Designing a high-speed railroad between Moscow and Kazan that may form part of a future line between Moscow and Beijing may start this year if Russia and China reach an agreement on investment, said the president of Russian Railways (RZD).
"If the countries reach an agreement on investment under state guarantees, it will be possible to start designing the high-speed [line] as early as this year or next year," Vladimir Yakunin told reporters on Monday.
Earlier in the day, Russia's Transportation Ministry, RZD and Chinese partners had signed a memorandum of understanding on the Moscow-Kazan railroad project.
Yakunin said there would be a "prospect to extend [the line] to Yekaterinburg," and that China expected it to be part of a proposed line between Moscow and Beijing.
The Moscow-Kazan stretch would be a pilot project to test out the feasibility of the Moscow-Beijing project.
The Moscow-Kazan line will be 770 kilometers long and link six large regions of Russia. The travel time will be no more than 3.5 hours and a top speed of 400 kilometers per hour will be reached. If the project is approved, RZD will find concession holders to build three sections of the high-speed rail: Vladimir-Nizhny Novgorod, Nizhny Novgorod-Cheboksary and Cheboksary-Kazan.
RZD will build the Moscow-Vladimir stretch by itself. The total cost of the project stands at approximately one trillion rubles, including 384.1 billion rubles for RZD and 684.4 billion rubles for three concession holders.
The first leg of the high-speed transport corridor to Moscow in China will be the Beijing-Urumqi stretch.
In September RZD First Vice President Alexander Misharin had said Russia and China were currently in talks on conditions for Chinese investment in the Moscow-Kazakh project.
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