Four European banks have jointly committed to loan nearly €1.5 billion to finance the development of a new toll road by-passing the historic centre of St Petersburg, Russia.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has pledged €200 million to the fund. The EBRD is joined by the Vnesheconombank (VEB) (€600 million), VTB Capital and Gazprombank (€410 million) and the Eurasian Development Bank (€240 million).

The Western High-Speed Diameter (WHSD) toll road will divert up to 140,000 vehicles a day away from the World Heritage site of central St Petersburg.

The road will connect the city's major commercial port with the St Petersburg Ring Road in the south and with the Scandinavia motorway to Finland in the north. The new road will form an integral part of Pan-European Transport Corridor IX linking Helsinki, St Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev and the cities of southern Europe.

Parts of the 46 km WHSD will be built over water, requiring the construction of bridges and flyovers, as well as one tunnel.

When completed, the WHSD will enable haulage trucks to access the seaport of St Petersburg direct, rather than travelling through residential areas of the city.

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