Why would a new route from Alaska into Canada be any different?

  by heyitsme23
there was a show on the discovery channel about the possibilities of building a bridge with highway, rail and oil across the straight. I don't see either it or a tunnel being economical even with an oil pipeline running across. The tunnel would be far longer than even the new Gottard tunnel being built in switzerland (that is taking upwards of 50 years to design and build). Also, once the bridge or tunnel is in place, how many thousands of miles is it to civilization again?
  by krdiaz
I want to thank all of you for the responses i received on this topic The guy who said it may never get built in our lifetimes may be right and the gentleman making a comment what colors the locomotives will be,thats a funny response.I think I am sastified with this topic ,again Thank you
  by 2nd trick op
According to Google Maps, the Bering Strait is about 58 miles wide at its narrowest part, and has a minimum depth of about 150 feet. Given the tunnels under the English Channel and between the Japanese home islands, I don't think that leaves it beyond the realm of technological feasibility.In addition the challenges of rail operation in the extreme climactic condition involved are now likely to be more eeasily overcome.

Whether international co-operation has evolved to the degree where a project like this could be considered is another matter. But it's surely true that the three major participants (United States, Canada, and the Russian Federation) have a lot more in common than a generation ago.

In short, the younger of those among us may live to see the day when this option is seriously discussed. But I'd be happy if the BCR (British Columbia) and ARR(Alaska) just managed to complete an all-rail route to Fairbanks.
Last edited by 2nd trick op on Sat Apr 05, 2008 9:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

  by RussNelson
Can a moderator PLEEEEEZE rename it to Strait? Speling mistakes make my eyes bleed.

  by UPRR engineer
There ya go buddy.
  by lpetrich
I hope it's OK to post to an old thread, but I think I have something to add.

Dmitry Zinoviev has created his excellent Russian, CIS and Baltic Railway Map, showing the ex-USSR railroad lines, complete with styling and color to show various features of them.

First off, there's a rather obvious gauge compatibility problem. The US and Canada use standard gauge, 4 ft 8 1/2 in / 1435 mm, while the ex-USSR, Finland, and Mongolia use Russian gauge, 4 ft 11 7/8 in / 1520 mm (standard gauge is originally 5 ft on the outside, Russian gauge 5 ft on the inside). However, that incompatibility can be handled in ways that it is handled at several other standard/Russian meeting points. Shipping containers can easily be moved from a standard-gauge flatcar to a Russian-gauge one, and vice versa.

And then there is the sheer length of new rail line that will have to be built -- on the Russian as well as on the North American side.

The closest that the Russian railroads approach the Bering Straits is Yagodny on the Amur River, about 100 mi / 160 km northeast by road and rail of Komsomolsk-on-Amur (Komsomol'sk-na-Amure; pop. 280,000). It's about 1200 mi / 2000 km to the next sizable town, Magadan (pop. 99,000), about 1200 mi / 2000 km more to the farthest-east Russian town, Anadyr (pop. 11,000), and about 600 mi / 1000 km more to Uelen (pop. 500) at Cape Dezhnev, on the Russian side of the Bering Straits.

This yields a grand total of 3000 mi / 5000 km, though I estimated this distance by trying to follow the coast as much as was reasonable. Much of the Russian Far East is rather mountainous, which is why I avoided a more direct route. The great-circle distance is 2000 mi / 3000 km, but that crosses the Sea of Okhotsk and the aforementioned mountains.

However, Komsomolsk-on-Amur is on the Baikal-Amur Mainline, which runs parallel and typically 400 mi / 700 km north of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. It splits off at Tayshet, halfway between Krasnoyarsk and Bratsk. It is electric and double-track to Taksimo, about 200 mi / 300 km east of Lake Baikal, and diesel and single-track all the rest of the way to the coast.

From Komsomolsk-on-Amur to Khabarovsk (pop. 580,000) up the Amur River is about 200 mi / 300 km southward; Khabarovsk is on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, an electric double-track line from Moscow to Vladivostok, also on the coast.


On the American side, there is a similar long stretch of track to be built to connect to suitable existing railroad lines.

The Alaska Railroad runs Seward - Anchorage - Fairbanks, and thus would be unsuitable.

The closest town connected to the railroad lines of the Lower 48 and Canada is Fort Nelson, BC (pop. 5000). An Alaska - Yukon - BC line running to there would be about 1500 mi / 2500 km long.

