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Make way for a new tariff and a new way!

The volume of coal transportation to the east is growing along with its price on the external market, there is not enough capacity, and Russian Railways has come up with an idea to raise the tariff.

The third stage of modernization of the Eastern range of the railway network until 2030 can cost from 2 to 4 trillion rubles, the head of Russian Railways Oleg Belozerov said at the Eastern Economic Forum. At the same time, a significant amount of investment is supposed to be directed to the construction of an additional, third, route from Khabarovsk to the main port stations of the Primorsky Territory. The sources of financing have not yet been determined, but Russian Railways, including to replenish its investment program, proposes to revise the approaches to tariffication of transportation. Producers of coal, which occupies the lion's share of the cargo traffic, took this proposal negatively.

Make way for a new tariff and a new way!
Photo: JSC "Russian Railways"

Diseases of growth

Transport workers of the Far East continue to work in the face of an increase in foreign trade traffic. Moreover, the existing volumes of shipments for a number of cargo nomenclatures exceed the forecasts that were given at the beginning of this year. This applies in particular to container traffic. Initially, the growth in container handling on the Far Eastern Railway was projected at 9% compared to last year. According to the results of 7 months, transportation increased by more than a quarter. In January-July 2021, 510 thousand TEU (containers in 20-foot terms) were transported on the Far Eastern Railroad in all types of traffic. At the same time, transit in the direction of Asia - Europe along the Transsib is growing by almost 30%, said the President of PJSC TransContainer Alexander Isurins.

President of PJSC TransContainer Alexander Isurins
Photo: Dmitry Efremov, fotochost agency TASS

However, carriers faced big problems. “The fleet is now waiting for berths from 10 to 20 days. For liner shipping, this is death. The main reason: we cannot transport freight traffic by rail. Because transport is not competitive here. I think that vehicles for more than 300-400 km, in principle, should not carry container cargo, "the top manager believes.

The head of TransContainer clarified that the company proposed to create an interdepartmental working group, which by organizational methods can try to increase the capacity of the existing infrastructure. “Perhaps these are locomotives that can be quickly built, some things to improve document flow: for example, for transit to Europe through Belarus, some of the documents are still in paper form,” said Aleksandrs Isurins. It is also necessary to continue the dialogue with Chinese partners to protect the interests of Russian market participants, he added. At present, China often gives priority to its own cargo passing through border crossings, going in transit through the Russian Federation to the European Union, the promotion of containers for Russian cargo owners is carried out on a leftover basis.


Mr. Isurins predicts that the transit flow by the end of 2021 will exceed 1 million TEU. At the same time, 30 million TEU is transported annually in the Asia-Europe direction by deep-sea (by a circular route across the Indian Ocean and Atlantic). “If we aim for at least a 10% market share, just switching from this corridor to the Russian Railways network will give up to 3 million TEU,” the president of TransContainer calculated. For your information, Russian Railways annually earn 60-80 billion rubles from container transportation.

Transit delivery of vehicles also promises considerable income. According to the general director of Sollers Group Vadim Shvetsov, in the future, due to the shorter delivery time compared to deep-sea, the Transsib can attract the transportation of up to 5 million vehicles per year from the Asia-Pacific countries to Europe. “After 2025, active electrification of Western Europe will begin, and the main manufacturers of these electric vehicles will be in China. You can imagine how many millions of electric vehicles will come from the APR to the European market. This is a very interesting and promising market, ”said Mr. Shvetsov.

However, the railroad is again the bottleneck. Last month, Sollers Group bought Pervomaisky port in Vladivostok, at the expense of which it plans to increase container turnover. But the main limiting factor is the port stations of Cape Churkin and Gaydamak, which need modernization.

We also need a more flexible tariff policy on the part of Russian Railways. “There are preferences for new routes, promising cargo flows. But I wanted the decision to be made not for a year, but for a longer period, for example, for five years. Automobile concerns are very conservative, they may simply not be able to take advantage of this short horizon, they have complex approval processes, ”explained Vadim Shvetsov.

Alexander Krutikov, head of the Ryba.RF corporation, also hopes for fruitful cooperation with Russian Railways. The company plans to implement two large projects in 2024. One envisages the organization of a fish exchange in Vladivostok, the second concerns the creation of modern shipping terminals in Murmansk, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Korsakov and Vladivostok. “These four locations will make it possible to effectively use the railway infrastructure and, in the future, the Northern Sea Route, as well as use these ports for the life support of Sakhalin and Kamchatka. That is, they will have a dual purpose, ”explained Alexander Krutikov.


Billions and trillions

The project to modernize the railway network in the east of the country is not keeping pace with the development of the cargo base. According to the first deputy head of the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East, Gadzhimagomed Huseynov, in 2020, exporters were unable to export 15 million tons of cargo. “For us, the issue of transport infrastructure is one of the key ones in the context of the development of the macro-region of the Far East,” the official stressed. In turn, the general director of JSC SUEK Stepan Solzhenitsyn complained about the current restrictions on the shipment of coal from the open pit in Buryatia.

As the general director of Russian Railways Oleg Belozerov assured, this year the first stage of development of the Eastern landfill will be completed. At the same time, preparations are underway (mainly design and survey work is underway) for the second, which should finish by 2025. And today the parameters of the third stage are being discussed with stakeholders - until 2030.

Chairman of the Board of JSC "Russian Railways" Oleg Belozerov
Photo: Dmitry Efremov, fotochost agency TASS

According to the general director of the monopoly, the railway workers initially predicted that by this time the annual carrying capacity of the BAM and Transsib would increase to 210 million tons, but shippers, primarily coal miners, declare the volume of more than 300 million tons. Hence, a compromise is possible - at the level of 240 million tons ...

The cost of the third stage varies from 2 to 4 trillion rubles. The final estimate depends on where the basis for new traffic will emerge (if in Western Siberia, then more large-scale work is to be done on the modernization of the Trans-Siberian Railway and on the BAM), as well as on the correspondence of freight flows, that is, much more coal will go to the ports of Primorye or the Khabarovsk Territory. ... As an example, Mr. Belozerov cited the Komsomolsk - Vanino (Sovgavan) section. This line will be able to transport 81 million tons of cargo annually. If the needs of the senders in this direction are greater, it will be necessary to build another Kuznetsovsky tunnel, which will require 50 billion rubles.

In any case, Russian Railways plans to create a third track from Khabarovsk to Vladivostok and to the Smolyaninovo station, which opens the way to the terminals of the Nakhodka junction. Due to this construction, it is possible to increase the throughput capacity of the Khabarovsk - Shkotovo (Smolyaninovo) section by 2030 to 130 pairs of freight trains per day, and the carrying capacity to 173,7 million tons annually. For comparison, in 2020 less than 69 million tons were transported to the ports of Nakhodka and Vostochny.

At the same time, it is in the interests of stevedores to develop infrastructure on the close approaches to the port area - from the stations Shkotovo and Smolyaninovo to Nakhodka-Vostochnaya. This expediency was expressed by Irina Olkhovskaya, Director for Port and Railway Projects of OJSC UMMC. Moreover, she clarified, this is necessary not only to increase the export of coal for export, but also to transport containers - recently the Vostochny Port company (part of the UMMC) began to work with container cargo at its universal terminal.

The construction of the third track on the Shkotovo - Smolyaninovo - Nakhodka section is estimated at about 140 billion rubles. Such data are given in the presentation of Vostochny Port JSC, prepared for EEF-2021. To date, the investment program of the II stage of the Eastern landfill development has included a project for the construction of a third track on the Shkotovo - Smolyaninovo stretch. It is planned to invest 2025 billion rubles in its creation until 24. This will allow to increase the passage of trains in the direction of both the terminals of the Nakhodka junction and the new ports of Vera and Sukhodol. At the same time, other routes will remain limiting. Therefore, by 2030, it is proposed to build bypasses on the Smolyaninovo - Nakhodka line, where the path passes through the pass sections with long slopes. First, it is planned to lay a bypass track Tigrovy - Partizansk and Khmylovsky - Nakhodka-Vostochnaya. The work is estimated at RUB 36,3 billion and RUB 30,4 billion, respectively. At the final stage, it is necessary to build the Smolyaninovo - Tigrovy section worth more than RUB 49 billion.

As a result, the infrastructure will be able to transport up to 150 million tons of cargo annually. Without the construction of the third track, the capacity deficit by 2030 will be 33 pairs of trains, the carrying capacity - up to 71,5 million tons.


Tariff for the future

Discussion at the EEF was caused by the issue of new approaches to tariffication of railway transportation. The observed growth in exports is not entirely pleasing to the monopoly, since its main item - coal - refers to low-income cargo (the share of coal products in the transportations on the Far Eastern Railroad is about 70%). “Volumes are growing, and we are increasing losses,” said Oleg Belozerov.

At the same time, the cost of the energy carrier has recently doubled, and, according to the general director of Russian Railways, the share of the railway tariff in the export price of thermal coal has decreased over the year from 20% to 7,5%. “The current situation is pushing us to the fact that tariff decisions should be changed. Taking into account the cross-subsidization of various types of cargo, it makes sense to raise the tariff for the most unprofitable and reduce for the highly profitable, thereby creating conditions for the growth of transportation of goods produced by small and medium-sized businesses, ”said the head of Russian Railways.

He emphasized that if the tariffs are balanced, the company will have sufficient investment resources for the further development of railways, including within the framework of the third stage of the Eastern range.

In addition, Mr. Belozerov complained that coal miners are not in a hurry to conclude agreements on ship-or-pay terms (it implies an obligation to present a certain amount of cargo for transportation, otherwise a fine is paid), guaranteeing one or another volume of loading.

“If you carry more, then the current tariff will look economical, the costs have not gone anywhere, they are divided by volume,” retorted Stepan Solzhenitsyn. According to the CEO of SUEK, a number of eastern directions of the railway are used at 85% of today's capacity. In part, the incomplete figure is influenced by the failure of the locomotive fleet, primarily built in the USSR, during the delivery of goods. “Of course, I really want to export 100% first, and then look at the economy. And not to say first, we definitely cannot take out 100% of what we already have to, so let's raise the tariff. We believe that here the horse and the cart are confused, ”stressed Stepan Solzhenitsyn.

Photo: Victor Berezkin, Roscongress Foundation

As for the implementation of the take-or-pay principle, it is not transparent for the industry, the top manager said. “There are some rules where everyone would understand how the volume was distributed, why someone went, someone didn't, in principle not. And it is not only business that worries very much, it worries people whose jobs depend on what they mine, process, and ship, ”said the head of the coal company.

Another reason why coal miners are probably not ready to switch to a new relationship with the carrier was named by Oleg Belozerov himself. According to the head of Russian Railways, despite the current upward trend in exports, among the risks is the projected transition of the coal importing countries to the so-called carbon footprint reduction system, the search for alternative energy sources. After all, the change in the base fuel for the world energy sector can accordingly lead to a decrease in the demand for coal.

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