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Baikal-Amur Main Line

Baikal-Amur Main Line

Geographical position of the Baikal-Amur Main Line

The Baikal-Amur Main Line (BAM) runs through the territory of Irkutsk region, Trans-Baikal Territory, Amur Region, the Republic of Buryatia, Sakha (Yakutia) and Khabarovsk Territory.

Key stations on the BAM:

  • Tayshet;
  • Lena;
  • Taksimo;
  • Tynda;
  • Neryungi;
  • New Urgal;
  • Komsomolsk-on-Amur;
  • Vanino;
  • Sovetskaya Gavan.

The total length of BAM from Taishet to Sovetskaya Gavan is 4,300 km.

BAM is linked with the Trans-Siberian Main Line by three railway lines: Bamovskaya – Tynda, Izvestkovaya – Novyi Urgal and Volochaevka – Komsomolsk-on-Amur.

A double-track railway line has now been built from Taishet to Lena (704 km) and a single-track line from Lena to Taksim (725 km). On the remaining part of the BAM, a single-track railway with diesel traction has been built.

BAM passes through territory characterised by harsh climatic conditions, including permafrost with depths from 1-3 to hundreds of metres, and high seismicity with shocks up 9 on the Richter scale. BAM crosses 11 full-flowing rivers (including the Lena, Amur, Zeya, Vitim, Olekma, Selemdzha and Bureya) and 7 ridges (Baikal, Severomuisky, Udokansky, Kodarsky, Olekminsky Stanovik, Turan and Dusse Alinsky). Due to the difficult terrain, over 30 kilometres of the railway line pass through tunnels (including the 6.7km Baikal tunnel and the 15.3km Severomuisky tunnel.

During the construction of BAM, the latest design, developed and patented new construction and operational methods were used under complex hydraulic and geological conditions.

History of BAM's construction

Construction of the Baikal-Amur

The impulse for the construction of the Baikal-Amur Main Line developed from the disappointing results of the Russian-Japanese War of 1904-1905, which showed the urgent need to build a second lateral railway in Russia's Far East which would duplicate Trans-Siberian Main Line.

According to the original plan, the line was to run from Ufa by the shortest distance to the eastern sea coast via the northern tip of Lake Baikal.

In the Soviet period, research on the development of the railway network in the east of the country resumed in the late 1920s and early 1930s. It was then that the line to the east from Taishet first received its present name of the Baikal-Amur Main Line. It was proposed to begin the line from Urusha station, which lies approximately at BAM's mid-point near Skovorodina, with the terminal station planned for Komsomolsk-on-Amur, which at that time was a Perm village.

In 1932, the People's Commissars adopted a decree "On the Construction of the Baikal-Amur Main Line", which approved the plan for BAM's construction. The construction was scheduled to be completed in three years: through traffic in working operation mode all long the main line was due to begin at the end of 1935.

However, the construction of the line was repeatedly halted for various reasons, such as a lack of manpower, the Great Patriotic War and earthquakes at and near the construction work at the end of the 1950s.

Active construction on the BAM was resumed in 1974 and was largely undertaken by military engineers and volunteers from the Young Communists (Komsomol). Komsomol groups from the various Soviet republics competed with each other and built their "own" objects: the large Urgal station was built by volunteers from the Ukrainian SSR, Muyakan station by Belarussians, Uoyan by Lithuanians, Kichera by Estonians, Tayura by Armenians, Ulkan by Azeri, Soloni by Tajiks and Alonku by Moldovans. Tynda, the capital of the BAM, was built by Muscovites.

By 1980, the management of the Baikal-Amur Main Line was located in Tynda.

On 29 September 1984, a "golden" docking took place at Balbukhta junction in the Kalar district of Chita region, when the BAM's builders in the east and west met after advancing towards each other for 10 years. On 1 October 1984, "golden" links on the BAM were laid at Kuanda station in the Kalar district of Chita region.

Severomuisky tunnel

The completion of the Baikal-Amur Main Line can be considered as 5 December 2003, when the North-Muya tunnel was opened to traffic. At 15,343 metres, the North-Muya tunnel is the longest tunnel in Russia and the fifth-longest in the world. Conditions for the construction of the tunnel were unique, and workers had to contend with permafrost, an abundance of groundwater, talus deposits, landslides and tectonic faults.

