The United Transport & Logistics Company (UTLC) looks set to contribute $5m to the GDP of Russia, $5.3bn to that of Kazakhstan and $1bn to Belarus. The Minsk Council session on Railway Transport within the CIS was attended not only by those from within the CIS, but colleagues from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Finland and, even, Iran.
The UTLC railway operator unites the infrastructure of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, having launched last year (although experts like to date its operation from its first contract concluded). The UTLC will render railway transportation and mailing services, including internationally, providing unhindered movement of container cargoes within the Single Economic Space and across transit routes between Europe and Asia. Belarus, for example, expects to increase transit container flow 4.5-fold.
Participants of the session discussed the theme of international passenger traffic, which has reduced considerably of late. Last year, for example, just over 27m railway journeys were taken in the CIS: down 41.5 percent on 2013. To attract passengers, prices have been lowered: Belarusian Railways and Russian Railways almost halved ticket prices at the start of this year, for journeys from Belarus into Russia (depending on terms of purchase and distance travelled). Now, other countries across EEU and CIS are following suit.
The Talgo train, offered on the high-speed route from Moscow to Minsk and on to Berlin (and vice versa), transits through Brest, where a device allows accelerated admission of trains from Belarusian Railways and Russian Railways (moving between broad gauge and narrow gauge). Many trains also go on towards Kaliningrad. Electric trains are soon to launch between Belarus and Latvia, and between Russia and Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Belarusian Railways has been liaising with Ukrainian colleagues to consider electrifying the line connecting Gomel with Chernigov and Kalinkovichi, and on to Korosten. Latvian Railways has been negotiating with Russian Railways for similar electrification: for the Smolensk-Vitebsk-Daugavpils-Riga route.
The Head of Belarusian Railways, Vladimir Morozov, notes that it’s important to co-ordinate with neighbouring railway administrations, in the short-term and long-term. He explains, “We’ll continue to seek out ways of encouraging passenger rail travel.”
Train of Friendship of War Veterans Against Nazism organised by Council
The Moscow-Minsk-Brest-Moscow route recently carried 127 war veterans from Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Estonia on its ‘friendship train’, with Minsk hosting a welcome ceremony. The Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus, Anatoly Kalinin, greeted the veterans, saying, “This action shows once again our respect for veterans, while reminding young people of the feats of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers. This route was created to show the continuity of generations.
The delegation visited the Belarusian State Museum of Great Patriotic War History, and laid flowers at the Eternal Flame of the Victory Monument, before heading to Brest. The event was agreed one year ago in Astana, at the 60th session of the Council on Railway Transportation of CIS states.
The United Transport & Logistics Company (UTLC) is an international railway operator for countries within the Customs Union, founded by Russian Railways JSC (owning 99.84 percent), the Belarusian Railways State Association (0.08 percent) and the Temir Zholy National Company of Kazakhstan (0.08 percent)
By Irina Sudas