MOSCOW, April 4 (RIA Novosti) - The Sakhalin Rail will shift from its narrow gauge to a broad, to match railroads in the Russian mainland. The change promises to cut freight tariffs in Russia's Pacific island threefold, Russian Rail Co. PR say with reference to Hasian Ziabirov, company First Deputy President.

South Sakhalin belonged to Japan from 1905 to 1945, and the island inherited the narrow-gauge railroad from it. An ambitious investment project has been launched now to modernize the rail. Apart from broadening the gauge, it envisages 28 bridges reconstructed, tunnels widened, and detours built close to them. The project is estimated at 15 billion rubles, a sum slightly exceeding $500 million.

"Once the project is implemented, the Russian Rail will be able to give up a progressive tariff coefficient for freight transportation. This coefficient has been 3 vs. the national railroad network tariff," said Mr. Ziabirov.

The Sakhalin narrow-gauge road makes problems with delivering pipes and construction materials and machinery for a petroleum and gas pipeline being laid there. The road rolling stock demands replacement with outdating and wear-and-tear. The Russian Rail expects road modernization to reduce transportation costs to the least possible.

"To reduce the share of transportation costs in the prices of produce Sakhalin-based industrial companies are offering means to make that produce much more competitive, and the island's economic progress more dynamic," added Mr. Ziabirov.

Gauge standardization will quite soon allow to shift to the railroad up to 20 per cent of coal transported from the Solntsevo field and of timber, say experts. Meanwhile, a greater part of those cargos are delivered from the Sakhalin north by trucks.

The Sakhalin Rail updating will put an end to railroad car readjustment, and so reduce by 15 per cent the costs of freight ferrying between Vanino seaport, Khabarovsk Territory in the Russian continental Far East, and Kholmsk in Sakhalin's south. Railroad maintenance costs will go 17-20 per cent down, and rolling stock maintenance by 12-15 per cent. The modernization will spectacularly enhance transport safety and speed.

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