INTRO: Improving the profitability of passenger services is one of the major challenges facing Russian Railways, which has set itself the ambitious target of ensuring that the cost of commuter operations is fully covered by fares and subsidy by 2010

BYLINE: Dipl-Ing Boris E Lukov

First Deputy General Secretary,

International Co-ordinating Council for Trans-Siberian Transport

IN HIS REPORT on Russian Railways’ strategic development programme presented to the board on June 11 this year, RZD President Gennady Fadeyev said that improving passenger services was one of the most important and complex issues facing the railway reform programme in the medium term and up to 2010. He attached equal importance to covering the losses of both long-distance and commuter services, which in 2003 made a combined loss of 62·2bn roubles on income of 52·7bn roubles.

In 2003, revenue from commuter operations was 5·7bn roubles against operating expenses of 32·2bn roubles, of which 9·9bn was met by local authorities. In the first three months of 2004, revenue totalled 1·4bn roubles and the cost of operating the service was 7·4bn, of which 1·3bn was provided by local authorities. RZD was liable for the shortfall, and its strategic goal of meeting the cost of commuter oper-ations from fares revenue and subsidy will involve close co-operation with government at local and national level.

According to Fadeyev, around 10% of the annual loss on passenger traffic is the result of discount travel privileges. At present, he says, there are no less than 165 different privilege categories, and an early priority will be to eliminate these or substitute them by some form of compensation structure.

As well as conventional commuter services, RZD operates express services over both short distances up to 30 km and longer routes between 100 km and 500 km in length. Long-distance express commuter services were first introduced in 2000 and there are now 834 vehicles deployed on 49 routes across 13 regions. Fares revenue typically covers 30% of operating expenses, but although they are popular with passengers for their combination of faster journey times, comfort and low fares, long-distance express services only account for 3·7% of RZD commuter services.

The express fleet includes 140 Class ED4MK and Class ET2i EMUs introduced in 2003, which carried 9million passengers that year. The long-distance express network is set to expand significantly in 2004, with 20 more services to be introduced across the country, including on the Far East, East Siberia and Trans-Baikal Railways.

On May 22 express services were introduced on the routes from Moscow to Ryazan and Kazan, and later this year 12 Class EM2i EMUs are due to be deployed on high-frequency services from Moscow to Tula, Kaluga, Oryol, Vladimir, Rostov Veliki and Tver.

Most RZD commuter services are of the conventional type, operated with standard Class ED4 EMUs. They also account for most of the losses made by the commuter business, at present covered by cross-subsidy from freight traffic and support from local authorities. To improve revenue protection, automatic ticket gates have been installed at all stations on the Moscow commuter network, which carries 1·4million passengers/day or 40% of total RZD commuter traffic. Gates are also being rolled out on the networks in other major cities including StPetersburg, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk and Chelyabinsk.

Short-distance profitability

Short-distance express services such as the Moscow - Domodedovo Airport and Moscow - Mytischy shuttle trains are likely to form the pattern for future development of RZD commuter services. According to Vladimir Starostenko, President of the Moscow Railway, these services run at a profit.

The shuttle between Moscow’s Paveletskaya station and Domodedovo Airport was introduced on August 1 2002, operated jointly by the Moscow region and the airport company East Line Group over upgraded railway infrastructure. Domodedovo is currently handling 35million passengers a year, and an in-town check-in facility has been provided at Paveletskaya.

The shuttle services are operated with a fleet of four six-car ED2i EMUs, with one unit on stand-by. Each trainset has a dedicated baggage car, with other vehicles each seating 84 passengers; the EMUs are equipped with air-conditioning and vacuum toilets. Trains leave Paveletskaya every hour, operating at up to 140 km/h to cover the 45 km to the airport in 40min, compared with up to 1h 30min by bus or taxi.

RZD’s flagship project has been the Sputnik service introduced to the 18 km Moscow - Mytischy route on February 14 2004, in collaboration with the Moscow city government. Despite serving one of the most congested commuter corridors in the Russian capital, this route was carrying only 163000 passengers per day. In the three months following their introduction, Sputnik services alone carried 1million passengers.

Developed by Spetsremont to a modular design, and built at the Perovskyi locomotive repair works, the six EM4i EMUs which operate the Sputnik services have introduced other technical innovations to the RZD commuter fleet. These include chopper control, modern static converters, onboard diagnostics and in-car CCTV as well as the first sliding plug doors fitted to vehicles built in Russia. With three motor and three trailer cars, the EM4i has runs in normal service at 120 km/h and weighs 297 tonnes when loaded. Each six-car unit has 344 seats and can accommodate a total of 1500 passengers.

In preparation for the introduction of Sputnik services, 60track-km were completely upgraded and 112 sets of points replaced. Fencing was installed along the length of the Moscow - Mytischy route, with a new station built at Mytischy and new roofs installed at Losinoostrovskaya and at Los. Ticket gates have been installed at these last two stations, as well as at Perlovskaya, Moscow Yaroslavl and Mytischy.

Under a project costing 925m roubles, of which the city government is providing 260m roubles alongside contributions from private investors, an additional batch of 41 EM4i EMUs is being built to operate Sputnik services on eight more Moscow commuter routes. Work has already started on upgrading the routes to Lyubertsy, Ramenskoye, Vnukovo Airport and Zheleznodorozhnoye.

Suburban Express

To tackle the company’s loss-making commuter services, the RZD board has decided to apply the successful Suburban Express model across the country. The first Suburban Express joint stock companies were formed by the West Siberia Railway on May 19 2000, and have now been operating at a profit for over four years. Three more companies were formed last year in Omsk, Altai and Kuzbass. In each case, West Siberia Railway holds 51% of the shares and the local authority 49%.

The RZD board is now considering the business plans of a further 19 Suburban Express joint stock companies. Fadeyev announced on June 28 that these would all be in place by the end of 2006, two years ahead of the timetable for improving the finances of RZD’s long-distance passenger trains. This will see the creation within RZD of a separate Passenger Service Directorate by the end of this year. It is planned to complete the establishment of joint stock companies for long-distance passenger trains in 2007-08, at which time the present cross-subsidy from freight operations must cease.

One challenge facing the companies will be acquiring new rolling stock. As RZD Vice-President Sergey Kozyrev has pointed out, the current annual requirement is for 1000 passenger vehicles, but deliveries fell from 2100 vehicles in 1991 to 400 in 2003. Current budgets have allocated 11bn roubles a year for investment in passenger rolling stock, whereas the actual requirement is closer to 30bn roubles a year for new EMUs, as well as diesel multiple-units for less intensively-used routes.

TABLE: Table II. Specifications for advanced commuter EMUs

Short- Commuter Regional distance Express Commuter

Route length km 60 150 150 to 700

Maximum speed km/h 100 120 160

Acceleration m/s2 0·9 0·75 to 0·85 0·45 to 0·65

Average stop spacing, km 1·7 3·0 to 3·5 20

Basic formation, coaches 7 9 or 11 10

Vehicle length, m 21·5 21·5 25 to 27

Doors per car side 3 3 2

Width of doorways mm