Railway and water transport balance
The past year was illustrative of Russia’s urgent need for a transport balance that has been under discussion for over the recent years. It all started when the railways began offering discounts for cargo transportation during the river navigation season which allowed for taking over cargoes from inland water ways. Now, we “suddenly” see that expansion of the railways’ capacity is lagging behind the capacity of ports and shippers, thus threatening large-scale investment projects in seaports and stability of exports. On the other hand, the growing inflation makes it necessary for Russian Railways to revise its long-term tariff policy.
Obviously, the strategy of keeping all eggs in one basket of the railways proves to be unreasonable. Nobody questions the advantages of the railway but water transport should get its work in certain seasons, for certain types of cargo on certain routes. That is not an issue of concession: cargo shippers get a variety of logistic alternatives, water transport – loading, railway – “windows” for repair and modernization. In fact, one ship of Volga-Don Max class transports volumes carried by 86 railway cars or 215 trucks of 26 tonnes each.
One could argue that the strongest survives in the market, but Russian Railways is a state monopoly acting in the general interests of the country. It is not a private company. It is not good when a great monopoly redeploys its internal resources, which are actually state ones, to take over cargoes at any shingle opportunity.
However, the state is responsible for the support of both railway infrastructure and inland water ways. Of course, competitiveness of water transport is questionable amid the virtual absence of a Unified Deepwater System which is actually divided into several parts by bottlenecks. In this context, it was encouraging to learn about intensified works on construction of the Bagayevsky hydrosystem. Meanwhile, the construction of the Nizhegorodsky hydrosystem has not succeed. Instead, a compromise modernization of Gorogetsky hydrosystem was agreed. It is better than nothing, though. Now, we are waiting for organization of the year-round navigation on the Astrakhan – Rostov-on-Don route and for reconstruction of the Nizhnesvirsky hydrosystem. Then we will see which type of transport for which types of cargo is more competitive on certain routes.
As for the railway segment, we wish it success in modernization of the Eastern Operating Domain, construction of the Northern Latitudinal Railway and implementation of other strategic projects.