Japan may assist Russia with railway technology

The Baltimore Sun

TOKYO -- The Japanese government plans to offer Shinkansen bullet train technology in assisting Russia's planned improvement to its national railway networks, including the Trans-Siberian Railway, government sources said.

The Tokyo government will work out concrete details of the assistance program by autumn, establishing a working group of government officials and corporations from both countries, they said.

By offering railway technology to Russia, the government hopes to expand business opportunities for Japanese firms in the rapidly emerging economy, the sources said.

By improving such cooperation, the Japanese government aims to secure a stable supply of energy resources from Russia, which has abundant oil and natural gas.

The nearly 5,800-mile Trans-Siberian Railway, which runs between Vladivostok and Moscow, is part of the state-run Russian Railway Co., the second-largest enterprise in Russia after the energy giant Gazprom.

The Russian government plans to formulate a railway improvement program as early as September, eyeing completion of the upgrades by 2030. Modernizing the world's longest railway network is expected to become the core of the program.

Last year, the Russian government made unofficial inquiries to the Japanese government about possible cooperation in introducing Shinkansen and other Japanese railway technologies, the sources said.

As a main facilitator, Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry has asked domestic train manufacturers for cooperation.

The government also plans to assist Russia in making a comprehensive development program together with the railway improvement project, such as the development of industries along Trans-Siberian Railway routes, according to the sources.

High-ranking ministry officials will visit Russia in early July to meet Russian Railway President Vladimir Yakunin and other Russian officials for preliminary inquiries, the sources said.

Details of the development plan for the Trans-Siberian Railway have not yet been disclosed. However, the sources said new tracks probably would be laid on some of the routes to run Shinkansen trains.

The Russian government hopes to transform the Trans-Siberian Railway, a vital logistic artery, into a high-speed network. Currently, freight trains take more than two weeks to journey between Vladivostok and Moscow. The Russian government wants to cut that time in half.

About 400 miles north of Moscow in St. Petersburg, Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. are constructing plants. Shortening Trans-Siberian travel time would make the supply of auto parts from Japan more efficient.

In addition to developing the Trans-Siberian Railway, Russia plans to develop two rapid train routes between Moscow and St. Petersburg and between Moscow and Nizhni Novgorod, 280 miles south of the capital. According to the sources, the Shinkansen technologies would be introduced on those lines first.

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