Trans-Siberian Railway Today

Trans-Siberian Railway

Trans-Siberian Railway Today

The Trans-Siberian line remains the most important transport link within Russia; around 30% of Russian exports travel on the line. While it attracts many foreign tourists, it gets most of its use from domestic passengers.

Today the Trans-Siberian Railway carries about 200,000 containers per year to Europe. Russian Railways intends to at least double the volume of container traffic on the Trans-Siberian and is developing a fleet of specialised cars and increasing terminal capacity at the ports by a factor of 3 to 4. By 2010, the volume of traffic between Russia and China could reach 60 million tons (54 million tonnes), most of which will go by the Trans-Siberian.

With perfect coordination of the participating countries' railway authorities, a trainload of containers can be taken from Beijing to Hamburg, via the Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Siberian lines in as little as 15 days, but typical cargo transit times are usually significantly longer and typical cargo transit time from Japan to major destinations in European Russia was reported as around 25 days.

According to a 2009 report, the best travel times for cargo block trains from Russia's Pacific ports to the western border (of Russia, or perhaps of Belarus) were around 12 days, with trains making around 900 km (559 mi) per day, at a maximum operating speed of 80 km/h (50 mph). However, in early 2009, Russian Railways announced an ambitious "Trans-Siberian in Seven Days" programme; according to this plan, $11 billion will be invested over the next five years to make it possible for goods traffic to cover the same 9,000 km (5,592 mi) distance in just seven days.

The plan will involve increasing the cargo trains' speed to 90 km/h (56 mph) in 2010–12, and, at least on some sections, to 100 km/h (62 mph) by 2015. At these speeds, goods trains will be able to cover 1,500 km (932 mi) per day.

Trans-Siberian Railway Developments in Shipping

On 11 January 2008, China, Mongolia, Russia, Belarus, Poland and Germany agreed to collaborate on a cargo train service between Beijing and Hamburg.

The railway can typically deliver containers in  1⁄3 to  1⁄2 of the time of a sea voyage, and in late 2009 announced a 20% reduction in its container shipping rates. With its 2009 rate schedule, the TSR will transport a forty-foot container to Poland from Yokohama for $2,820, or from Busan for $2,154.

One of the most complicating factors related to such ventures is the fact that the CIS states' broad railway gauge is incompatible with China and Western and Central Europe's standard gauge. Therefore, a train travelling from China to Western Europe would encounter gauge breaks twice: at the Chinese–Mongolian or the Chinese–Russian frontier and at the Ukrainian or the Belorussian border with Central European countries.

TransSiberian Route in 7 days

In 2008, the Russian Railways JSC (state company) launched a program for the accelerated delivery of containers cargo by block trains from the Far-Eastern ports (Vladivostok, Nakhodka and others) to the western borders of Russia, called "Transsib in 7 days". Within the framework of the program it is planned to decrease the cargo delivery time from the Far East from 11 days in 2008 to 7 days in 2015. The length of the routes is about 10.000 km.

The speed of delivery via the block trains should increase from 900 km per day in 2008 to 1.500 km per day in 2015. The first accelerated experimental block-train was launched in February 2009 from the Vladivostok station to Moscow. The length of the route was about 9.300 km, the actual time of the experimental train's delivery was 7 days and 5 hours, the average route speed was up to 1.289 km / day. The maximum route speed of the train was 1.422 km / day.

