European companies hopeful of reopening dialogue with Russian rail sector

Alstom and Siemens attended the 1520 strategic forum in Sochi last week to reaffirm their interest in restarting trade between Russia and the European rail supply chain.

Alstom vice-president Didier Bohin advised that despite the complex political situation, his company was planning a long-term presence in Russia. He announced that Alstom is setting up a Russian engineering centre to develop Russian-French train control systems for high-speed lines.

The forum included the signing of a “declaration of compliance with the principles of partnership and work ethics” between the general manager of China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group, Zhu Ying, and Alexander Misharin, general director of JSC High-Speed Lines – a subsidiary of Russian Railways (RZD).

Th 1520 strategic forum – now in its 10th year – in an international gathering for major stakeholders concerned with Russian gauge railways.

This signing is a precursor to both parties signing a £235 million design contract for Russia’s first high-speed line at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum to be held on June 18-20.

The 770-kilometre line from Moscow to Kazan will have a maximum speed of 400 km/h and reduce the journey time between the two cities from 14 hours to three-and-a-half hours. Annual ridership for the first year of operation is estimated to be 10.5 million.

The award of this contract to a Chinese consortium is a blow to European companies such as Siemens and Alstom who, unlike the Chinese, have always had a significant presence at the 1520 forum and have previously signed large value contracts.

At the forum’s press conference, RZD’s president, Vladimir Yakunin, stressed that the contract had gone to the best company.

Despite working closely with Russian Railways for 10 years, no French, German or Spanish companies had submitted a bid for this contract, said Yakunin. He saw this as an example of how the current political situation was harming European business interest and felt that “Europe should not be self-isolated”. He emphasised that the door remained open to European companies for further high-speed rail contracts.

The Sochi forum featured a round-table discussion on whether Russia was ready to build high-speed rail. This included various Russian companies, Siemens and Alstom but no representation from China.

At this discussion, Alexander Misharin highlighted the scale of the project, advising that its design contract was Russia’s largest and that construction of the line’s many bridges will require a year of Russia’s construction capacity. He expected that Russian industries would do 80 per cent of the construction work. He advised that the line would have slab track and swing nose switches.

Report by David Shirres


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