RZD organized the II. International Regional Rail Business Forum “1520 Strategic Partnership : Baltic Region” in Tallin 8-10 February 2010. The event was hosted by Kaido Simmermann, Chairman and Executive Director of Estonian Railways. 16 nationalities were represented among almost 300 high level participants from the railways, logistic providers and politics, including the CEOs of numerous 1520 railways.
The Business Forum aims to promote links between 1520 railways. Regional forums held between annual meetings in Sochi are meant to develop a business dialogue in and among the four subregions of the “1520 area”: Central Asia, Caucasus, Eastern Europe and the Baltics.
The Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves opened this top level event by stressing the need for a stable political framework and trust between business partners. Transportation had to serve the well being of citizens. In this regard border crossings to Russia should be accelerated and the Rail Baltica project of the European Union should be implemented.
Juhan Parts, Minister of Economy and Communications of Estonia, promised to continue leaving the profits inside Estonian Railways in order to finance investments. Kaido Simmermann stressed that it was now the time to design the future of the railways. The EU should be interested in using the Baltics as a bridge to the 1520 rail network. Vladimir Yakunin reported about the good cooperation between the management of Estonian and Russian Railways. He suggested that the Eurasian rail link could become an issue of interest for the EU and reminded the leaders of all railways to work closely together in the interest of the customers instead of becoming a barrier to integrated products. Moreover, President Yakunin informed the audience about the new customs union between Russia, White Russia and Kazakhstan as of 1 July 2010. RZD was also firmly committed to invest into accelerating the transportation time on the Transsiberian Railway to seven days.
UIC Freight Director and Coordinator for Russia, Oliver Sellnick, represented UIC at the 1520 Strategic Partnership and confirmed the support of UIC to work towards linking 1435 and 1520 railways around the world by different means including the creation of global standards, promoting automated track gauge changeover systems, coordinating Eurasian corridors, working on paperless transport solutions and organizing events like the upcoming 2nd Global Rail Freight Conference in Saint Petersburg 6-7 July hosted by RZD. He underlined the importance of using the economic crisis to position rail for the recovery in terms of infrastructure, processes, integrated products and customer contracts.
Participants brainstormed how to develop the Baltics into a turntable for traffic streams between Europe, Russia and Asia. They debated how to achieve a better integration of different modes into seemless transportation chains. One panel focused on infrastructure requirements and concluded the need for increasing axel load and train length selectively on individual lines depending on customer requirements.
Boris Lapidus, Senior Vice-President RZD, closed the conference and summarized the key requirements for developing international traffic: Harmonizing railway law, cooperation in order to create an integrated rail system, the need to simplify customs procedures (example: customs controls on board of running trains), searching for new financial models to fund infrastructure investments.