Trans-Siberian Railway Routes

Trans-Siberian Line

A commonly used main line route is as follows. Distances and travel times are from the schedule of train No. 002M, Moscow–Vladivostok.
Location Distance Travel
Time Zone Notes
Moscow, Yaroslavsky Rail Terminal 0 km (0 mi) Moscow
Time (MT)
Vladimir 210 km (130 mi) MT
Nizhny Novgorod 461 km (286 mi) 6 hours MT on the Volga River
Kirov 917 km (570 mi) 13 hours MT on the Vyatka River
Perm 1,397 km (868 mi) 20 hours MT+2 on the Kama River
Yekaterinburg 1,816 km (1,128 mi) 1 day 2 hours MT+2 in the Urals still called by its old Soviet name Sverdlovsk in most timetables
Tyumen 2,104 km (1,307 mi)
Omsk 2,676 km (1,663 mi) 1 day 14 hours MT+3 on the Irtysh River
Novosibirsk 3,303 km (2,052 mi) 1 day 22 hours MT+3 on the Ob River - Turk-Sib railway branches from here
Krasnoyarsk 4,065 km (2,526 mi) 2 days 11 hours MT+4 on the Yenisei River
Taishet 4,483 km (2,786 mi) junction with the Baikal-Amur Mainline
Irkutsk 5,153 km (3,202 mi) 3 days 4 hours MT+5 near Lake Baikal's southern extremity
Ulan Ude 5,609 km (3,485 mi) 3 days 12 hours MT+5 eastern shore of Lake Baikal
Junction with the Trans-Mongolian line 5,622 km (3,493 mi)
Chita 6,166 km (3,831 mi) 3 days 22 hours MT+6
Junction with the Trans-Manchurian line at Tarskaya 6,274 km (3,898 mi)
Birobidzhan 8,312 km (5,165 mi) 5 days 13 hours capital of the Jewish Autonomous Region
Khabarovsk 8,493 km (5,277 mi) 5 days 15 hours MT+7 on the Amur River
Ussuriysk 9,147 km (5,684 mi) junction with the Trans-Manchurian line and Korea branch; located in Baranovsky, 13 km (8 miles) from Ussuriysk
Vladivostok 9,289 km (5,772 mi) 6 days 4 hours MT+7 on the Pacific Ocean
Services to North Korea continue from Ussuriysk via:
Primorskaya station 9,257 km (5,752 mi) 6 days 14 hours MT+7
Khasan 9,407 km (5,845 mi) 6 days 19 hours MT+7 border with North Korea
Tumangang 9,412 km (5,848 mi) 7 days 10 hours MT+6 North Korean side of the border
Pyongyang 10,267 km (6,380 mi) 9 days 2 hours MT+6  

There are many alternative routings between Moscow and Siberia. For example:
  • Some trains would leave Moscow from Kazansky Rail Terminal instead of Yaroslavsky Rail Terminal; this would save some 20 km (12 mi) off the distances, because it provides a shorter exit from Moscow onto the Nizhny Novgorod main line.
  • One can take a night train from Moscow's Kursky Rail Terminal to Nizhny Novgorod, make a stopover in the Nizhny and then transfer to a Siberia-bound train
  • From 1956 to 2001 many trains went between Moscow and Kirov via Yaroslavl instead of Nizhny Novgorod. This would add some 29 km (18 mi) to the distances from Moscow, making the total distance to Vladivostok at 9,288 km (5,771 mi).
  • Other trains get from Moscow (Kazansky Terminal) to Yekaterinburg via Kazan.
  • Between Yekaterinburg and Omsk it is possible to travel via Kurgan Petropavlovsk (in Kazakhstan) instead of Tyumen.
  • One can bypass Yekaterinburg altogether by travelling via Samara, Ufa, Chelyabinsk and Petropavlovsk; this was historically the earliest configuration.
Depending on the route taken, the distances from Moscow to the same station in Siberia may differ by several tens of km.

Trans-Manchurian Line

The Trans-Manchurian line, as e.g. used by train No.020, Moscow–Beijing follows the same route as the Trans-Siberian between Moscow and Chita and then follows this route to China:
  • Branch off from the Trans-Siberian-line at Tarskaya (6,274 km (3,898 mi) from Moscow)
  • Zabaikalsk (6,626 km), Russian border town; there is a break-of-gauge
  • Manzhouli (6,638 km (4,125 mi) from Moscow, 2,323 km (1,443 mi) from Beijing), Chinese border town
  • Harbin (7,573 km (4,706 mi), 1,388 km)
  • Changchun (7,820 km (4,859 mi) from Moscow)
  • Beijing (8,961 km (5,568 mi) from Moscow)
The express train (No. 020) travel time from Moscow to Beijing is just over six days. There is no direct passenger service along the entire original Trans-Manchurian route (i.e., from Moscow or anywhere in Russia, west of Manchuria, to Vladivostok via Harbin), due to the obvious administrative and technical (gauge break) inconveniences of crossing the border twice. However, assuming sufficient patience and possession of appropriate visas, it is still possible to travel all the way along the original route, with a few stopovers (e.g. in Harbin, Grodekovo and Ussuriysk).

