Transit with eye to the future
[b]Belarusian and Latvian railways jointly raising capacity of transport corridors [/b]Many of us still remember school mathematical problems about trains travelling from point A to point B. We had to calculate at what point they would meet or how long the journey would take. In reality, railway logistics are far more complicated, especially where line capacity through a certain site is limited. Raising capacity, even to a small extent, can drastically enhance the attractiveness of the most significant transport corridors.
Many of us still remember school mathematical problems about trains travelling from point A to point B. We had to calculate at what point they would meet or how long the journey would take. In reality, railway logistics are far more complicated, especially where line capacity through a certain site is limited. Raising capacity, even to a small extent, can drastically enhance the attractiveness of the most significant transport corridors.
A good example is the launch of the second railway line between Belarusian Bigosovo and Latvian Indra, allowing 32 pairs of cargo trains to pass (instead of the previous 29). This 7km of track is part of the extensive Smolensk-Polotsk-Daugavpils-Ventspils route (part of the Organisation for Co-operation of Railways transport corridor system). Cargo trains once shared the line, having to give way to each other, costing precious time — and money.
The need to upgrade infrastructure was first discussed five years ago, when Belarusian and Latvian specialists began working together. This spring, their work was completed. The Head of Belarusian Railways, Anatoly Sivak, met the Latvian Railway Chairman of the Board, Uģis Magonis, at Bigosovo station to symbolically open the line, allowing the first cargo train to travel towards the Latvian border. “Railway connection with Latvia is strategically important,” stresses Mr. Sivak. “Exports moving from Belarus to Latvia comprise 38 percent of our cargo while international transit from Russia to Latvian ports via this route accounts for 46 percent of the total volume. In 2009, 31.6m tonnes of cargo were shipped via the border checkpoint of Bigosovo-Indra. This was a huge volume for a single-track railway line.”
Last year, Belarusian and Latvian railway workers launched a new project, creating the ‘Zubr’ train to transport goods from Latvian ports to Ukraine via Belarus. Raising shipment volumes in this direction is impossible without proper infrastructure. Accordingly, Belarus is to invest about $200m into Vitebsk-Polotsk-Bigosovo route, constructing second tracks and purchasing modern communications technology — to control movement and safety. Mr. Sivak believes this will enhance the competitiveness and commercial attractiveness of moving cargo by rail, while allowing passenger routes between Belarus and Latvia to be expanded. “We are doing our best to complete the process in the coming year,” adds Mr. Magonis, speaking of Minsk-Riga route. He stresses that Belarus is a major partner for Latvian Railways. Last year, over 32m tonnes of cargo were transported by Latvians via Bigosovo-Indra (out of a total of 53m). Accordingly, Latvia also plans to invest in the construction of two-track lines from the Belarusian border to Riga.
Belarus’ First Deputy Transport and Communication Minister, Nikolai Verkhovets, also attended the solemn ceremony, noting that Belarus-Latvia trade is based on trust and mutually beneficial terms. He hopes that the second railway track between Bigosovo and Indra will inspire our neighbours towards greater co-operation and further raise exports in goods and services. Additional possibilities for business are also likely to appear. “We are a small state, so we need to pursue all our transit possibilities,” he emphasises.
Work on Bigosovo-Polotsk route will be complete by 2016, allowing capacity to rise by 75 percent. This will enable an additional 13m tonnes of coal, timber, oil and oil products to be transported annually, with Mozyr Refinery sending over 4m tonnes of oil products (received from Venezuela) to Ventspils Port annually. New rail capacity is essential to allow growth. Latvia’s Transport Minister, Kaspars Gerhards, who also attended the ceremony in Bigosovo, notes that improving transport could be the quickest and most convenient route out of the global economic crisis. Joint railway construction confirms our good neighbourly relations and mutually beneficial economic co-operation. Mr. Gerhards believes collaboration could also be extended in the field of energy.
By Sergey Golesnik