Seven years ago a report emerged according to which China was planning to build a high-speed railway line.
A mammoth railway line, which from Beijing in a northeast direction would have crossed Siberia for 8.077 miles (13.000 km) and then travel 124 miles (200 km) underwater, across the Bering Strait to Alaska.
The ambitious plan (reported by numerous media outlets at the time) would have strengthened China's impressive high-speed rail line, stimulating trade between China, Russia, Canada and the US.
A railway line between the US and China?
At the moment everything is silent. The "China-Russia-Canada-America" railway line, as it was renamed at the time, seems destined to be forgotten.
Despite the alleged causes (I mentioned them before), recent reports indicate that the project would have been set aside for the pharaonic budget. 200 billion euros (this is the figure indicated by the South China Morning Post) are an enormity.
Detractors pointed out that flights and ships are a much cheaper option to trade, with infrastructure already in place.
But it's not just a question of price
I've been through several colossal projects like this one (I also made a post on it) and I must say that the engineering aspect of the problem is everything for me. The tunnel to pass this railway line would be an unprecedented undertaking.
It would be about four times the size of the longest underwater tunnels today: the Channel Tunnel between the UK and France and the Seikan Tunnel between Hokkaido and Honshu in Japan. Both about 50km long.
Could the China-Russia-Canada-America railway line still exist?
In other words, am I right or wrong to put this post in the category "yesterday's future"?
There are still some indications that the project could also be resumed (with a possible training of tensions between the US and China).
The original 2014 report referred to talks already at a very advanced stage between China and Russia. Engineers from both countries said they were confident of being able to leave.
As mentioned, on the technological level there would be no problems. China developed the first submarine bullet train as early as 2018, proving that the technology for a high-speed rail line is feasible even under the sea.
The first such stretch is nearing completion: 47,8 miles (77 kilometers) from Ningbo, a port city near Shanghai, to the islands of the Zhousan archipelago. 16,2km (10 miles) of that course will be underwater.
A test bed
Although the Ningbo to Zhousan line is much smaller than the Channel Tunnel, it will be a dress rehearsal for magnetic levitation underwater railway lines as well. If successful, it will certainly contribute to a relaunch of larger projects such as the China-Russia-Canada-America railway line.
And, on balance, it's only a matter of time. A “modern or ultra-modern” railway line (you choose the technology between maglev and Hyperloop) has excellent “green” credentials compared to other transport systems, and investments in this direction will increase.
Numerous innovations such as automated inspection (which allows you to manage many more kilometers of railway line, reducing the possibility of error almost to zero) will make real projects that today seem incredible to us.
Rail is responsible for only 2% of transport sector emissions, despite accounting for up to 40% of the volume of long-distance freight in various countries.
A railway line for tomorrow and the day after
Plans for a Channel Tunnel were delayed more than a hundred years before the tunnel came into existence in 1994.
So rest assured: this world will surely see a link between Siberia and Alaska sooner or later. It is not a question of "if", but of "when".