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Live from IRFC 2022: And here's the conclusion! Session 5 of the conference will bring questions and answers about the TEN-T network

Live from IRFC 2022: And here's the conclusion! Session 5 of the conference will bring questions and answers about the TEN-T network
photo: RAILTARGET/Live from IRFC 2022: And here's the conclusion! Session 5 of the conference will bring questions and answers about the TEN-T network
06 / 10 / 2022

Welcome to the last session of this year's IRFC 2022 conference! In this session, we will learn more about TEN-T: a reliable and resilient transcontinental network. Presentations will be given by Radek Čech, Director of the International Cooperation and EU Department, Alojz Filipek, Technical Director of BTS, and Boris Leštinský, Head of the Military Transport Development and HNS Department, MoD!

15:25 Radek Čech, Director of the International Cooperation and EU Department of SŽ, is the first to present the Via Vindobona project. The Czech Republic is a crossroads of Europe, and routes from west to east or from south to north run through it. The Via Vindobona will run from Vienna, through Brno, Jihlava, Prague and then to Berlin. From Prague, you can get to Berlin in an hour, and to Vienna in about four. Most of the section will be able to go up to 320 km/h, and the planned Erzgebirge Tunnel will be part of it. Thanks to the Via Vindobona, the more direct connection from Vienna to Berlin via Prague will finally be faster because if you go from Vienna to Berlin via Germany now, you will save at least an hour on the journey. As regards the TEN-T review, we have discussed our plans with the EC and MEPs. With this revision, we would ensure a direct connection between Prague and Brno and the TEN-T core in our country should be completed by 2040. Then we would add a new section around Hradec Králové, which would provide rail freight. But we need political support, EU co-funding or support for digitisation and research. It should then make rail more attractive than other modes of transport. The added value will be in levelling out regional disparities, reducing dependence on oil, increasing rail freight capacity or significantly reducing distances between the main cities of central Europe. The main benefit is also international cooperation with neighbouring countries so that we can continue to improve VRT and the connection to the TEN-T network.

15:40 Erik Evtimov, Deputy Secretary General of CIT, continues. We have three layers in European transport from a legal point of view - COTIF-CIM, SMGS/SMPS and Corridor Law - plus national law. It is then up to the lawyers to somehow link them. However, war tends to be the enemy of the law. Western Europe falls under CIM, Eastern Europe and part of the Balkans under CIM+SMGS and Russia under SMGS. Therefore, the application of secondary European law may be more challenging as the TEN-T network will run through countries with different legal standards for transport. But we believe it will be done. We have started discussing solutions to these legal differences between countries where on the road it is quite simple, you just have one road. But on the rail, it's more complicated because when you go from Prague to Kyiv, the legal acts and contracts change. We would like to work on a single transport document to prevent complications in rail transport. It will also save time and money, as there will be no need to have several documents for one railway journey. It will also achieve legal interoperability, so to speak, and there is the potential to make it easier for the railways.

15:55 Next up is Boris Leštinský, Head of the Military Transport and HNS Development Department, MoD, Czech Republic. I would like to explain the concept of military mobility. One of their main goals is to ensure the security of the state, so they must be properly equipped and so prepared. Cooperation between the EU armies is not new and in 2017 PESCO was established, which supports precisely military mobility or the ability to meet the EU defence objectives. This is very important because armies can then move quickly to a conflict hotspot. To ensure truly seamless military mobility, we need to remove several barriers, such as legislation, infrastructure or deepening international military cooperation (within NATO and the EU). Then we will be able to ensure full military mobility and be able to intervene wherever we need to deploy troops. But all processes will have to be harmonised at the European level. First, we need to set up the military requirements to reflect the infrastructure of the Member States. This has already been achieved through discussions at the EU and NATO levels. It will be important to ensure sufficient weight capacity for bridges on military corridors. Customs procedures should then be harmonised on cross-border movements and, prospectively, special military customs zones should be built that are not constrained by bureaucracy. The CBMP project could help in this regard as it sets out the technical aspects for movement both by land and air for military needs. Finally, I would like to say something about how the Czech Republic is supporting Ukraine. All military material is transported to Ukraine by ČD Cargo, and I thank them for doing so, and in a very short time. Another element of assistance to Ukraine is the implementation of the LOGFAS system.

