A Buzz Across Siberia

Chalk one up for the Motherland.

It has taken 74 years - longer than the average Russian's lifetime - to finally complete electrification of the entire Trans-Siberian Railroad. As of last week, the world's longest track can now work as a unified system, with electric trains running from Moscow to Vladivostock, a distance of nearly 6,000 miles.

The development is not just significant for railroad buffs. Tons of raw materials need to be transported from Siberia, including timber, coal, and various ores. With roads in bad shape and vast distances to cover, every improvement in the railroad helps Russia's economy.

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The Far East portion of the line already carries about a third of Russia's exports, and officials hope that full electrification will boost traffic on the famed railroad by 40 percent.

While Western countries struggle with overcapacity in railroads, that's not a problem Russia has, or probably ever will have. Its rail system is turning big profits and is about to be transformed from a Soviet-era ministry to a state-owned company. Corruption also has been uncovered, and that augers well for cost-cutting.

In 1891, Czar Alexander III had a dream to unite Asian and European Russia and drew up plans for the legendary railroad. After his death, his son Nicholas continued the work, and the gargantuan public-works project built by the sweat of men and horses was finally finished in 1906.

Russia still has big dreams. It wants to connect the Trans-Siberian to a planned railroad linking North and South Korea. Export-oriented South Korea could use the Russian land corridor as an alternative to sea travel for European-bound goods, and North Korea hungers for Russian raw materials.

The Korean project broke ground amid firework celebrations in September. Hopefully, it won't take three-quarters of a century to complete.

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