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19 Mar, 2014 18:26

Russia green lights road and rail bridge to Crimea

Russia green lights road and rail bridge to Crimea

The long delayed Kerch Strait Bridge project, which would connect the Crimean peninsula and mainland Russia, has been given a green light, with President Putin saying the bridge would provide both road and rail links.

Vladimir Putin held a meeting with members of the government on Wednesday in order to discuss transport links with the Crimea, a day after the treaty of accession of the republic to the Russian Federation was signed.

“We need both automobile and railway bridges,” the President said about the Kerch Strait Bridge.
Putin’s proposal received the full backing from Russian Transport Minister Maksim Sokolov, who stressed that the government has already agreed on the feasibility study for the project.

The survey will take place this year, with several proposals for the bridge ready by the end of 2014, he added.

According to the minister, the bridge over the Kerch Strait isn’t the only option as the government is also considering a tunnel under the Kerch straight.

Meanwhile, this summer ferries will be used to bring tourists to the Crimean resorts, Sokolov told the President.

Transport between Russia and the Crimean peninsula “is currently implemented without any setbacks by all means of transport,” including a daily train service and three flights from Moscow, the minister said.

Sokolov added that the Russian airline Aeroflot planes now fly to Crimea over Ukrainian territory without any restrictions.

But there’s an alternative corridor for them in Russia in case the self-proclaimed authority in Ukraine decides to close its airspace, he assured.

The Kerch Straight Bridge was initially built in the summer 1944 after the liberation of the Crimea by the Red Army.

But the 4.5 kilometer structure was destroyed within six months by ice due to the absence of breakwaters.

The idea of a Kerch Strait Bridge was back on the agenda after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but Russia and Ukraine failed to find common ground on the issue.

In February, the coup-imposed government in Kiev froze talks about the construction of the bridge with Moscow.

Previously, Sokolov said that the building the Kerch Strait Bridge would take three and a half years and require at least 50 billion rubles (around $1.4 billion) of investment.

It would shorten the route from the Ukrainian city of Kherson to Novorossiysk in Russia by 450 kilometers, he added.