16:10 Peter Hrapko, Advisor to the State Secretary for Intermodal Transport of the Ministry of Transport of the Slovak Republic, will make his contribution. Slovakia is in an interesting position within Europe because we have up to 300 potential clients within a 1000 km radius and we are connected to all important corridors. We are also investing heavily in the modernisation of the rail network. On the border with Ukraine, we have taken steps to connect Ukraine to the TEN-T network. Several freight rail corridors from the northern and southern routes pass through Slovakia. The border with Ukraine is now served by several transhipment terminals in Čierne nad Tisou, TKD Dobrá or Mátovec. The one in Čierna is the largest and can serve the Ukrainian broad gauge line together with the narrower European one. The broad gauge line then also leads to Matoè and further on to Košice, where INTERPORT Haniska is located, thus opening up possibilities for further development of cooperation with Ukraine, or opening it up to the EU.

16:25 Alojz Filipek, Technical Director of BTS, will make the last presentation. Čierna nad Tisou is one of the largest transfer stations between broad gauge and narrow gauge lines. As there is no good road connection between Slovakia and Ukraine, rail is the main mode of transport for freight. Capacity rail connections in Ukraine go mainly from Black Sea ports to the west. And what has caused the change in product flows? It is certainly partly Ukraine's war-damaged transport infrastructure, sanctions, restrictions and closures of Black Sea ports, and the need to find new product outlets for those originally destined for Russia. Today, almost exclusively Ukrainian products are transported by rail, using routes that are a priority rail network even from the EU's point of view. The cargo is mainly iron ore substrates and iron, coal and other bulk substrates and to a lesser extent machinery or chemical products. Even before the war in Ukraine, the vast majority - 85% - of iron ore was imported from Ukraine and only 15% from Russia. This year, too, there has been a 21% year-on-year increase in iron ore imports. Going forward, we expect to see a slight decrease in iron ore imports in Chernivtsi, but at the same time, an increase in the volumes of agricultural products or petroleum products and demands for imports of other types of products into Ukraine. To achieve sustainable development, we need to stick to investments in Čierna nad Tisou, but also, for example, to simplify customs processes and to ensure that there are enough wagons for both types of gauge and other types of cargo.

16:45 And one last panel discussion! The speakers will be Michael Breuer, Chairman of IBS, Conor Feighan, Secretary General of ERFA, Bogdan Ciobanu, CEO of UNICOM Transit, Andrii Miroshnikov, Head of Commercial Department of Ukrainian Railways, and Ondrej Kovarik, MEP.

Michael Breuer will be the first to say a few words. A digitally connected railway allows the use of only one platform, so there is no need for communication noise as all available data is in one data centre. We can therefore know the status of a given train, where it is when it will arrive or whether it is damaged. It could be revolutionary for the European logistics chain.

Conor Feighan will be next. ERFA is the voice of private and independent rail freight companies. In our view, the situation in Ukraine has shown the need for its connection to the TEN-T network. It is also clear that we are failing to move more freight to rail, from 37 million tonnes in 2008-2018 to 48 million tonnes in 10 years in Germany. Therefore, we should work on the rail infrastructure so that we can operate, for example, long trains (740 m), improve cross-border connections and implement ERTMS/ETCS. All this is within the TEN-T framework. In addition, I must create standardised rules for infrastructure capacity management in the EU.

Bogdan Ciobanu is continuing this whirlwind! Our company is family-owned, and we currently have 15 locomotives. We provide all possible logistics services for our clients. We have about 10% of the Romanian market. And Romania has the longest border with Ukraine of any European country, which could lead to several opportunities for connecting Ukraine with Europe. We would also like to join Schengen under the Czech Presidency because we want to have better rail connections and also increase rail speed in the future. However, our government must improve Romania's railway infrastructure. Perhaps the ring from the fairy tale Arabela would help with this.

The Ukrainian contribution is by Andrii Miroshnikov. I cannot forget the difficult situation in Ukraine in connection with the war. Our railway is constantly under Russian attack, and our railwaymen are dying, not only for the railway but also for our country. Despite this, we are trying to build new railways to help the Ukrainian economy. We want to ensure interoperability on the railways with our Western partners and then be integrated into the TEN-T network. Along with this, we have several short-term projects for the renewal of the Ukrainian railway, and then medium- and long-term projects. Some of these projects will already have 1435 mm gauge lines, they will help with increasing the transport capacity or speed.

There will also be a few sentences from Ondrej Kovarik. We should ensure that we can help our Ukrainian colleagues through the railway in their efforts. And once the war is over, hopefully soon, we should help Ukraine with post-war reconstruction. Perhaps we should look beyond the infrastructure itself and mention how quickly we can deliver on all these plans, for example, digitisation or TEN-T. It is taking quite a long time, and we need to find a way to speed up these processes.

17:30 That's the end of Session 5 of IRFC 2022! Thank you for watching the live coverage of this event. The RAILTARGET editorial team will be bringing you more articles and exclusive interviews with the participants in the coming weeks! See you soon!

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