An ambitious 25-year plan for the evolution of the Russian rail network was formally adopted on November 24, reports Boris Lukov

SPEAKING AT a special railway congress on November 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasised the importance of renovating the national rail network, and providing for a fundamental technical modernisation of rail transport throughout Russia. The congress formally adopted RZD's 'Strategy for Railway Development up to 2030', which had been endorsed by the government on September 6.

The Ministry of Economic Development & Trade prepared two strategies for the development of the national economy, one focusing on energy and mineral resources and the other - the 'innovative' scenario - based on diversification and the creation of a modern industrial base. In turn, RZD produced 'minimum' and 'maximum' options based on the two scenarios. The board subsequently picked the maximum version, to match the ministry's innovative strategy.

The two options differed mainly in the level of infrastructure construction, with a particular focus in the chosen option on capacity enhancement and the construction of new lines.

Investing for growth

According to RZD President Vladimir Yakunin, the Russian economy has been progressing rapidly over the last eight years, with Gross National Product increasing by an average of 6·5% per annum.

Over the last five years, RZD has carried an annual average of 1·3 billion tonnes, equivalent to a 43% share of the national freight market in terms of tonne-km. With 1·3 billion passengers per year, RZD also handles around 40% of national travel in terms of passenger-km. The growth strategy envisages that freight volumes will increase by 70% and passenger traffic by 30% between now and 2030.

In 2007 RZD invested 260bn roubles, which Yakunin said was 2·6 times as much as the previous year. But over the last 15 years the railway's assets have been wearing out, affecting both infrastructure and operations. Around 8 000 route-km, or 30% of the trunk network, is overloaded or close to capacity.

New lines are needed to open up mineral reserves, especially in the eastern and northern regions. At present seven of Russia's administrative regions have no railways at all, but Yakunin said that four of them - the Altay Republic, plus the Tyva, Magadan and Nenetsky autonomous districts - will get their first lines by 2030. In total, the strategy envisages the construction of 20 000 km of new lines by 2030 (Table I).

As well as the Moscow - St Petersburg high speed line, which was included in both options, the chosen strategy provides for rebuilding or upgrading the Moscow - Sochi line for 160 or 200 km/h running, and diverting the section along the Black Sea coast further inland. Work would also start after 2030 on a transcontinental main line from Yakutsk on the Lena river to Magadan on the Okhotsk Sea.

To handle the growing traffic, about 30 000 locomotives, 1 million wagons, 30 000 passenger carriages and 24 000 EMU cars would be acquired by 2030. Total cost is put at 13 700bn roubles, of which 10 600bn will go on developing the national network and 3 100bn on 'non-public' lines serving key industries (Table II).

Because of limits on state funding, RZD envisages financing the huge investment programme through public-private partnerships. No less than 76% of the investment will be met by the private sector, including 46% generated by RZD itself. The Russian Federation will provide 19·5%, and the remaining 4·5% will come from regional governments.

Two-stage programme

RZD says the development strategy will be delivered in two stages. The first covers 2008-15, during which time 'current operations will be fundamentally modernised' and capacity shortages addressed. Obsolete motive power and rolling stock will be replaced (p44), reducing average fleet age by about 15%.

A new generation of locomotives is under development based on the asynchronous-motored EP20 which is considered the standard for future motive power, with a rating of 1 200 kW per axle and a top speed of 200 km/h. This family will include single and twin-section designs for freight and passenger traffic on both 3 kV DC and 25 kV AC lines, plus a range of dual-system locomotives. The prototype GT1 gas-turbine locomotive (RG 9.07 p524) currently on test is demonstrating fuel savings of up to 30%, according to RZD Vice-President Valentin Gapanovich.

Adoption of asynchronous drives is expected to reduce energy use. Gapanovich says RZD is consuming 5% of Russia's total electric power, and this is projected to rise to 10% by 2010; electricity and diesel fuel currently account for 16% of RZD's total operating expenditure. Use of AC-motored locos would save about 16 million kWh per year, he predicts.

L Komarov, Deputy Director-General of the passenger business, said the introduction of double-deck coaches is a priority, along with EP20 locos capable of hauling trains of up to 24 coaches.

Stage 1 also provides for electrification of 3 500 route-km and the construction of 6 000 km of new lines.

Covering 2016-30, Stage 2 will see transport services improved radically and the rail network expanded to open up more opportunities for the regions, as well as serving different sectors of the national economy. 'Strategically and socially-important' railways will be developed to open up new freight markets, and existing freight corridors upgraded for heavier axleloads. The high speed network will also be expanded.

International co-operation

One of the main objectives is to integrate Russian Railways more closely into the European rail network, and promote the development of international transit corridors. This will improve rail's competitiveness against road and sea.

An agreement has been signed between the railways of Russia, Germany, Poland and Belarus establishing the Eurasia Rail Logistics joint venture to develop freight transport between Asia and Europe. RZD is also developing co-operation agreements with the railways of Slovakia, Austria and France.

The Karelian Trains joint venture between RZD and VR Group is working to enhance services between Russia and Finland, with four Pendolino trainsets on order from Alstom for delivery by the end of 2008. Discussions are also under way between RZD and Knorr-Bremse over local manufacture of braking systems for the next generation of Russian rolling stock.

Economic benefits

According to President Putin, upgrading the rail infrastructure will 'facilitate a long-range innovative development of the economy' and 'promote the transport integrity of the country'.

Suburban railway expansion will contribute to the development of the main cities. Freight shippers are expected to benefit from the wider reach of the rail network and faster journey times, notably for containers where the average journey time will be reduced by almost 75%.

Introduction of high speed trains will raise the average speed of RZD's inter-city services by almost 20%. Journey time from Moscow to St Petersburg will be cut to 2½ hours, and from Moscow to Nizhni Novgorod to around 2 h. Moscow - Berlin will take around 10 h and Moscow - Sochi just 15 h. And international partners will also see a significant acceleration of transit times for long-distance freight traffic.

Table I. New line construction
Lines of strategic importance 4 452 km
Lines of social importance 1 262 km
Lines to generate freight traffic 4 660 km
Conventional mixed-traffic lines 8 648 km
High speed lines 1 528 km
Total 20 550 km
Table II. Sources of investment funding
bn roubles
Russian Federation 2 675·5
Regional administrations 637·0
Russian Railways 5 928·9
Other private investors
- general (public) railways 1 387·5
- industrial railways 3 119·0
Total investment 13 747·9