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The corridor is being adjusted in terms of logistics

The development of railway infrastructure will help to increase the volume of cargo transportation via the North-South international transport corridor (ITC)
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Russian Railways is actively involved in the development of the North-South international transport corridor, notably, on all three of its routes. The holding company cooperates with partners in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran and India in close coordination with the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Economic Development of Russia.

As Russian Railways First Deputy General Director Sergey Pavlov told «1520 International», the holding company's representatives are currently negotiating with their partners in several directions. 

«We are discussing the application of competitive tariffs, looking for joint solutions for the development of railway and terminal and logistics infrastructure», says Sergey Pavlov. «In bilateral (with our Azerbaijani colleagues) and multilateral formats we solve problems of digitalization and transition to paperless technologies for cargo transportation. We are actively developing new logistics services using the ITC infrastructure, and we are conducting test shipments».

It should be recalled that the North-South corridor is represented by three routes - two of them are land routes bypassing the Caspian Sea - on the western and eastern branches. The third branch goes directly through the Caspian Sea - from the ports of Astrakhan, Olya, Makhachkala to the Iranian ports of Bender-Enzeli and Bender-Amirabad.

The western route of the corridor is a rail link through the border crossing of Samur (Russia) - Yalama (Azerbaijan), with further access to Iran through the border crossing of Astara (Azerbaijan) - Astara (Iran). Direct rail service through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan with access to the Iranian rail network through Sarakhs (Turkmenistan) - Serakhs (Iran) and Akyaila (Turkmenistan) - Inche-Burun (Iran) border crossings is the eastern route of the ITC.

According to Igor Smirnov, Deputy Director for Freight Transport and Logistics of the Center for Infrastructure Economics, last year just over 10 million tons of cargo were transported along the western route of the North-South corridor, approximately half of which was carried by rail (mainly in communication with Azerbaijan and Georgia). No more than 0.5 million tons of cargo are transported along the eastern route of the ITC. This year transit traffic through the western route of the corridor has increased significantly. 

«The increase in traffic on land routes of the North-South corridor is not so significant due to the limitations of railway infrastructure in the neighboring countries and the higher cost of logistics services compared to the sea route. Thus, the traffic volume growth is impeded by (insufficient) development of infrastructure and logistics services, which prevents the North-South corridor from fully competing with the sea routes», says the expert.

According to Russian Railways, today the main volume of traffic via the North-South corridor is on the western route. In the first nine months of 2022, 5.3 million tons of cargo passed through Samur-Yalama border crossing with Azerbaijan, or 55% more than during the same period last year. 

«These are Russia's cargoes in communication with Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and in the future also with Turkey», says Sergey Pavlov.

Deputy Director General of the Institute of Economics and Transport Development Alexey Zamkovoy believes that in order to increase transportation on the North-South ITC a number of barriers should be removed. In his opinion, the need to transship goods in ports and at the junction of the 1520 mm and 1435 mm gauge causes additional costs. The lack of railway infrastructure on some parts of the route forces logistics companies to use another mode of transport, which complicates transportation and increases costs.

At the same time, on the western route in Iran's territory there is an incomplete 164 km rail section Resht - Astara, which complicates the logistics of transportation in the direction of India and Pakistan. 

«Currently, at the Astara station (Iran) cargoes are transshipped from railcars into motor vehicles for further shipment to other countries», says Alexei Zamkovoy.
According to Sergei Pavlov, in accordance with the agreements at the highest level, the relevant departments of Russia and Iran are already discussing options for the construction of this railway section.

«We realize the importance of this section for creating more attractive conditions for transportation of Russian exports and imports in communication with the largest Asian economies», says First Deputy General Director of Russian Railways. 

Also, in the field of infrastructure development on the western route the holding company is implementing a project on transferring the Russian section of the Derbent-Samur-state border corridor to the alternating current traction system. At the same time a project to develop the Derbent railway checkpoint is being worked out, thanks to which it is planned to increase the carrying capacity of the Samur-Yalama border crossing by 2-2.5 times.

However, Russian Railways is not oblivious of the need to develop the eastern branch, which was used, for example, for a test shipment to India last summer. RZhD Logistics (affiliated company of Russian Railways) has opened a regular container service on this route - the first train from Chekhov was sent to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas on October 24.
«The demand for transportation via the ITC is quite significant», said Sergey Pavlov. 

It should be recalled that in September representatives of Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran signed a joint trilateral declaration on the development of the North-South transport corridor. Under the document, the parties pledged to create a working group to assess and analyze the corridor infrastructure and the possibility of its use. Also, the working group should develop a list of specific measures to increase the carrying capacity in the problem areas, calculate the necessary investments and prepare proposals for the management of funding sources. 

The implementation of the development project for the North-South ITC will have a cumulative effect on the economies of the three countries and businesses, will increase the commodity turnover, supplies and transit of goods, said Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Alexander Novak at a meeting in September.

Sergey Volkov

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