russian railway © Christopher Rawlins
© Christopher Rawlins

Russian Railways is maintaining its international growth momentum with plans to bolster rail freight operations in China, Finland and Turkey. 

Along with the heads of Azerbaijan and Turkey’s state railways, Russian Railways chairman Oleg Belozyorov signed an MoU to “assure” regular traffic on a Baku-Tbilisi-Kars route. 

“The MoU opens the way to develop transport through the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars line, which is now being built under the leadership of Azerbaijani railway personnel,” said Mr Belozyorov. 

“This means that Turkey will be connected to the railways of countries of the former Soviet Union, as well as Finland, Bulgaria and Iran, working in close cooperation with each other.” 

The agreement also includes the option to construct a second 76-km  1,520mm gauge track along the Akhalkalaki-Kars section, as well as a terminal and logistics centre in Kars. 

Mr Belozyorov said developing the corridor would not only bring Turkey permanently into the Eurasian transport corridor, but would allow for regular container shipments. 

Strengthening ties with Azerbaijan’s rail sector has proved positive for the Russian state carrier, which has recorded a 25% Q1 uptick in volumes on Azerbaijan-Russia routes. 

Mr Belozyorov said: “Cargo transit through the territories of Russia and Azerbaijan significantly contributes to the economic development of the countries.” 

Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev and Mr Belozyorov also stressed the need to construct a Rasht-Astara rail link in Iran to gain a direct connection with existing north-south routes. 

While work continues to bolster these links, Russian Railways subsidiary RZD Logistics has launched regular shipments on a China-Finland route, increasing frequencies from fortnightly to weekly, with an estimated transit time of 14 days between China’s Hefei and Vuosaari in Finland. 

Sales director of RZD Logistics Olga Stepanova said the decision was part of the operator’s attempt to address the imbalance of commodity flows along China-Europe routes. 

“Finland is an alternative point of entrance to Europe, which is in high demand among European, as well as Chinese consignors,” said Ms Stepanova. “Thus, we count on the increase of transit volumes between China and Finland in both directions, moreover, it is developing due to high demand for shipments in Scandinavia. 

“No doubt, regular shipments and a stable schedule will become important advantages of the service.” 

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