Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rail Freight Traffic Grows As Infrastructure Investment Continues

Cargo Levels and Turnover Both Up for Russian Railways
Shipping News Feature

RUSSIA – Russian Railways (RzD) has released its latest freight statistics showing total traffic exceeding 105 million tonnes in July representing an increase of 2.4% from the same period of last year whilst turnover increased by 4.5%. Freight haulage in the first seven months of 2011 totalled 713.7 million tonnes, up 3.7% from the same period of 2010, and included 11.5 million tonnes of containerised cargo, a 14.4% increase.

The company expects to spend in excess of €8.7 billion in 2011 on infrastructure upgrades and so far the investment budget has reached €3.9 billion in the first seven months of 2011, nearly 5% over estimate. Russian Railways have agreed to invest in passenger cars supplied by Spanish group Patentes Talgo, which will possibly have ramifications for freight traffic in the future.

The Talgo system features a mechanism to change the gauge of its wheelsets automatically from the Russian national broad-gauge standard of 1520mm to the European narrow-gauge width of 1435mm, as well as a coach-tilting system, which allows greater speeds through tight bends, cutting journey times by 20-30%. This automatic gauge-change system allows trains to pass from one track gauge to another without stopping. Vladimir Yakunin, President of Russian Railways commented that Spain is the only country with many years of experience in the safe operation of rolling stock with automatic gauge change systems and therefore the equipment would suit his companies long term plans for high speed rail.

Meanwhile the Russians are pushing ahead with the idea of the construction of a broad-gauge railway line to Vienna, including the development of detailed proposals for funding and implementing the project, as well as the business model and marketing strategy for new broad-gauge tracks and terminals. Russian Railways and Austrian Railways (ÖBB) have signed a cooperation agreement on three core activities: logistics and intensifying freight shipments between Asia and Europe, technology transfer and development, and implementing joint infrastructure projects.

"A continuously operating broad-gauge line from Russia, China and other Asian countries to Central Europe will create a competitive and environmentally friendly transport product across the Eurasian continent," said Mr Yakunin.

In 2010, the international consulting firm Roland Berger Strategy Consultants completed preliminary research which showed that the new line would attract between 16 and 24 million tons of additional cargo by 2050. Ultimately, the additional economic benefits from the project will be shared by 33 countries in Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Far East, as well as Russia itself.

Faster railfreight services would become available to service users combined with reduced fuel costs. Delivery times from Asia to Western Europe will be reduced to 15 days, which would be the main attraction for cargo clients who formerly relied on ocean carriage.