Russia’s railways ministry has refused to approve US$4.5bn in funding for ambitious plans to build a combined rail tunnel-bridge between the Russian mainland and Sakhalin Island in the Russian Far East. The tunnel was to be the first link in an undersea fixed connection with Japan.

Railway minister Gennady Fadeyev gave his blunt response to a plea for financial help by Igor Farkhutdinov, the Sakhalin regional governor.

Fadeyev said he personally favoured plans for the tunnel-bridge link but the ministry did not have the cash to finance such a massive project.