Global Governance
Transport and Pandemic: The Development of Land Transport Corridors in the EAEU

Russian Railways pays particular attention to the diversification of transit routes and the creation of new transport corridors. For example, in the Central Asia region, in addition to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan is beginning to play an increasingly significant role in the development of Euro-Asian transit. This is reflected in the active development of the railway infrastructure, as well as in the search for new logistics solutions and routes, writes Anton Kozlov, Head of Foreign Projects and the International Cooperation Department at JSC Russian Railways, speaker of the first session of the Valdai Club conference “Russia and Central Asia Facing the Challenges of the New World — A Joint Path to the Future”.

The Covid-19 pandemic has become a major challenge for all kinds of transport. At the same time, railway transportation has shown its reliability and efficiency amid the existing restrictions. By the end of 2020, the loading volume of the Russian Railways network decreased by only 2.7% and amounted to 1.2 billion tonnes, and for certain items (construction cargo, grain, fertilisers) a positive increase was achieved. Container traffic through the Russian Railways network reached record indicators (5.8 million TEU, + 15.9% in comparison to 2019).

The dominance of incomes from freight traffic (about 70%) in the holding’s revenue allowed the company to feel relatively confident amid the crisis.

Of course, the main consequences of epidemiological restrictions were manifested in the dynamics of passenger traffic. Over the year, Russian Railways carried 872 million passengers (-27.2% in comparison to 2019), recovering from a 4-fold decrease in traffic during last year’s lockdowns. Taking into account the adaptation to the epidemiological situation, we are working to restore passenger traffic. In particular, at the end of April this year, our high-speed rail link with Belarus was restored. Since April 30, Lastochka trains have transported more than 22,000 people between Moscow and Minsk.

The renewal of the rolling stock continues. Design solutions with an emphasis on personal passenger space have received positive feedback. The plans for this year are to start using new carriages for transporting people to Russia’s south.

The key factors of survival in the pandemic have been the readiness of the IT infrastructure for remote work, support from the government, the maximum use of the company’s medical infrastructure, and adjusted new schemes for working with clients, which have been developed over the years.

Russian Railways firmly retains the status of a land transport bridge connecting the economic centres of Europe and Asia with the use of modern infrastructure. The demand for these services amid the current conditions has only increased — the volume of transit container cargo, taking into account transportation under new logistics schemes, has reached 830,900 TEU (+ 34.4% in comparison to 2019), including along the most active route, China — Europe — China, 592,000 TEU (+ 54.2% in comparison to 2019). The share of container traffic in the transit structure in 2020 increased by 10 percentage points from 20 to 30%, primarily due to the growth of traffic between East Asia and Europe.

By 2024, in accordance with President Vladimir Putin’s instructions, Russian Railways plans to reach the level of 1.7 million TEUs in container transit through its network.

Russian Railways’ key advantages include efficiency, speed, and the regularity of shipments. We have added more favourable economic conditions than, for example, those of sea operators. In addition, rail transport is more environmentally friendly, accounting for only 1% of the world’s harmful CO2 emissions.

On a daily basis Russian Railways creates conditions for strengthening a stable upward trend in the field of transportation in Russian and international traffic. The introduction of the latest technologies and the development of infrastructure is ensured in both linear and legal terms; both digitally and via logistics.

Strengthening the integration processes within the EAEU makes it possible to form a unique Eurasian transport and logistics product in the so-called “1520 area”, the main advantages of which are a balanced tariff policy, harmonised transportation rules, the absence of additional overburden due to a unified track gauge, end-to-end traffic schedules, and no need for customs operations within the EAEU.

For more than a quarter of a century, the coordination of all the main organisational issues has been successfully carried out within the framework of the Council for Rail Transport of the CIS Member States.

Digital solutions will determine the future of the trans-Eurasian railway services. For the digitalisation of cargo transportation, efforts are underway to create a single digital space using end-to-end information technologies and the transition to electronic document management. Measures are being taken to develop electronic interaction with control authorities, to improve the regulatory framework, including the wider use of the unified consignment notes according to CIM/Agreement on International Goods Transport by Rail. Work continues to promote the INTERTRAN information technology and expand the geography of the project.

Particular attention is paid to the diversification of transit routes and the creation of new transport corridors. For example, in Central Asia, along with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan is beginning to play an increasingly significant role in the development of Euro-Asian transit. This is reflected in the active development of railway infrastructure, as well as in the search for new logistics solutions and routes. At present, Russian Railways, together with colleagues from Uzbekistan, are exploring the possibility of participation in a number of projects in Central Asia. Traditionally, Russian Railways has had successful cooperation with the railways of Kyrgyzstan.

In conclusion, it is important to note that today, well-functioning and multiple railway arteries are a necessary basis for the balanced development of national economies, allowing for them to neutralise the effects of “black swans”. Railways contribute to the greater resiliency of economies and societies by facilitating access to markets, increasing territorial connectivity, and meeting the needs of the population for fast and comfortable transportation.

Global Governance
Eurasian Railway Breakthrough
Djoomart Otorbaev
Despite the ongoing global economic crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year has once again seen outstanding results for the Khorgos “dry port” on the border between Kazakhstan and China, which links China with Central Asia, Russia and Europe.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.