Return to London please, via Moscow: Kremlin paves way for East to West rail link after after 'approving' $99bn Bering Strait tunnel
Sep 21, 2011 - Will Longbottom - dailymail.co.uk
The prospect of an epic train journey from New York to London might seem like a distant dream for those seeking the ultimate railway holiday.
But booking a ticket from Grand Central to St Pancras Station could be a step closer after Russia gave the green light for plans for a 65-mile tunnel under the Bering Strait.
The Kremlin this week gave its support for a $99billion scheme that would link Asia and North America and allow for a potential once-in-a-lifetime train journey.
Trip of a lifetime: The Kremlin has given the green light for a £60billion tunnel linking Siberia to Alaska through the Bering Strait
The views would be breathtaking: A snowmobile makes its away across the frozen tundra in Alaska
Better wrap up warm: If the tunnel was ever built, the train journey would probably take the best part of three weeks in sub zero temperatures
The proposed tunnel would pass underneath the Big Diomede and Little Diomede islands and straddle the international dateline to link East and West.
Engineers have said there is no technical reason the tunnel could not be completed and it could provide a cheaper way of shipping freight around the world, The Times reported.
The idea was first raised by Tsar Nicholas II in 1905, but was this week endorsed by Aleksandr Levinthal - deputy federal representative for the Russian Far East - at a conference on developing infrastructure in the country's remote north-east.
A dream too far? The plans would see a 65-mile tunnel, twice that of the Channel Tunnel, bored through the international date line in the Bering Strait (pictured)
Rejuvenation: Russia will open a £900million extension to the Trans-Siberian railway to Yakutsk and could link to the north-eastern tip of Siberia by 2030
The three-day conference, held in the eastern city of Yakutsk, brought delegates from the U.S., China and Britain and was aimed at capturing the economic potential of the resource-rich region.
Mr Levinthal told The Times: 'We should see advanced development of road and rail infrastructure here [in the Russian Far East] and improvement in the investment climate in Russia as a key aim.'
A 500-mile railway line stemming from the existing Trans-Siberian line to Yakutsk - costing £900million and due for completion in 2013 - is part of Kremlin plans to extend rail lines 2,360 miles to the north-eastern tip of Siberia by 2030.
That could open up the way for the construction of a tunnel - which could take up to another 15 years to complete.
The route would be twice the length of the Channel Tunnel, in a sparsely populated area miles from large population centres.
It would also require U.S. engineers to create through train lines in Alaska, linking it with cities in Canada and onwards.
Currently, travellers would have to get a ferry to Anchorage, Alaska, from the U.S. west coast and train services in Russia would only take you as far as Chita or Vladivostock, before they move down into China and Mongolia.
It remains to be seen whether Russia could finance such an ambitious project, but it opens up the possibility of a breathtaking train journey through picturesque Siberia and Alaska.