Russian Railways hopes to receive the consultant’s conclusion on the project to extend a wide-gauge railway from Russia through Central Europe to Vienna by the end of 2014.
“The consulting company that won the tender to develop the business plan began working this year. Subsequently it will be discussed with representatives of interested nations, perhaps even beyond the foursome that is doing this,” RZD president Vladimir Yakunin told reporters on Wednesday. “I think that we’ll have a result [from the work of the consultant] sometime in the fourth quarter,” he added.
The issues of financing the planning stage have been “virtually resolved,” he said. “As for the implementation stage, this is a complex project, it can’t be financially formalized until there’s a business plan,” Yakunin said.
He also said that he has received a letter from the head of Italy’s railway company proposing to consider extending the wide-gauge rail line to Italy.
RZD has been negotiating the laying of the line with railways in Slovakia, Austria and Ukraine since 2010. The project calls for the construction of a 450-km rail line with Russian-standard broad gauge (1,520 mm as opposed to the European 1,485 mm) from Kosice (Slovakia) to Bratislava (Slovakia) and Vienna (Austria).
The line would be a continuation of the existing broad-gauge line from Uzhgorod, Ukraine to Kosice, and would make it possible to link Central Europe’s railroad network to the regions of the Trans-Siberian railroad, attracting freight traffic on transit routes to Asia and boosting the competitiveness of railroad transport compared to marine and truck transport, the company expects. The broad-gauge line would also eliminate overloading of break-of-gauge stations, where European lines meet the broad-gauge lines used in countries of the former Soviet Union.
The cost of the project was estimated at 6.3 billion euros. The project consultant, Roland Berger said earlier that the construction of the line would make it possible to reduce shipping times for freight from Asia to Western Europe from 28-30 days to 15 days (RZD estimates 13-14 days), and reduce the cost of shipping containers to $1,000 each. The plan is to ship transit freight through Russia from the country’s eastern borders and ports in seven days. A wide-gauge railway would also make it possible to use larger railcars.
According to studies, extending the line to Europe would make it possible to annually attract 16 million-24 million tonnes of freight by 2050. It was reported earlier that by 2025 shipments could reach 23.7 million tonnes along the Kosice-Bratislava section and 18.5 million tonnes on the section between Bratislava and Vienna. The line would carry container freight and commodities (iron ore, ferrous metals, etc) to Europe and containers back.