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Last lap for Russian Railways

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Whilst attending the strategic railway business forum for 1520 mm gauge railways in Sochi last year, The Rail Engineer had to opportunity to see the construction work on new lines and stations being built for Russia’s 2014 Sochi Olympics (issue 94 – August 2012). This year’s forum was held on 30/31 May at the Olympic venue of Krasnaya Polyana which is at the end a new 48km line built for the Olympics. Opening the event, Vladimir Yakunin, President of Russian Railways (RZD), told delegates that holding the forum at Krasnaya Polyana was part of RZD’s support for the games.

Building Siemens trains in Russia

Attending the forum provided an opportunity to see how RZD’s Olympic projects had progressed over the year. What a difference a year makes! An immediate indication of progress was travelling on the first passenger train to run on the new line in a Siemens- built “Lastochka” EMU which was laid on for the large media contingent. A year ago, a tunnel boring machine had only just broken through the last tunnel.

Although the line is complete, it still has to be tested and commissioned. As a result the media train to the forum was hand-signalled and travelled at a stately 60 kph, well below its maximum speed of 160 kph. These trains had only started running on the line a few days earlier, shortly after the first of two traction substations went live.

The Lastochka is part of the Siemens Desiro EMU family. With its intelligent control system, Siemens claim it will use 30% less energy than current Russian EMUs. Power cars at each end of the five coach unit deliver a total of 2,550kW. It has regenerative braking and a dual voltage power supply, 3kV DC and 25kV AC. This is essential for the new Olympic line which is electrified for its first five kilometers at 3kV DC, the voltage of existing railways around Sochi. The remainder of the line is 25kV AC.

The current trains were manufactured at Siemens’ Krefeld factory. Due to their size, the first 38 five-coach trains were delivered by a tortuous journey involving Rhine barges, coastal shipping and a train ferry with deliveries commencing in 2012. However, the £1.7 billion contract between RZD and Siemens requires localisation of production to both reduce cost and develop Russia’s manufacturing capability. Hence the next 1200 coaches are to be produced in Russia with an eventual 80% local content.

Photo: Railvolution.

Photo: Railvolution.

To produce these EMUs, Ural locomotives, a joint venture of Sinara Group and Siemens, have built a £160 million factory at Yekaterinburg. In a ceremonial production startup on 27 May, a button was pressed to start the first bodywork welded seam – the first welding of an aluminum bodyshell for a rail coach anywhere in Russia. The Yekaterinburg plant is expected to be fully operational in November.

New river valley corridor

To reach the mountain Olympic venues, a new high capacity road/ rail corridor is being built. Currently, Krasnaya Polyana can only be reached by a twisting narrow road through the deep valley of the fast- flowing river Mzymta. This project comprises a new 50km road with six major junctions and a 48km railway with two new stations. It climbs to 560 metres with a maximum gradient of 1 in 25. It is single tracked in the mountains with four dynamic loops, giving a capacity of four train pairs per hour. Due to the demanding nature of the terrain, 46% of the new line consists of bridges (11.5km) or tunnels (10.4km). This explains why the project’s cost is £4.5 billion, of which 60% is the railway. At a press conference held at Alpika-Service station, Russian Railways vice-president Oleg Toni confirmed that the new line will open in October.

With such a narrow corridor, road and rail construction is inseparable. For example, there are three tunnel complexes where parallel road
and rail tunnels share the same service tunnel. There are twelve tunnels with a combined length of 27.4km. The project won New Civil Engineer’s Major Tunnelling Project of the year in 2011.

Other rail infrastructure works required for the games include a new 2.8km long railway to an elevated station at Sochi Airport, opened in February 2012, and increasing capacity along the existing coast railway. The line through the 100km long Sochi conurbation along the coast between Tuapse and Alder had eight single-track sections totalling 30km. From 2008 until April 2012 these sections were progressively doubled, requiring significant structures along the shore and two additional single track tunnels of 1km and 0.8km.

Olympic stations

Venues for the games are in two clusters. The Sochi Olympic Park on the coast is served by a new Olympic Park station, to be opened in September. The mountain cluster is in Krasnaya Polyana at the end of the new line and has two stations – Esto-Sadok and the terminus at Alpika-Service. This 15,000 square metre rail hub has three 300 metre long platforms and is expected to handle 8,500 passengers an hour during the games. Now complete, its first passengers were the forum delegates.

By far the greatest station work is the £180 million expansion of Alder, which increases in size from three platforms to nine. Russian contractors Transyuzhstroy started work in 2010 and, now virtually complete, it is due to open in August.

With the completion of the airport line in 2012, Alder has become a key interchange station. Its new 32 metre high, 16,000 square metre terminal dwarfs the old station building which will become a railway museum. The terminal is built on 1,500 piles that penetrate the alluvial soil of the Mzymta delta to a depth of 30 metres. It is in an earthquake zone and, with cross bracing, is built to withstand a quake of magnitude nine on the Richter scale. With lifts, escalators and full DDA access, it will handle 15,000 passengers an hour and even accommodate the expected 24,000 during the games. The terminal is designed to minimise energy usage with solar panels on its roof.

Additional construction work in the area includes public spaces, a bus station, a 600-space car park, a 60-bed hotel, a harbour for boats from the Black Sea and a new ring road around the whole complex. As a result, the station will become more than just a rail interchange station.

2012 Alpika [online]

Almost at the finish line

The Winter Olympics, to be held in February 2014, will be the first to be held in Russia since the widely boycotted 1980 Moscow Olympics. Hence the Russian Federation has invested a great deal to ensure their success. The huge amount of work is readily apparent – indeed, the Sochi area is described as the world’s biggest building site. With the games just over six months away, much still remains to be done. However, for their part, Russia’s railways have almost completed their new and improved transport links that are essential to the success of the games.

After the games, the congested Sochi conurbation, squeezed between mountains and the sea, will benefit from much- needed improved rail services. Slashing journey times to the Krasnaya Polyana mountain resort should also promote the area’s development. As a result, Sochi’s residents should be glad of their games for many years after 2014.

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