Russia is a vast country with overwhelming distances, so rail transportation will always enjoy demand here. On the other hand, Russia’s economy relies heavily on commodity exports such as coal, petroleum products, metals, fertilizers, wood and timber, grain and other such products, which need to be delivered abroad. One train carries from 4,000 to 6,000 metric tons, and there is no alternative to this type of transport.
Besides, there is also passenger transportation – thousands of people travel daily on suburban routes, catch long-distance trains, and use high-speed airport rail links.
New technology is rapidly changing our daily lives as well as affecting huge conglomerates such as Russian Railways. We use online platforms to order transport services from a workplace computer or a smartphone; convenient ticket sites have sent queues into oblivion; new passenger cars have changed our idea of comfort. Automatic turnouts and electronic signaling systems have improved rail transport safety and increased the network capacity. Innovative bogies and wheels made of new materials ensure a longer service interval mileage of equipment; the new seamless rail technology reduces the workload on the undercarriage ensuring a higher carrying capacity of cars.
Railways are robustly expanding to new niches such as piggyback transportation, where road vehicles such as trailers or semi-trailers can be loaded onto trains rather than pulled by trucks. High-speed railways are another rapidly growing extension, where passenger travel time is already comparable with aviation. Some new high-tech passenger trains can run at 400 km/h, although in Russia, the maximum train speed barely exceeds 200 km/h. Such innovations can reduce atmospheric emissions, improve the environmental situation, and extend the service life of highways.
Rail traffic across Russia has grown in recent years, mainly from China to Europe. Chinese products can reach the border with Europe in 10-14 days instead of a long sea voyage that may take up to 20-30 days. New transit routes are likely to develop soon, for example from India. This service has a great future, but it will require a profound upgrade of Russia’s railways, as well as new bridges and tunnels. We also need to modernize border crossings, remove level crossings, optimize marshalling yards, and fully electrify the BAM railway.
By Maxim Prusakov, Director, Sherl transport company