The bridge over the Kola River was built in 1930 and modernized in 2014. Last week, the aging infrastructure failed to withstand the rapidly rising waters and collapsed. Engineers had already discovered fractures in one of the bridge pillars at the end of last week, and rail traffic had been suspended. However, the restoration work was unsuccessful and large parts of the bridge fell into the river on Monday afternoon.
The result is a major blow to transport links in the northern Russian city. “Yes, the railway is halted. Murmansk is closed,” a source from a local company told the Interfax news agency. The Russian railway, which operates the line, has reportedly stopped all transport to Murmansk.
The situation has caused major headaches for both industry and the population in the region. Most of the goods transported to the Arctic city come by rail, and thousands of people use the train as their preferred means of transport.
The merchant port of Murmansk has already had to reject more than ten ships and is now struggling for alternative transport routes. The port normally handles significant quantities of goods from the region’s large industrial enterprises.
“The collapse of the bridge near Vykhodnoy station has led to a serious disruption of the large logistics chain, the most important element of which is the naval port of Murmansk,” says port director Aleksey Rykovanov. “Rail freight transport is of central importance to us,” he said in a commentary.
Both people and goods must now find new ways. According to the Murmansk regional government, parts of freight traffic are taken over by trucks.
“The logistics chains will be rebuilt and there will be no shortage of fuel or food,” Chibis said on its Facebook page.
The Russian railway, which owns and operates this line, is now starting to build a 5.7 km bypass of the bridge. This replacement line will eventually be part of the new railway line to Lavna. According to Chibis, the new line will be operational by June 23, 2020.
However, the reconstruction of the collapsed bridge will take longer. It will not be ready before October, the governor said after Wednesday’s meeting with the director general of the Russian railways Oleg Belozerov and the deputy federal transport minister Vladimir Tokarev.
Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal