Transport Strategy 2035: Overambitious or rather conservative?

01.14.2022

What is the transport strategy — new targets or just another declaration? On what factors will the achievement of the transport strategy’s targets depend? And to what extent do its goals meet the current requirements of the transport industry? Experts, market actors and government officials have expressed controversial views.

On 26 November, the Transport Strategy of the Russian Federation to 2030, with a forecast for the period up to 2035, developed by the Ministry of Transport, was adopted at the Russian Government session. It suggests development of the up-to-date backbone transport network across the country and the accelerated upgrade of infrastructure and the transport fleet. The strategy will be implemented in three phases: the first one from 2021 to 2024, the second one from 2025 to 2030 and the third one from 2031 to 2035.

Passenger and client emphasis

The main objectives and goals of the strategy are to improve connectivity and transport accessibility of territories; to increase population mobility and domestic tourism; to boost the volume and speed of cargo transit and develop multimodal logistics technologies, as well as digital and low-carbon transformation of the industry and accelerated introduction of new technologies.

The main trends in the development of freight transport systems are the development of international transport corridors, the development of multimodal transport, increasing freight transport efficiency and reducing freight movement times by developing new technological solutions.

The key principles of the current strategy are customer centricity, working on the basis of the Unified Backbone Transport Network (UBTN) and the Transport and Economic Balance (TEB), as well as accelerated digitalisation and breakthrough technological solutions.

According to the baseline scenario, there should be an 11% increase in loading by 2035, taking into account the transition from a commodity-based to a service-based economy. Containers will increase 2.2-fold to 11.2 million tonnes, the volume of container traffic in transit through the country (by all modes of transport) could reach 3.7 million TEU per year, and rail traffic could increase by 39%, to 1,772 million tonnes. On the whole, if containerization dynamics are maintained, by 2035 the cargo containerization rate could increase from 8.2% in 2019 to 16-20%.

New challenges — new hardships?

The main risks are the effects and consequences of achieving the «carbon neutrality». According to one scenario, coal generation and oil and gas exports are expected to decline after 2030.

Furthermore, the risks of breakthrough technologies and innovations emergence that could lead to a fundamental rethinking of the entire transport industry paradigm increase significantly between 2030 and 2035.

Expert opinion

Experts call the target level of railway loading «overambitious».

Another major issue is the staffing shortage that has arisen at a number of railway infrastructure construction sites, which prevents the potential for freight transport by rail across the Russian Federation from being unlocked.

Another important factor is the increased cost of investment projects implementation. The COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions have altered the production of construction materials, causing the prices of many of them to rise sharply.

Even before the adoption of the strategy, some participants noted that the goals stated in the document are achievable if there is sufficient investment from the state. Here, a lot depends on the coordinated work of the federal centre and the regions, Russian Railways and logistics operators, etc.

In summarising the strategy’s goals and indicators, experts note that in the freight sector, the key factors that will determine loading volumes will be the dynamics of coal exports and demand on foreign markets, the pace of development of the mineral fertiliser industry, and conditions in the oil and oil product rail transportation market.

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