SOCHI, February 28. /TASS/. Russia’s Sakhalin Island is unlikely to be connected to Japan’s Hokkaido by a bridge, Presidential Envoy for Environmental Protection, Ecology and Transport Sergey Ivanov said in an interview with TASS on the sidelines of the Russian Investment Forum in Sochi. According to Ivanov, there are more chances that a tunnel would be built, but it would depend on economic viability, however, Sakhalin first needs to be connected to mainland Russia.
Discussions of possibly connecting the Trans-Siberian Railway with Japan were initiated by the Japanese media after Moscow and Tokyo had stepped up talks at the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017, following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent visit to the land of the rising sun.
"There is such an idea [to build a bridge connecting Sakhalin and Hokkaido], but first of all, Sakhalin needs to be connected to the mainland [Russia], not to Hokkaido," Ivanov emphasized.
In his opinion, only after Sakhalin is connected to the Russian mainland, "the question of economics will crop up, be it in 30 or 40 years from now - it couldn’t be any sooner if we talk about transport - on whether transportation volume will grow to such an extent that the construction of a bridge or a tunnel [between Sakhalin and Hokkaido] will pay off."
"Experts tell us to forget about bridges, because a bridge will never pay off since there isn’t any huge volume of transportation. This is not the Kerch Strait Bridge, which is to be an important economic lifeline," the Russian presidential envoy pointed out.
At the same time, Ivanov admitted that "a tunnel is possible." "A tunnel around 51 kilometers long could be compared to the Eurotunnel [between Britain and France]. Of course, from a technological point of view, it is possible to build, only the economic issue remains, whether it will pay off," he noted.
However, in the Kremlin envoy’s words, "if there is no connection between Sakhalin and the mainland, all other plans will be pointless." Ivanov added that connecting Sakhalin to Russia’s mainland "is a long-cherished dream, and (Joseph) Stalin was one of those who planned to do it but did not succeed."
"The Soviet Union failed to implement many plans, including the project to build a road connecting Chita and Khabarovsk, but we did it," Ivanov stressed. The presidential envoy did not say when the plan to connect Sakhalin to the mainland Russia could be implemented, noting that such projects were managed by the transport ministry.