“The transit of containers by rail from China to Europe can exceed 2 million TEUs per year,” says Oleg Belozerov
The prospects of realising the transit potential of the railways of Asia and Europe were the main topic of discussion at the plenary session of the 2019 International Railway Congress in Vienna on 18 March.
"The main idea of the Belt and Road Initiative is to build infrastructure to ensure the supply of Chinese goods to the European Union. This initiative embraces about 100 countries and represents an opportunity for Russia’s railways to increase their share in the growing Eurasian transit market," said Oleg Belozerov, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Russian Railways, who was speaking at the Congress’s plenary session.
Belozerov noted that the total volume of China’s trade with partners already amounted to about $5 trillion and that the rail network of Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) traditionally played the role of a "land bridge" connecting the largest economies in Europe and Asia.
"A few years ago we could only imagine that almost 600,000 containers would pass through Russia, but we have now reached this figure. We see a 30% increase on the previous year. We could achieve a volume of 2 million TEUs per annum and more," said Oleg Belozerov.
To achieve such results, Russian Railways, for its part, is planning measures to reduce the transportation time of containers from the Far East to Russia’s western border to just 7 days. It is envisaged in particular that the implementation of large-scale infrastructure projects for the reconstruction of Baikal-Amur Main Line and the Trans-Siberian will increase the speed of container trains from 1,150 to 1,500 kilometres per day.
In addition, the CEO of Russian Railways sees the construction of the 1520 mm gauge Košice - Bratislava - Vienna railway line as a priority project.
"This project will take the work of the railways to a new level. For the first time, we will try out new technologies in terms of the speed of border crossings and the harmonisation of all the legal issues. We need to pay maximum attention to ensure that all this is implemented as soon as possible," said Oleg Belozerov.
The CEO also mentioned several important joint initiatives to increase transit traffic.
"It is important to have a unified regulatory framework. A lot has been done within the framework of the International Union of Railways, but more needs to be done. We need to cross borders faster. We travel long distances quickly, but the freight can stand idle for two days at the border while waiting for customs clearance," he said.
In the opinion of the head of Russian Railways, another important aspect was the improvement of personnel training.
"We are accustomed to traditional railway professions, but we need to create new ones based on the application of new digital technologies. These will be the real railway workers of the future," he said.
Another key aspect according to Oleg Belozerov, was the introduction of digital technologies.
"Tools such as blockchain and smart contracts can allow us to make decisions in a fraction of a second and save billions of dollars," he said.