The way to the coldest city in the world is finally open, with a railway that runs for 900km on the permafrost of Northern Russia.
Russia’s new “Permafrost Express” has officially made its first journey on 27 July. The Express runs on a line branching off from two of the most famous railway lines in Russia (and probably the world) – the Trans-Siberian line, connecting the country’s capital Moscow to Vladivostok on Golden Horn Bay; and the Baikal-Amur Mainline, which runs parallel to the Trans-Siberian through the Russian Far East.
The Baikal-Amur Mainline (also known as BAM) branches off of the Trans-Siberian at Tayshet, while the new Permafrost Express detaches itself from the BAM at Tynda, running north towards the coldest city on the planet, Yakutsk on the Lena River. Yakutsk is Russia’s diamond capital and the largest city in the world built on continuous permafrost, and temperatures are an average of -10.4°C, while the all-time low ever registered was in the 1860s, with the thermometers dropping to -64.4°C.
Before the Permafrost Express, Yakutsk was served only by two small airports and was absolutely inaccessible by road. And while this new railway technically stops at the Nizhny Bestyakh station, on the other side of the river from Yakutsk, it has definitely helped in the opening of a road that was once only available to cargo.
The Permafrost Express adds 1200km (900 of which built on permafrost) to the already existing 9280 of the Trans-Siberian line, a major feat of engineering which started during the reign of the second to last Russian tsar, in the 1890s. It's still being expanded to this day – with works like the BAM and the new Permafrost Express, also known as the “Little BAM” because of the similar challenges the cold climate posed to their construction.
With the Permafrost Express functioning and carrying new adventurers through the heart of Siberia, there are already talks of the possibility of expanding the line northwards and into Alaska, when the hypothetical Bering Strait crossing will be up and running. That way, travellers could potentially travel from London to New York City by train instead of flying.