Canadian National runs a line from Prince George, BC (pop. 71,000) to there, though strictly speaking, it ends about 4 mi / 7 km to the south in Muskwa. With Google Maps, one can see a yard in the west side of that place.

However, with increased traffic, it may be better to build a straighter line, and one that avoids the mountains near Prince George. A Fort Nelson - Edmonton (pop. 1,000,000) line would be 500 mi / 800 km long, and would avoid the Rocky Mountains. The existing Fort Nelson - Prince George - Edmonton route is about 50% longer.


The total Edmonton - Khabarovsk rail distance is thus about 5300 mi / 8500 km -- almost as long as the Trans-Siberian Railroad.
  by lpetrich
First, a possibility of building along my proposed route. On track: Russia plans rail link to Japan (Russia Today, June 23, 2008) mentions plans to build a rail line that will connect Sakhalin to the mainland. The track will go from Yagodny / Cherny Mys down the Amur River, then to Lazarev, then across the sea to Sakhalin, where it will connect to the existing north-south railroad line at Nogliki. The line will be about 260 mi / 420 km long, but its most difficult part is its sea crossing (5 mi / 8 km), which will either be a bridge, a tunnel, or a seawall. A bridge would cost $10 billion, about 5 times Sakhalin's annual budget.

The strait between Sakhalin and Hokkaido is longer, about 28 mi / 45 km, but there are proposals to cross that strait also; the result of all this construction will be a rail connection of Japan with the mainland through Sakhalin.

Back to the stated proposal, it involves Yakutsk (pop. 210,000), which does not have a rail line. But such a line is under construction, and part of that construction is a massive road/rail bridge across the Lena River at Tabaga 15 mi / 25 km southward: In 2009 construction of the Bridge through Lena River will begin. That bridge will be 2 mi / 3 km long, and will be done in 2013. The rail line is scheduled to reach nearby Kerdem (30 mi / 50 km south of the bridge) this year.

The existing rail line to there runs from Skovorodino (Trans-Siberian Railroad junction) to Tynda (Baikal-Amur Mainline junction) to Tommot (pop. 9,000), for a total distance of roughly 500 mi / 800 km. This line has passenger as well as freight service, and Yakutsk will get a passenger station near its airport.

The article mentions extension to Magadan as a project that will keep the railroad builders busy, so as to avoid laying them off and then rehiring them. That line will be at least 800 mi / 1300 km long, and likely longer, due to the mountains near the coast and Magadan. Construction may start next year.


I've found Russia to Build Underwater Tunnel to Alaska, which reprints several articles on the proposed Bering-Strait line, including some rather skeptical ones. The Baikal-Amur Mainline and the Yakutsk line have both taken much longer than expected. The BAM was declared complete in 1991, but it did not get its Severomulsk tunnel till 2003; the Yakutsk line was supposed to be complete in 1998. Much of the northern terrain is permafrost, and the land gets VERY cold in winter; eastern Siberia has some of the lowest recorded temperatures outside of Antarctica. This makes maintenance expensive; the Yakutsk line has lost money so far.
  by decisivemoment
It's a phenomenal distance. Done properly, twin tracked, heavy-duty trackbed, high-speed alignment, electrified, heated rail, tunnel under the Bering Strait, tunnel portals high enough to protect the project against rising sea levels, passing loops to separate faster from slower trains, it could cost $500 billion in my view for the entire project.

But consider the benefits. As scary as that amount of money sounds, it's only two weeks' GDP for the US. Plenty of infrastructure projects in the past have taken up more of their host countries' resources. A fully electrified line could run off tidal, hydro and wind energy for most of the distance. Even on fossil fuels, it uses a fraction of the fuel of diesel, and a fraction of a fraction of the fuel of a container ship across the Pacific. It could quite literally take over the trans-Pacific shipping trade. And because going the "long way around" by rail is faster than taking the direct route by boat, it could also take a substantial share of the trans-Atlantic trade if used in combination with the trans-Siberian and BAM lines.

The trans-Siberian, the Asian transcontinental railroad, was by any objective standard an insane project for its time. Yet it is now fully electrified and nowhere less than two tracks wide, and the Russians' main problem is that they need more capacity. The BAM, of course, helps relieve some of the congestion. But when you consider what a tremendous success the trans-Siberian already is, the Bering project does not look in the least bit outlandish -- rather, it moves us away from the grotesquely inefficient trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic shipping trade to a much cleaner and faster future for moving goods and potentially also people between North America, Asia and Europe.