Such an itinerary would pass through the following points from Harbin east:
  • Harbin (7,573 km (4,706 mi) from Moscow)
  • Mudanjiang (7,928 km)
  • Suifenhe (8,121 km), the Chinese border station
  • Grodekovo (8,147 km), Russia
  • Ussuriysk (8,244 km)
  • Vladivostok (8,356 km)
Trans-Mongolian Line

The Trans-Mongolian line follows the same route as the Trans-Siberian between Moscow and Ulan Ude, and then follows this route to Mongolia and China:
  • Branch off from the Trans-Siberian line (5,655 km (3,514 mi) from Moscow)
  • Naushki (5,895 km (3,663 mi), MT+5), Russian border town
  • Russian–Mongolian border (5,900 km (3,666 mi), MT+5)
  • Sükhbaatar (5,921 km (3,679 mi), MT+5), Mongolian border town
  • Ulaanbaatar (6,304 km (3,917 mi), MT+5), the Mongolian capital
  • Zamyn-Üüd (7,013 km (4,358 mi), MT+5), Mongolian border town
  • Erenhot (842 km (523 mi) from Beijing, MT+5), Chinese border town
  • Datong (371 km (231 mi), MT+5)
  • Beijing (MT+5)
Trans-Siberian Railway Future Proposals

Trans-Siberian Railway New Lines

New lines between Perm and Mariinsk via Ural base tunnel, Nizhny Tagil, Tyumen and Tomsk, from Krasnoyarsk via Eniseisk, Ermakovo, Igarka to Dudinka, from Kirov via Tobolsk, Surgut, Nizhnevartovsk, Eniseisk to Bratsk, and from Nizhny Tagil via Tobolsk and Tomsk to Eniseisk are proposed.

Trans-Siberian Railway Details:
  • Track gauge: 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 27⁄32 in) Russian gauge
  • Electrification: 25 kV 50 Hz AC overhead lines
  • Loading gauge: 4.1 metres (13.5 feet) wide and 6.15 metres (20.2 feet) tall
  • Platform height: 200 mm (7.9 in) above rails
  • Minimum overhead line height: 6.5 metres (21.3 feet) above rails
Proposed Platform Heights by Routes

Trans-Siberian Railway High Platform Line

Moscow-Kazanskaya - Ryazan - Samara - Ufa - Chelyabinsk - Kurgan route should be 1,100 mm (43.3 in) for DC EMUs and 550 mm (21.7 in) for the other trains.

Trans-Siberian Railway Low Platform Lines

Trans-Siberian lines except high platform line (see above) should be 200 mm (7.9 in) for most platforms and 550 mm (21.7 in) for some platforms.

Trans-Siberian Railway Cultural Importance
  • In 1910 Lina Bögli embarked with the Trans-Siberian Railway on a trip via Vladivostok to Japan and China, and in 1915 she published Always forward about this trip.
  • The Trans-Siberian Railway is the theme for the Trans-Siberian Railway Panorama and 1900 Trans-Siberian Railway Fabergé egg.
  • In the anime Blood+, the main character Saya Otonashi has a fight with chiropteans in her travel by the Trans-Siberian express heading for Ekaterinburg.
  • In the videogame Syberia the protagonist travels by train through Russia/Siberia – a clear reference to the Trans-Siberian Railway.
  • The Corto Maltese comic Corte sconta detta arcana/Corto Maltese en Sibérie has the Trans-Siberian Railway as part of the story that takes place in the Russian Revolutionary period of the 20th century.
  • The cult film Horror Express starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Telly Savalas is set aboard the railway.
  • In the play Fiddler on the Roof and the film version, Tevye's daughter, Hodel, takes the Trans-Siberian Railway to Siberia after her fiancé is exiled there.
  • The 2008 thriller Transsiberian takes place on the railway.
  • An Idiot Abroad (2012) features Karl Pilkington travelling the length of the railway.

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