The President of JSC “Russian Railways”, Vladimir Yakunin: Railways are the locomotive of the Russian economy

In his interview, Mr Yakunin states that railway transport in Russia is not only in a position to cater for the needs of the national economy and the population for such services, but also due to the specific geographical situation of the country, it can serve as a bridge between European and Asian markets. Therefore, the adequate utilisation of Russia’s transit potential should be not only a priority in the development of the transport system but could also become a “generator of economic growth”. According to him, railways today play the role of a “locomotive” for the Russian economy because the very establishment of railways and their subsequent development has been and still is the most important prerequisite for the affiliation and economic development of regions like Eastern Siberia and the Far East. Further to that, JSC “Russian Railways” is the largest consumer of the products of Russian industry and of its high-tech sectors in particular. Finally, the fact that, regardless of the constant rise of industrial prices, transport costs have definitely been going down surely stimulates Russian manufacturers.

For the development of the railway infrastructure and the funding for the construction of various objectives of national significance, the company annually needs at least RUB50 billion of external investments. The Russian Federation Investment Fund could become a funding source. The adequate development of the transport infrastructure demands pro-active state support, such as the implementation of mechanisms for state-public partnership, for example, but hitherto the implementation of this mechanism for JSC “Russian Railways” remains unviable. The new task of the company is to guarantee the competitiveness of the Russian railways, which will be a significant contribution for the development of national economy. The plans of JSC “Russian Railways” cover the period till 2020, and by 2010 the overall amount of investments allocated for the development of railway transport infrastructure will reach RUB200 billion. The fundamental problems for the establishment of a transport system of this extent concern the necessity of guaranteeing the provision of export-import freight services by rail, which in other words means the development of such an infrastructure sufficiently adequate to the planned indicators for industrial growth. This fact sets the task for the development of ports, and railway access to them. Furthermore, the scheme includes plans for the development of high-speed services along the railway lines to Helsinki and Moscow-St. Petersburg.

The active utilisation of the transit and export-import potential of Russia, as well as of the international transport corridors crossing the territory of the country, is among the major priorities of the foreign economic activity of JSC “Russian Railways”. It is of vital importance to establish the necessary preconditions to shift onto rail some of the cargoes which currently are transported by other modes and along alternative routes.

Jointly with Russian and foreign companies, the Russian Railways develops and implements measures for the facilitation of border-crossing procedures, implementation of modern information technologies and logistics support for the border control points. Much effort is dedicated to the implementation of up-to-date information technologies, mostly the electronic exchange of data about consignment notes and the e-declaration of cargo, which enhances their customs processing. An exemplary solution of such problems is the successful recent implementation of the “Eurotransit – 2005” project for a container block train along the Berlin-Moscow route. This project is implemented with the participation and under the special guidance of four railways – Russian, Byelorussian, Polish and German.

To the same end, jointly with the German company “Railion Deutschland AG” the Russian railways have established a joint venture because Germany is the largest European exporter and importer of goods to and from Asia.

The “North-South” axis is a subject of particular consideration. This route also has to guarantee the development of Euro-Asian transit transport using Russian transport communications (Northern Europe to Russia, with branch lines to the Caucasus, Central Asia and via the Caspian Sea to Iran, India and the Persian Gulf countries).

JSC “Russian Railways” have been constructing the necessary infrastructure for the growing transport along this route: thus in 2004, the company constructed with its own financial means a railway line, which links the new international Caspian port of Ola with the Russian railway network. A new intermodal route was established for the operation of regular container services for cargo to Iran. Recently, jointly with foreign partners the company has been working on solving the problem of the missing direct inland route along the Western coast of the Caspian Sea by means of the construction of a new railway line on Iranian territory.

Most of the projects are implemented with the company’s own investments, but consistent efforts are made to attract capital from leading foreign companies.

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