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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

70 Years On, Siberia Rail Built

A white elephant railway line running thousands of kilometers through the Siberian wastes was given a final touch Friday as engineers finished boring a tunnel they began some 25 years ago.

The Severomuisky tunnel is part of the 3,400-kilometer Baikal-Amur railway, one of the former Soviet Union's most grandiose building projects. It was built on and off from the 1930s to 1984, but lost money and was widely seen as a waste of time.

President Vladimir Putin sent a message of congratulations to the builders after they had finished boring from each side of the tunnel and met in the middle. The 15-kilometer tunnel straightens a kink in the line, avoiding a 200 kilometer diversion.

"The difficulties that were encountered during the laying of the tunnel could sometimes not be solved even by the most modern technology. But people continued working and brought the project to a close," the president said in a statement.

The tunnel took so long due to bad planning as workers blasted their way through rock only to find themselves being flooded by water, which was in some areas freezing cold and in others scalding hot from geo-thermal activity.

The railway runs from the town of Taishet, east of the northern tip of Lake Baikal, the world's deepest fresh water lake, to the Pacific port of Sovietskaya Gavan.

The Railways Ministry said it was pleased the tunnel was completed and hoped freight would rise to 20 million tons a year in five years or more.