Saturday, May 29, 2010

Russian Rail Freight Update

V International Rail Business Forum Produces Results
Shipping News Feature

RUSSIA - This week saw the V International Rail Business Forum “1520 Strategic Partnership” take place in Sochi. The two day event was opened by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov who justified continued Government financial support for Russian Railways (RZD) saying the decline in freight transport throughout 2009 meant such assistance was in fact support for the whole country. He said that in helping Russian Railways to implement its investment programme, the government is also helping national industries that produce train cars, metals, locomotives and many other products.

Over 900 participants from more than 30 countries attended the forum which is so called as it promotes the 1520 mm gauge to accelerate the development of transport links between Europe, CIS countries, and China. From 2012 the new programmes introduced by RZD should reduce freight delivery times from the eastern to western borders of Russia to a week.

The main themes of the forum were to attract investment to the railway sector, integrating railway businesses in the 1520 Area and among all participants in the Eurasian transport system, modernizing tariffs, and preparing for 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Rail lines with 1520 mm gauge tracks comprise around 15% of the total global railway network. Broad-gauge lines unite the rail systems of Russia and other Commonwealth of Independent States members, as well as the Baltic states, Mongolia, and Finland. The total track length in these countries is over 150,000 km.

The Forum saw several agreements signed or ratified between members of the rail community. Russian Railways, the Spanish Administrator of Railway Infrastructures (ADIF), and Talgo have signed a joint declaration on continuing cooperation in studying the possibility and viability of using Talgo gauge-changing systems on boundaries between the railway systems with 1435 mm and 1520 mm track gauges. Following the results of an economic evaluation, an in-depth analysis is planned to be conducted in 2011 on technical and operational conditions for the installation of Talgo gauge-change systems, the need for investment, with the preparation of detailed proposals on timeframes, and on means of implementing the project.

The gauge changing equipment is already being tested by the interested parties with the delivery of a laboratory train with variable-gauge axles to the VNIIZhT test loop at the Shcherbinka station in February to assess the viability of the automatic gauge-change wheelsets for use amid the conditions of Russia’s climate and rail system.

Another agreement signed at Sochi was an agreement by RZD to purchase 221 electric freight locomotives from the joint venture set up by Sinara Group and Siemens, the Urals Locomotive Company. As part of the agreement, the companies also signed a plan for localizing production of Siemens components in Russia using engineering techniques 80% of which had not previously been applied in Russian machine building.

Further agreements reached at the forum were to reconstruct the tunnels on the Sochi – Matsesta line under the project “Construction of a second track on the Sochi – Adler line of the North Caucasus Railway” in a joint venture between RZD and Alpine Bau GmbH - Alpline-RZDstoyGmbH. These work s are scheduled for completion by the end of 2012. A further joint venture will see construction of the Alptransit Brenner Baulos A1 – Grundausrüstung tunnel in the State of Tyrol and the construction of two tunnels in Sochi, as part of infrastructure for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

For its own part RZD were proud to announce that their programme of energy saving measures was continuing apace. The company claimed to have also saved money by switching light signals to LED units and Russian Deputy Economics Minister Stanislav Voskresensky commented :

“We hope that Russian Railways becomes an example for other major state companies, which are not yet actively turning to energy-saving initiatives. This will allow us to demonstrate genuine results for society”, he said, adding that the government has set a target of improving energy efficiency by 40% by 2020.

Photo: Courtesy of Talgo