New railway in Siberia set to open linking Moscow with the coldest city in the world, Yakutsk4 min read

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All aboard the Permafrost Express: New railway in Siberia set to open linking Moscow with the coldest city in the world – on a line that may one day continue to America

  • The new Amur-Yakutsk Mainline runs from the Trans-Siberian to a suburb of the world’s coldest city, Yakutsk
  • The line is the first stage in a new mega-Russian railway that one day might extend to Alaska 
  • It will be a boon for train fanatics and tourists seeking new adventures in a region almost as large as India 

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A major new railway line in Siberia is due to open this week, allowing tourists to travel to Yakutia – the heart of Russia’s permafrost-and-diamond region.

The new Amur-Yakutsk Mainline – known as the Ayam – runs from the world’s longest line, the Trans-Siberian, to a suburb of the world’s coldest city, Yakutsk.

Yakutsk has the best-value diamonds in the world and ice caves cut into the permafrost.

The new Amur-Yakutsk Mainline - known as the Ayam - runs from the world’s longest line, the Trans-Siberian, to a suburb of the world’s coldest city, Yakutsk (pictured)

The new Amur-Yakutsk Mainline – known as the Ayam – runs from the world’s longest line, the Trans-Siberian, to a suburb of the world’s coldest city, Yakutsk (pictured) 

Yakutsk has the best-value diamonds in the world and ice caves cut into the permafrost. Pictured is a frozen river in the city

Yakutsk has the best-value diamonds in the world and ice caves cut into the permafrost. Pictured is a frozen river in the city

The line is the first stage in a new mega-Russian railway that one day might see a link from the far-flung Chukotka region in the far east of Russia to Alaska, in theory enabling travellers to go by rail from Britain to destinations all over North America.

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The new 770-mile single-track line includes a 560-mile stretch over permafrost – permanently frozen ground soil – and is considered a major Russian engineering achievement. There are bridges crossing several major rivers and construction capable of withstanding both deep cold and heat. There’s an annual temperature fluctuation of almost 100 degrees centigrade.

The line is the first major new tourist rail route in Siberia since the 2,687-mile Baikal-Amur Mainline, which was designed by Stalin with gulag labourers building key stretches, but only fully opened in 1989.

The opening of the Ayam is scheduled for Saturday and the first services will run return between Moscow and Nizhny Bestyakh, a station (pictured) on the Lena River that connects with nearby Yakutsk by ferry in summer and 'ice road' in winter

The opening of the Ayam is scheduled for Saturday and the first services will run return between Moscow and Nizhny Bestyakh, a station (pictured) on the Lena River that connects with nearby Yakutsk by ferry in summer and ‘ice road’ in winter

The new 770-mile line (pictured) includes a 560-mile stretch over permafrost - permanently frozen ground soil - and is considered a major Russian engineering achievement

The new 770-mile line (pictured) includes a 560-mile stretch over permafrost – permanently frozen ground soil – and is considered a major Russian engineering achievement

It will be a boon for train fanatics and tourists seeking new adventures in a region almost as large as India straddling the Arctic Circle, where temperatures dip below minus 60C in winter but touch 35C in summer.

Trips can be combined with the 5,772-mile Trans-Siberian journey and other Russian Railways routes.

The opening of the Ayam is scheduled for Saturday and the first services will run return between Moscow and Nizhny Bestyakh, a station on the Lena River that connects with nearby Yakutsk by ferry in summer and ‘ice road’ in winter.

The line will be a boon for train fanatics and tourists seeking new adventures in a region almost as large as India straddling the Arctic Circle, where temperatures dip below minus 60C in winter but touch 35C in summer

The line will be a boon for train fanatics and tourists seeking new adventures in a region almost as large as India straddling the Arctic Circle, where temperatures dip below minus 60C in winter but touch 35C in summer

A bridge is later expected to connect the railway to downtown Yakutsk, and from here there are dreams of extending the new line along the route of the Road of Bones to Magadan on Russia’s Pacific coast.

The road’s name derives from Gulag political prisoners who died there building the highway on Stalin’s orders.

‘[The line] will give a sensational new option to travelling in Russia, branching off from the other two great lines – the world-famous Trans-Siberian and the spectacular Baikal-Amur (BAM) route – to head north into the “Kingdom of Cold”,’ reported The Siberian Times today.

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Unlike the other great Siberian railways, which go west-to-east, this line is south-to-north.

At the Ayam’s most southerly point is Bamovskaya station on the Trans-Siberian line, with the line also intersecting with the BAM line.

The opening realises a dream that dates back to the reign of Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia.

In 1904, French entrepreneur Loic de Lobel, with American collaborators, offered Russia a plan to construct a railway from Siberia to Alaska through Yakutia – the world’s coldest region – and Chukotka.

The first freight train is greeted in Nizhny Bestyakh in 2014. The station will be open for passengers from Saturday

The first freight train is greeted in Nizhny Bestyakh in 2014. The station will be open for passengers from Saturday

The Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 put a stop to this.

Stalin began the first stage of the Ayam – but then dismantled the rails in 1942 and used the metal for armaments.

Later stages of the line were built – including under Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader – but its key final section of 240 miles had remained uncompleted until now.

The route has been running cargo trains after an opening by prime minister Dmitry Medvedev in 2014, but only now has Moscow given the go-ahead to open the route to passengers.

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