President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Sokolov, we are rather a long way from the region I want to discuss with you today, but since we are both here in the Republic of Altai, let me ask you to update me on the situation with work to develop infrastructure in the south of Russia. I am referring to the very important infrastructure project to build a bridge linking the Caucasus coast to Crimea, the bridge across the Kerch Strait. Please, go ahead.
Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov: Mr President, after you gave the instruction to speed up the start of work on the bridge across the Kerch Strait, the situation is as follows. The project comprises several sections. There is the main section of the bridge, around 6 kilometres in length, then there is the section along the Tuzla Spit and the section following the dyke and part of the strait. These sections are around 6.5 kilometres in length.
The project also includes construction of the approach infrastructure – road and rail. This work is being carried out on the Taman Peninsula, where the bridge’s construction is beginning, and the Tuzla Spit.
The existing infrastructure – the M25 motorway and the Vyshestebliyevskaya railway station – are around 40 kilometres away. The project documents have been drafted and the state evaluation report has been conducted. These procedures are complete for the construction of a two-track railway line around 42 kilometres long, and a road of around 40 kilometres in length, that will take traffic directly to the bridge itself.
Today, since railway infrastructure construction is part of the project, Russian Railways have mobilised their construction capabilities and have begun not just the preparation work but have already started actual work on site along the approach lines. Facilities for the construction workers are in place and mine-clearing operations have begun. The area was a battle zone after all and Kerch has the title of hero city, so there is quite a lot of work to do to clear the area of mines.
Vladimir Putin: Mines remaining from the Great Patriotic War.
Maxim Sokolov: Yes, that’s right.
Here I am referring to on-site work in the areas on the direct approaches to the Kerch Strait. The other site where work is also underway now is 40 kilometres away, near the railway station. Specialists from the Defence Ministry are helping with the mine-clearing operations. The ground work is underway and the land has already been marked off.
Thus, as you instructed, we started work on the bridge’s construction in August. According to our timetable, we should have the project completed by December 16, 2018.
Vladimir Putin: Good.
I have one other question in this respect. We agreed that this would be a bridge with full transport capacity, including rail transport. By this, I mean that trains should be able to travel in both directions at once.
Maxim Sokolov: The bridge will have a two-track electrified line running the entire length. Its capacity and throughput will be equivalent to what the Trans-Siberian Railway handles today. In other words, it will be able to carry around 100 million tonnes of freight a year and a sufficient number of passenger trains. The infrastructure will offer absolutely sufficient capacity for both road and rail connections between Crimea and the rest of the country.