The China-backed plan to build a 770-kilometer high-speed railway between the Russian cities of Moscow and Kazan is facing a new hurdle as media reports suggested this week that the Russian side may delay or cancel part of the original plan. A Chinese railway expert said Thursday that Russian cost concerns might be at work.
Two sources close to Russian Railways, the Russian company behind the project, said that Russia might opt to build only a section of what was originally planned.
That part would run from Moscow to Vladimir, a city 200 kilometers east of the Russian capital, according to Russian news site sputniknews.cn on Wednesday, which cited a Russian newspaper.
Vladimir is about 500 kilometers west of Kazan.
It was reported that the decision was made at a meeting hosted by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich in September, and it was also decided that the section from Vladimir onward to Kazan would be approved only after the initial portion proves its ability to recoup its cost.
The Moscow-Vladimir section will be completed by 2023, according to the report.
The sources also said that the Russian government does not have the financial resources for a high-speed railway project.
Russian Railways and the China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group Co, which won the surveying and designing contract for the project in 2015, could not be reached for comment as of press time on Thursday.
Sun Zhang, a rail expert and professor at Tongji University in Shanghai, told the Global Times on Thursday that Russia is a vast country and the Russian side had asked that the high-speed railway be designed with a top speed of 400 kilometers per hour.
"This inevitably causes the cost to rise, and it is natural that the Russian government will consider the financial burden in building a high-speed railway and the debt involved, as well as the operating costs later," Sun said.
Sun noted that unlike China, the world's second-largest economy with a relatively fast growth rate, the Russian economy is far smaller and has been stagnant in recent years.
Russia will start to build its first high-speed railway linking Moscow and Kazan in 2018, Xinhua News Agency reported in August.
The railway will cost about 1.3 trillion rubles ($22.55 billion), the report said.