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5 June 2020

Russian Railways promise to restore railway freight traffic to Murmansk by October

Russian Railways promise to restore the volume of freight traffic in the direction of Murmansk by October.

"The first stage (work on restoring connection with the regional centre, involving transportation along the bypass route, INTERFAX) will not allow transportation, including to the port, in the way it existed before the bridge collapsed," said Oleg Belozerov, CEO of Russian Railways, following a meeting with Andrey Chibis, Governor of the Murmansk region, on Wednesday.

"This will be the next stage that we have scheduled for early October, with transportation resumption along the new bridge (instead of the destroyed one, INTERFAX). Then the traffic will be completely restored," the top manager added.

SUPPORT: FINANCIAL AND MORE

According to Belozerov, Russian Railways are working up options for supporting companies that cannot deliver goods to the Murmansk transport hub due to the collapse of the bridge.

"Now we are communicating with shippers to provide them with additional discounts (for the transportation of products, IF) in those directions that are still available. For example, these are mineral fertilisers or other cargo," he said. "We will create all the conditions so as not to impose additional financial burden on our shippers," the top manager said.

He also mentioned new created unloading points, including for critical supplies required by the city of Murmansk. The company carries out transshipment at its own expense. "We will see what additional conditions can be created so that, among other things, the region’s budget does not lose the revenues generated by the port," Russian Railways CEO said.

"As for our companies that ship products, there is a separate task. They know that Russian Railways are taking all necessary steps to redirect goods through other infrastructure, to do as much as possible for minimising the impact of this force majeure situation on the work (of local companies, IF)," Andrey Chibis said.

LOST CONNECTIONS

As previously reported, damage to the bridge on a single-track railway between the Vykhodnaya and Kola stations near Murmansk due to a high water level in the River Kola was detected on 30 May. The track was closed to train traffic. Restoration work has begun. The facility was supposed to be restored by installing a longer span without intermediate support, local authorities reported, estimating the duration of work at 2-3 weeks.

On 31 May, Russian Railways imposed a complete ban on the shipment of goods towards the transport hub hosting a number of stevedoring assets, including the Murmansk Commercial Seaport (MOEX: MSCP) owned by SUEK and the Murmansk Bulk Terminal of EuroChem. Freight for the Pechenganickel plant operated by Norilsk Nickel (MOEX: GMKN) is delivered to the north-west of the region along the same route.

In the afternoon of 1 June, two bridge spans collapsed. This challenged the previously announced deadlines for the restoration of railway connection to Murmansk. At the same time, our source in touch with the situation said that the reconstruction of this facility might take up to six months. At large, representatives of the monopolistic company confirmed this estimation.

According to Gennady Verkhovykh, Deputy CEO of Russian Railways, cited by the corporate media on Wednesday, at present, the company's management believes that the work can be completed at the "end of this or the beginning of next year".

"The bridge will be certainly built; we have already begun the design work. Lengiprotrans designers are now taking soil samples," the top manager said, although he noted that "it is difficult to make any promises about when the transportation can be resumed" over the bridge, as "a lot depends on the composition of local soils". As far as we know, most likely, a single-track bridge will be built without supporting structures in the riverbed, with two supports along the banks and a long main span.

BYPASS

At that, in order to restore railway connection to Murmansk, the railway administration plans to accelerate the construction of a branch line from the Vykhodnaya station while creating a line towards the new Lavna port on the Kola Bay coast opposite to the regional centre.

The project is part of the programme for the development of the Murmansk Transport Hub.

The customer is the Federal State-Owned Institution Rostransmodernizatsia (Ministry of Transport's unit). As reported by the corporate media of Russian Railways, a 5.7-km section from Vykhodnoy to the Block Post 9-km station is being considered for constriction on the branch line between Murmansk and Murmashi, with connection of the two lines.

"Everyone will do their best to restore train services as quickly as possible with respect to port operation, cargo (delivery, INTERFAX). For the region, the functioning of our companies, the delivery and shipment of products by sea are of fundamental importance," said Andrey Chibis.

On Wednesday, local authorities and Russian Railways agreed that railway connection to the city would be resumed by 23 June. "This will require, inter alia, additional work on the Murmansk Transport Hub project. It is also very complex, involving drilling and blasting operations in cooperation with regional authorities, water services companies. The traffic will resume along a low-intensity branch line, but not far from residential buildings. Me and my colleagues will now decide how to minimise (inconveniences, INTERFAX) for residents and the city," he said. "Around 16 train pairs, including passenger trains, might start running," Verkhovykh said earlier.

At the emergency site, according to the company, designers "are drawing up a plan to dismantle the damaged bridge and are designing a new engineering structure". "After the soil surveys are over, it will be decided which bridge foundation to lay and when exactly the construction can be completed," the company said.

As already reported, military railway workers will be involved in the construction of new bridge. On 2 June, Sergey Shoigu, Defence Minister of Russian Federation, ordered to transfer staff and equipment to the Murmansk region to help with traffic restoration. They will be delivered to Olenegorsk, a city in the Murmansk region, from the Bryansk region by rail. In addition, aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces are now delivering units and equipment of the Western Military Region’s engineering corps to Murmansk. In total, over 100 military men and 42 pieces of equipment will be involved in assisting with the restoration of railway connection at the Kola-Vykhodnoy section.

Source: Interfax
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