The Beijing to Vancouver railroad construction would cost over $35 billion
According to Russian and Chinese state news, there may be plans to build a high-speed railway from China to Canada — a train ride of approximately two days when travelled at 350 kilometres an hour.
The route, which would stretch from Beijing to Vancouver, would foster trade and travel across several nations. It would span 13,000 kilometres, crossing Siberia before entering a tunnel to Alaska, through a 200 kilometre underwater tunnel in the Bering Strait. This area is considered one of the most dangerous bodies of water in the world.
According to China Daily, the project is being pushed by an Alaskan company called InterBering LLC. They predict the total cost of the endeavor would be upwards of $35 billion.
Aside from the concerns surrounding the cost, some are skeptical that Canada, the United States, Russia and China will be able to agree on the project in order to put it into motion. Even if the proposal were accepted, experts say it could take up to 25 years to complete.
Peter Hall, SFU urban studies professor, is doubtful of the plan’s immediate feasibility. “This is surely a long way in the future, more of a speculation about possibilities,” he told The Peak. “But there is a long history of humans proposing grand infrastructure, often going bankrupt on the first attempt — [think of the] Channel Tunnel, [the] Panama Canal — and once built it becomes a fact that does change travel and settlement patterns.”
Beyond fiscal and cooperative issues, Hall added that there could be a number of questions raised about the environmental aspect of the Beijing-Vancouver plan, were it to go through. “The environmental calculus would be quite complex,” he explained. “How is it actually constructed, what stops are en route, does it displace or reinforce carbon-intensive air travel, what fuel is used on the rail, and if electricity is used, what is the source, etcetera?”
Canada isn’t the only country China has its eye on — the Chinese have three other railroad proposals on the table, including one from London through Paris, Berlin, Warsaw and Kiev to Moscow; this route would split to end in either Kazakhstan or Siberia.
Another railroad, to start in China, would run through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Turkey, and Germany. A third would start in southern China, running through Thailand, Cambodia, and Malaysia before ending in Singapore.
All of these plans would involve heavy infrastructure and international co-operation between the governments planning the railroads. China has already made statements saying that they would fund the projects internally.
In fact, recent agreements may mean China’s plans are not as far in the future as Hall might think. Laos has already signed on to borrow $72 billion from China to fund the railroad that will run through Southeast Asia, and China is building a railroad in Nigeria as a form of aid to Africa, providing jobs and infrastructure.
This railway will link Kenya’s Indian Ocean port of Mombasa and capital, Nairobi, and eventually link Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan, and will cost $3.8 billion.
Aside from Laos and Nigeria, no other countries have made formal commitments to the new Chinese railways.