INTERNATIONAL: The recent accession of Russia is a major development for the Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail, according to Secretary General Stefan Schimming, even through only a limited number of RZD routes are initially covered by the convention establishing a uniform system of regulations for cross-border traffic.

Montenegro will follow as the 45th OTIF member in August, and Jordan has recently submitted an application. Iraq’s membership is being revived as international services return and talks on expansion in the Arab world are to be opened with the Gulf Co-operation Council.

A strategy of organic growth is being followed, according to Schimming, with expansion matching cross-border rail services. Iran is already a member, and negotiations have begun with Pakistan as part of the ECO train programme. There is an overlap with OSJD which provides a similar framework in the former Soviet bloc and can give a stronger voice to less significant operators, but Schimming believes the OTIF structure is more suited to current rail operations.

Clear international standards for maintenance are increasingly important as the number of private operators grows. Schimming points out that the fatal derailment at Viareggio in Italy in June 2009 highlighted the need for three aspects of the legal framework which OTIF provides: international traffic, private ownership of wagons, and the carriage of dangerous goods.