Russian Railways Far East transport reaches record volumes

Rails Irkutsk Lake Baikal Trans-siberian Railway. Image source: Pixabay

The recovery trend that Russian Railways follow after the initial shock by the EU and US sanctions keeps going strong. The state-owned company says that transported volumes to Far East ports reached record numbers in June, a development also boosted by the deployment of heavier trains.

In June, the shipment of export cargo through the Russian Railways (RZD) network in the direction of the ports of the Far East reached a record 9,5 million tons. At the same time, July’s numbers so far show that train loading with an eastern direction increased by 6,7 per cent compared to the same period last year. Specifically, volumes to the Far East ports increased by 12,2 per cent, with coal cargo leading the race since its transport increased by 15,3 per cent, which equals 700 thousand tons in total.

Heavier trains mean more volumes

Additionally, RZD identified that the cause behind the volume increase is the deployment of heavier-than-usual trains. For instance, what the company describes as the new norm is the use of trains weighing 7,100 along the Trans-Siberian and Baikal-Amur rail routes. “More than 8,000 trains weighing that much travelled via these routes and increase equal to 68 per cent compared to the year before,” said the company. Heavier trains enabled RZD to transport an additional 1,8 million tons of cargo in the same period.

Also read: Russian Railways calls the EU to lift sanctions claiming violations

However, “this is not the limit”, claimed the company, which aims to experiment more with heavy trains. Specifically, starting on 1 August, RZD will deploy trains almost double the weight reaching 14,200 tons on their way to the Far East. This is so because the Russians expect an increased eastbound transport demand from 10 August onwards since it will not be possible to transport coal towards the European side anymore.

Sanction impact and recovery

In an extensive analysis last June, RailFreight.com explored the impact and the possible crisis the Russian railway industry faced after the sanctions were imposed. The segment hit the hardest was rail exports, with volumes decreasing rapidly. However, wagon building, purchasing equipment, and passenger traffic showed resilience and recovered quickly after the initial shock. These are still the main drivers for the market’s recovery.

Also read: Russian container rail transport seems unshakable despite sanctions

Yet, the hardest hit came from the exodus of big Western players from the Russian rail market. One of them was Siemens. RZD mentioned that “export embargoes against railway equipment became the direct and only reason for the termination by Siemens of its contractual obligations for the supply and maintenance of Sapsan and Lastochka trains.” That could be the Achilles heel of the Russian railway business, creating most of the clouds for the future.

According to experts, even in the case of ensuring technical servicing for these trains in Russia, their provision with components will be a serious problem and, most likely, will be solved by disassembling part of the fleet for spare parts as it happened with aircraft.

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Author: Nikos Papatolios

Nikos Papatolios is editor of RailFreight.com, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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