BAM now

BAM's construction solved national tasks:

  • opening access to the vast region's natural resources;
  • ensuring transit transport;
  • creating the shortest east-west intercontinental route, running 10,000 km along Russia's railways;
  • in military and strategic terms, the line provides a back-up against possible failures and interruptions in train movement along the Trans-Siberian Railway.

At the moment, BAM's social and economic potential has not been fully realised and Russian Railways does not yet make any profit from operating the line. The main reason for this situation is the slow development of the areas along the line. Of the planned nine territorial and production clusters which were to provide freight on the BAM, only one has been realised, namely the Neryungri coal basin.

On the route between Taishet – Tynda – Komsomolsk-on-Amur, freight amounts to about 12 million tons per annum. Limits on BAM's through capacity are caused by the closure of separate points during the downturn in freight volumes in the 1990s, stretches where repairs have been delayed and defects in the roadbed, track structure and its installations.

BAM carries about 12 million passengers per annum. Passenger traffic on the line is insignificant and amounts to just 1-2 pairs of trains per day on the Komsomolsk – Severobaykalsk stretch and 9-16 pairs in the western sector.

Prospects for BAM's development

BAM's strategic position and the technical and economic potential of the region through which it passes are so great that the railway line will of course be in demand in Russia in the foreseeable future.

Russian Railways has developed a Baikal-Amur Main Line Strategic Development Programme to 2020. It is planned to spend 317.2 billion roubles in 2006 prices on developing the line up to 2020, with 70% of the investment coming from Russian Railways and 30% from an investment fund. These investments will lead to a significant amount of work:

  • construction and rehabilitation of 91 sidings;
  • construction of 800 km of second main track;
  • installing automatic locking equipment on about 700 km of railway lines;
  • extending and constructing 171 receiving-departure tracks;
  • acquiring approximately 750 freight locomotives and about 11,000 freight wagons;
  • reconstructing 85 bridges, 3 tunnels and 650 km of subgrade etc.

This programme was actively used in the development of the "Strategy for the Development of Railway Transport of the Russian Federation until 2030". The strategy forecasts an increase in BAM's traffic volumes due to the growth of industrial production, the development of a number of fields, the construction of a railway line to Yakutsk and the development of the Vanino-Sovgavansky transport hub. It is also planned that BAM will specialise in heavy trains, and the Trans-Siberian in specialised container trains and passenger trains.

The programme "Rail Transport is part of the federal targeted program "Development of Russia's Transport System (2010-2015), which provides for:

  • construction of a new railway line between Tommot – Kerdem – Yakutsk (Nizhny Bestyakh) with a total length of 450 km;
  • plans for a new railway line Selekhin - Nysh with a total length of 582 km.

BAM's main catchment areafor mineral deposits

Deposits which are currently being developed on an industrial scale and play a cargo-generating role in utilising the Baikal-Amur Main Line:

  • Neryungri and Urgalsk coal fields;
  • Korshunov and Rudnogorsk iron ore deposits.

The best-studied deposits with an estimated cost-effectiveness of development:

  • Apsat, Ogodzhinskaya and Elga coal desposits;
  • Chiney, Taiga and Garinsky iron deposits;
  • Udokansky copper deposit;
  • Kuranakh and Katuginskoe polymetallic deposits;
  • Evgenevskoe apatite deposit;
  • Kovykta gas field;
  • Talakanskoye, Verkhnechonskoe, Chayandinskoe, Srednebotuobinskoye, Yarakta, Dulisminskoye, Ayan and Adnikanskoe oil and gas fields.

The development of these fields requires the development of transport infrastructure.

Promising fields that require further exploration and an evaluation of the economic benefit of the development:

  • Neryundinskoye, Kapaevskoye, Polivskoye iron ore deposits;
  • Khlodnenskoe and Shamanic polymetallic deposits;
  • Golevskoe synnyrite deposits;
  • Ukduska and Seligdarskoye apatite deposits;
  • Nepa potash basin.
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