Russia celebrates BAM and looks to its future

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A 17-coach special Russian Railways train arrived at Tynda on the Baikal Amur Mainline (BAM) railway on July 8.

The train, which is commemorating the 40th anniversary of the start of the volunteer movement to complete the railway in extreme conditions, left Irkutsk on July 3 carrying construction veterans.

Tynda is the 13th and final stop on its 1,900-mile journey. At each stop there are celebrations where the veterans are warmly welcomed that have included speeches, unveiling of memorials, BAM2concerts and fireworks.

The 2,100 mile BAM is around 400 miles north of the Trans-Siberian which runs close to the Chinese border. It was built as a strategic alternative and to develop this remote area. It runs through particularly challenging conditions including permafrost and geologically unstable mountain ranges through which runs the 10-mile long Severomuisk Tunnel.

Construction of the line started in the late 30s using prisoners, many of whom died. These were from Stalin’s Gulags and later German and Japanese prisoners of war. Construction stopped after Stalin died in 1953. However, 20 years later Brezhnev decided the line would be built “with clean hands”. Tens of thousands responded to his call for volunteer workers to move to the region.

As well as celebrating the line’s construction, the train is also promoting the importance of the line in view of a recent announcement to invest £10 billion on the line. Fourty-six per cent of this amount comes from state funds, demonstrating the Russian Government’s commitment to this area. This will include an additional 290 miles of double track and 45 passing loops.

Report by David Shirres