The Russia government is pushing ahead with plans to create a 30 years railway development strategy in anticipation of increasing urbanization and population expansion.According to Oleg Belozerov, the CEO and Chairman of the Board of Russian Railways, a key factor in the long-term development of the railway network will be urbanisation, as well as the growth in freight and passenger traffic.
Belozerov said that in the coming decades the growth of the world’s population and the unification of urban agglomerations into mega-regions stretching for hundreds of kilometres would lend the railway sector a new impetus for development, including as intra-urban transport, and allow it to benefit from its natural advantages.
Russian Railways was therefore already working actively on plans and strategies for its development right up to the year 2050.
“This is not an abstract question for us, but a conceptual vision. A scientific search is going on somewhere else, different technologies are being tested and improved at experimental test sites, and practical solutions already exist somewhere. The only question is when their application will be justified from an economic point of view,” said Oleg Belozerov.
Speaking about the prospects for the development of rail transport down to 2050, Belozerov stressed that the potential of the Wheel – Rail system would be far from exhausted by that time, despite the active implementation of technical alternatives.
At the same time, the intensive expansion of high-speed rail systems would continue, not only in the passenger, but also in the freight segment.
By 2024, Russia will create the foundations for the development of high-speed rail links. Above all, the construction of the Moscow-Gorokhovets high-speed stretch will be completed as the first stage of the Moscow-Kazan high-speed railway line.
Then, by 2035, the Company plans to complete an integrated network of high-speed communications in the Russian Federation with the phased development of transport systems using new technologies.
The key trends in both freight and passenger traffic will be integration and intermodality.
In freight and logistics, the Company plans to go deeply “into the territory” of the largest customers. In other words, it will shall become fully integrated into their internal logistics processes in terms of both freight movement and management information systems.
At the same time, Russian Railways will ensure the same degree of integration with the freight recipients and its transportation partners, in particular with ports and ships.
“This approach and its attendant systems will eliminate losses in terms of both time and efficiency in the supply chain and reducing delivery times and cost. I do not exclude that in order to provide the last mile, we will own our own vehicles which, by that time, will be probably be completely electric,” said Oleg Belozerov.
Another trend will be technologies without people, including driverless trains and fully autonomous freight and passenger lines. They will increase speeds, reduce the intervals between trains and lower technological risks.
“We are already actively introducing elements of such systems today. In particular, we plan to conduct test drives in automatic control mode on the Moscow Central Ring next year, albeit with a driver for the time being,” said Oleg Belozerov.
Belozerov noted that the energy intensity of the entire transportation process will be reduced, including through the use of hybrid technologies and the transition to alternative fuels such as hydrogen and liquefied natural gas.
In addition, if battery technology reaches the appropriate level of development, the need for a contact network can be eliminated completely, which will drastically reduce infrastructure costs.
The railway are thus set to become fully digital – every production or management process will be fully incorporated into the information system, equipped with real-time performance indicators and supported by predictive analytics and modelling.
The full range of promising technologies will be used to the utmost: Big Data, the Internet of Things, blockchain, virtual and augmented reality technologies and artificial intelligence (AI).
“The evolution of technology will entail a corresponding change in the way that the railways work and operate. I believe that we will be able to abandon heavy manual labour completely due to extensive automation and the use of robotics. In the future, for example, the railways will therefore need computer programmers as much as today, just like the most advanced banks and telecommunications companies. People can then be released from their current activities in order to carry out the most intellectually demanding and strategic tasks and delegate the monotonous work to machines, said Oleg Belozerov.
Belozerov says that the first stage in these global transformations will be in 2025. To achieve the goals it has set itself, Russian Railways has evolved a long-term Company programme whose key principle is the advanced development of the railway system.
In the future, the network should not experience any bottlenecks. The conditions will be created for further increases in speeds. The railways will appear where they have never been before and create opportunities for the development of industry and facilitate a comfortable life for people, said the head of Russian Railways.