INTRO: Dense traffic, a difficult climate and an 87000 route-km network mean that maintaining Russian Railways’ track and infrastructure is a major challenge. Modern management methods and up-to-date machinery are being introduced, but the need to cater for fast passenger trains means that possession times on heavily used corridors will become even more critical

BYLINE: V I Kovalev

First Deputy MinisterRussian Ministry of Railways

RAIL TRANSPORT in the Russian Federation remains of the utmost importance. Rail is the ideal mode for carrying high volumes of freight and passengers over long distances, and in terms of tonne-km and passenger-km, the Russian Railways network moves 75% of freight and more than 40% of passenger traffic, despite growing competition from other modes.

In 1996 RZD handled more than 1100 million tonne-km, while passenger traffic amounted to 180000 million passenger-km. Such large volumes are possible thanks to RZD’s well developed infrastructure: more than 45% of the 87100 route-km network is electrified, and about 39000 km route-km have two or more tracks.

RZD carries both domestic and international freight, some of it in transit between Europe and Asia. At present, export-driven traffic constitutes about 28% of total railway business.

The density of traffic on the RZD network is practically unequalled in the world. In 1988 some lines carried more than 100 million gross tonnes a year, and the average volume of traffic on each km of route was 43 million tonnes. These figures were achieved thanks to electrification and the use of high axleloads combined with automatic block signalling, as well as a policy of reducing intervals between trains.

RZD’s lines can be divided into three categories: