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International Railway Transportation

Railway transport plays a significant role in developing and supporting trade and economic relations between the countries.

International railway transportation advantages

Railway transport has some advantages compared to other modes of transport:

  • all-season and all-weather transport;
  • strict adherence to the schedule;
  • high density of railways coverage;
  • transportation of any goods and cargoes, including dangerous, oversize (up to 120 m³), valuable, solid and liquid bulk ones. The rolling stock variety and convoy availability can ensure the adequate service for any categories;
  • reliability. Railway accidents are extremely rare;
  • cargo safety, especially in case of container shipments;
  • reasonable speed and price;
  • high efficiency on distances over 2,000 km.

International railway transportationIn addition to obvious advantages, there are some drawbacks, e.g. aa lower speed compared to motor and especially air transport; direct dependence on railway track availability; the need for motor transport to reach the final recipient. The difference in rail gauge between the Russian Federation and foreign countries, as well as a complicated document flow procedure cause difficulties on cross-border routes.

International railway freight can serve as a link in a multimodal transport scheme. This method is mostly used in combination with sea transport.

Railway transportation of containers has a great potential. Low transportation cost allows to assume an increase in turnover of up to half a million units per year in terms of 40-foot containers. It is understood, that this requires a major infrastructure development.

International railway freight features

The main international railway freight feature is that it involves the use of infrastructure of several countries. It means that another country becomes temporarily responsible for the cargo.

Legal and economic issues of railway transportation are subject to inter-state agreements. In particular, the Contract for international carriage of goods by rail (CIM) is in force on routes between China and Russia. It establishes global transportation conditions and the use of uniform shipping documents. Transportation rules are described in the Convention concerning international carriage by rail (COTIF).

According to these rules, goods or items are not allowed for international railway freight if they are prohibited for transportation by at least one of the transit countries.

There is also a technical aspect in arranging the carriage: railway track in Russia differs from railway tracks in other countries, and transshipment to other rolling stock (hardly applied) or switching to a different width bogies is performed at border crossings. This operation is redundant and time-consuming.

International railway freight destinations

Chinese railways are about 200,000 km long. However, communication with neighboring states is underdeveloped due to a mountainous terrain. International railway freight from China is ensured by several transport corridors.

  1. The Northern Eurasia corridor. There are two border crossings on the border with Russia – Zabaikalsk-Manchuria and Grodekovo-Suifenghe. After crossing the border, the cargo is transferred to the Trans-Siberian Railway. The Chita-Ulaanbaatar-Beijing spur is being reconstructed to unload the Zabaikalsk station.
  2. The Central Eurasia corridor stretches across Kazakhstan through Urumqi — Dostyk — Astana — Petropavlovsk — Yekaterinburg. It is used for goods delivery to the European part of Russia.
  3. The Trans-Asian corridor Urumqi — Dostyk (Khorgos) — Almaty links China with the Caspian basin countries and Turkey. It can serve as a transit point for shipments to the European part of Russia.
  4. The Primorye-2 — Hunchun — Makhalino corridor. As a result of station reconstruction its capacity can reach 8 million tons per year.
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