151st year of operation
[b]Belarusian Railways is in its 151st year and, to honour the date, a steam train has taken a maiden journey along the Porechie-Grodno section, pulling several carriages of passengers. There, on December 27th, 1862, its whistle announced the launch of regular railway traffic through the territory of modern Belarus.[/b]A plaque has also been installed in Grodno, dedicated to the jubilee of railway travel in Belarus. To mark the date, railway stations countrywide recently arranged festive concerts, attracting thousands in their best dress. As in days gone by, the railway exuded the air of being special.
A plaque has also been installed in Grodno, dedicated to the jubilee of railway travel in Belarus. To mark the date, railway stations countrywide recently arranged festive concerts, attracting thousands in their best dress. As in days gone by, the railway exuded the air of being special.
Belarus has over 5,500km of railway line, annually transporting about 150m tonnes of cargo and 100m passengers.
Many old railway stations remain in Belarus, being well-cared for. In Vitebsk, the classic Soviet railway station has been restored, with panoramic-view lifts installed, its ‘Stalin’s Empire Style’ architecture supplemented with the latest computer technology, providing passengers with all information. Meanwhile, Minsk’s new railway station radiates European-style beauty. Brest-Tsentralny (Central) station is now being revamped, being one of Belarus’ oldest, filled with marble.
Naturally, the development of many Belarusian cities — including Baranovichi and Molodechno — relied greatly on rail links. As a result, several cities feature a train on their emblem. Telegraphic lines were laid close to steel rails, bringing telephone and telegraph communication to Belarus. These have now transformed into high-tech fibre-optic lines, which provide instantaneous information on train movements, schedules and cargoes.
Eleven container trains regularly travel across Belarus, transporting over 250,000 containers (in 20-foot equivalent) last year.
Thinking of the glorious past, it’s interesting to walk around the old locomotives and carriages — restored with love by railway workers and exhibited at the Baranovichi and Brest museums. There’s a feeling of nostalgia in hearing a station bell announcing a train departure. In fact, steam engines were still in use until 1970 in Belarus — seven years after the first electric train began running in the Republic.
The latest comfortable high-speed trains will soon connect Minsk with Lithuanian Vilnius, being similar to those recently bought from Switzerland. These are the first in Belarus to rival European style regional, inter-regional and international trains and the Belarusian Government has signed an agreement with the Swiss supplier to establish a local joint venture; manufactures should be ready later this year.
30 new cargo and 24 passenger electric trains are being delivered to Belarusian Railways, in addition to 8 heated passenger trains, 6 diesel-locomotive shunters, 20 diesel trains, 29 electric trains and hundreds of carriages for various purposes.
Belarusian Railways has independently mastered the production of a diesel-locomotive shunter and has raised its production of passenger and cargo carriages. Our transport branch is dynamically developing, as is fitting for Belarus’ strategic location in the world. Two major international transport corridors pass through the country’s territory: one connects London to China and the Far East via Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod and Siberia, while the other passes through Scandinavia to Russia’s Black Sea, via the Balkans.
Cargo flow is steadily growing, with Belarus able to offer infrastructure for these international routes. Belarusian Railways is already a powerful player, with huge technical and intellectual potential, working with partners near and far. In 1992, Belarusian Railways joined the International Union of Railways, the Organisation for Co-operation of Railways and the Council for Rail Transport within the CIS. In 1997, it became a member of the Co-ordination Council for Trans-Siberian transportation and work continues within several bilateral international agreements.
The establishment of the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan has created further impetus for the development of our railway network; over the past few years, railway cargo transportation across Belarus has increased by around 30 percent. The steel rails laid in the 19th century are still going strong.
By Vladimir Yakovlev