Thursday, April 8, 2010

Europe - Asia Freight Rail Link Takes Step Forward

Agreement Signed for Investment Study
Shipping News Feature

RUSSIA / UKRAINE / SLOVAKIA / AUSTRIA – Ambitious plans by the rail administrations and transport authorities in these countries to build a broad gauge track linking Košice in Slovakia to Vienna have taken a step forward after representatives signed an agreement to prepare an investment study on the project in Bratislava on Tuesday.

The participants aim is to make rail freight a viable alternative to ocean transport for the trade routes between Asia and Europe. If the link project goes ahead the need to shift cargo between trains at stations where the European rail network meets the broad-gauge track will be avoided.

The project’s participants believe that this will halve freight delivery times from Europe relative to sea routes – from 30 to 14 days - and the working capital saved, depending on the value of the freight, will be between $100 and $1000 per container. Projections by the Russian rail operator, RZD, state that by 2025 some 18.5 million tons will be carried on the Vienna – Bratislava line.

President of RZD, Vladimir Yakunin, said that: “I would like to note that we consider the project to build the Košice - Bratislava – Vienna rail line, along with other international projects of Russian Railways, to be a centre of gravity for other areas of business, cumulatively forming a powerful trade and transport system.

“This will prove to be a catalyst for the process of rapprochement and effective cooperation between 1520 mm and 1435 mm gauge railway systems, and will provide a boost to economic ties between countries of the European Union and Russia, and between Europe and Asia as a whole”.

Under the current estimates a feasibility study, business plan and design work will be conducted throughout 2011-13, with construction of the new line scheduled for 2013-2015. Commercial train services will begin in 2016. Costs for the construction are expected to exceed 4.7 billion euros.