Yakunin talks railways and politics

At the second day of the Sochi 1520 strategic forum, Russian Railway’s President, Vladimir Yakunin spoke to Global Rail News and other members of the foreign press.

Yakunin is always forthcoming at his press conferences and this one was no exception. Amongst other topics, he gave his views on high-speed rail, investment in freight corridors and the Ukrainian situation.

In a reflection of the UK HS2 controversy, Yakunin revealed that many in Russia thought that the £19 billion required for high speed line between Moscow and Kazan should be spent on more deserving projects. However studies using the experience of Japan, France and Germany had conclusively demonstrated that high speed rail was a “very handsome investment for the state”. No date has been announced for completion of first Russian high-speed line but Yakunin is confident it will be built before HS2.

Yakunin is firmly committed to enhancing long-distance rail freight corridors with significant investments in the Trans-Siberian and its northerly neighbour – the BAM. Russian Railways is also working with Kazakhstan, Belarus and China on the “New Silk Road”. He even referred to a future line under the Bering Strait to Alaska which he felt was a long term but realistic aspiration.

In discussing the Ukrainian situation, Yakunin and advised that there still good co-operation in respect of railway operations. However passenger traffic between the two countries has been reduced by 60 per cent. Yakunin was angered by the way the western press had reported Ukraine. He categorically denied Russian interference and gave a detailed explanation of Russia’s stance. He felt that “sooner or later the situation will come to normal”, until then there would inevitably be an impact on projects such as the proposed Russian gauge line to Vienna.

Report by David Shirres