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BAM today

The opening of the Severomuisk Tunnel marked the completion of the BAM project as it was originally envisaged. However, even now work continues: much of the line is only single track, and unlike the main Trans-Siberian line, unelectrified. This greatly restricts the tonnage of freight that can be carried, and the railroad is maintained in working order only by the unnecessary diversion of freight trains from the main southern route.
For much of the last twenty years BAM’s future has looked bleak. Funds earmarked for developing resource-extraction and manufacturing industries in the BAM area were swallowed up by construction of the track itself, and thus much of the proposed development of north-eastern Siberia never took place. With most of the original building work taking place in the context of a Soviet command economy, the cost of the project in its entirety is difficult to calculate– but some estimates go as high as $30 billion.
Nevertheless, the long term future of BAM looks brighter. The vast untapped mineral resources are still there; ready to be exploited when the world economy makes the effort financially worthwhile. With electrification and dual-tracking, the line will be able to take traffic of the same tonnage and speed as that on the original Trans-Siberian route; with the BAM line being 450km shorter, it will start to become an attractive option for sending freight and passengers between the continents of Europe and Asia.