RZD president looks to growing traffic from Asia to make up for fall in EU exports

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    Russian Railways’ (RZD) president, Oleg Belozerov, has spoken about his commitment to improving rail links to Europe as the company looks to capatalise on traffic growth from Asia.

    Belozerov made the comments during the opening of the 1520 Strategic Partnership’s 11th international rail business forum at Sochi today.

    The forum brings together all business partners and stakeholders associated with Russian-gauge (1520 mm) railways.

    This is Belozerov’s first forum as president, having  taken over the leadership of RZD from Vladimir Yakunin last year.

    He reflected on how the forum had created the environment for the successes of the previous 10 years and that the additional connectivity was “the locomotive of economic growth”.

    He expected the forum to focus on the needs of the customer and the development of transportation corridors both east/west and north/south. This included a route to the port of Murmansk in Northwest Russia to provide faster route to the eastern ports of North America.

    However, the forum has also dealt with current realities, as sanctions have reduced Russian imports by 37 per cent. For this reason, Russia is looking towards the Asia/Pacific region where traffic is expected to grow threefold by 2025.

    He did, however, stress the importance of European traffic and reaffirmed Russian Railways’ commitment to the construction of a Russian-gauge line to Vienna. The line would extend Europe’s broad-gauge rail network from Košice in Slovakia to Bratislava and Vienna.

    Whilst much of the forum is to deal with domestic matters, such as building the 770 km high-speed line between Moscow and Kazan, which is to open in 2021, speakers from Germany, Finland and Iran emphasised its international nature.

    Till Klinner of the German Federal Foreign office noted that despite current difficulties there was widespread agreement about the need for a common economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostock.

    He emphasised that the purpose of the sanctions was to ensure implementation of the Minsk agreement, the direct intention was not to punish Russia. He said there was potential to reduce the sanctions regime as progress was made on the Minsk agreement.

    This was later reinforced by the German Ambassador to Russia who stated that a good relationship between Germany and Russia was essential.

    The chief executive of Finnish Railways, Mikael Aro, regretted the imposition of sanctions but nevertheless advised that cargo volumes between Russia and Finland had increased by 15 per cent. He was also pleased with the success of the Allegro trains, 140 mph Pendolino variants, which were introduced in 2010.

    Following the lifting of sanctions against Iran, the president of Iran Railways, Mohsen Poursayed Aghaei, announced plans to increase rail traffic and develop rail routes as part of north/south rail corridors that will be able to compete against shipping traffic. This included increasing Iran’s rail network from 10,500 to 19,500 km, with work already underway on 5,000 km of new lines.

    By 2025, Iran expects domestic freight traffic to increase from 11 to 30 per cent and passenger traffic to increase from 10 to 18 per cent.

    The forum finishes tomorrow, June 3.

    Report by David Shirres

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