“Alliances come first”
The further development of railfreight transport activities, both on broad-gauge as well as normal-gauge tracks, was again the central issue addressed by the ’International Business Forum 1520 Strategic Partnership’ in Russia. Christian Doepgen was there for the ITJ.
The size of the country RZD serves means it is no surprise that the approach favoured by the Russian Railways (RZD) is to take a comprehensive view. Major metropolises such as Moscow have to be served by passenger and goods transport solutions, and consignments have to be shipped across massive distances, for example to Siberia. The railways’ significance to Russia and its economy continue to grow. From January to May RZD transported 567 million t of goods (+3.8% vis-à-vis the previous year) and 430 million passengers (+9.7%).
The share of city logistics
A new era started in the Russian capital in September last year, when the Moscow Central Circle rail line (MCC) opened. 41 million passengers were transported between January and May 2017 – a performance that was also down to the inspection and maintenance rhythm of Lastochka locomotives in their depot. The 62 trains deployed on the line can operate at three-minute intervals, also because a small inspection is carried out every time an engine has covered another 22,000 km. Two trains can be serviced simultaneously in the depot, and a reserve track remains available for emergencies. This reduces cancellations to a minimum.
RZD has a number of international cooperation agreements in place, for example a technical joint venture with Siemens that was established in 2008, or one with Bombardier, for signalling systems, but the bottom line is that more than 80% of all technical spare parts are manufactured in Russia.
At the same time these routes are open to 20 to 23 freight trains every day, which serve twelve inner-city freight terminals. The MCC thus also ensures that Moscow’s cargo transport heart never misses a beat.
In Russia’s ‘Olympic capital’ of Sochi, or rather in the Rosa Khutor alpine skiing resort nearby, RZD president Oleg Belozerov (inset below) presented the framework of RZD’s direct or indirect collaboration with 40 nations.
The corporation puts a great emphasis on cost-efficient and rapid goods transport in the international corridors passing through the country. This allows the railways to compete with airfreight solutions, for example between Moscow and Beijing – provided the framework is right, Belozerov elaborated. Other issues he addressed included the implementation of innovative solutions at the international level. “Alliances come first” in this field. Besides digitalisation, open markets are another key issue for RZD’s president. Belozerov also underlined the option for international networks to establish hubs in Russia.
Broad-gauge partners abroad
RZD’s international partners made the best of the forum to present ambitious plans. Thus Saeed Mohammadzadeh (inset above), president of the Railways of the Islamic Republic of Iran (RAI), pointed out that his country is investing USD 1.5 – 2 billion in the railways through to the year 2020. The private sector is also expected to play a role in the expansion of five international corridors, the electrification of some routes and the renewal of RAI’s rolling stock.
Rajen Gohain, India’s minister of state in the railway ministry, also has broad-gauge construction plans that he wants to complete by 2020. An eastern and a western ‘dedicated freight corridor’ will require around USD 12 billion in investment (see also page 90 of ITJ 19-20 / 2017, amongst several reports in the ITJ). Approximately 19% of the funds are expected to be raised through PPP schemes.
In Cuba, in turn, private enterprise still takes rather a back seat. Eduardo Rodriguez Davila, the island state’s deputy transport minister, revealed his government’s targets. In 2016, 14.7 million t of goods were transported by rail in the country; this figure is expected to rise to 22.3 million t by 2022. He is pinning great hopes on Russian support to achieve this goal.
UTLC operates transport services between Europe and China. Its president Alexey Grom made it clear what weight international networks carry in Russia’s freight transportation strategy. In 2016 UTLC broke through the 100,000 teu barrier on its routes, and 2017 has already seen it grow by 40%. Further developments would appear promising.