The new version of the rules of non-discriminatory access (NDA) to railway infrastructure, which are currently suspended, involves the introduction of priorities for northern products and cargo to eliminate the consequences of hostilities in new territories and in regions where special regimes apply. The IPA also plans to consolidate a significant part of the amendments made to the current rules of temporary priority. Coal, which is exported from Kuzbass and a number of other regions and now occupies most of the scarce capacity of the Eastern site, contrary to the wishes of Russian Railways, remains a priority.
The government has prepared a new edition of the rules for non-discriminatory access of carriers to railway infrastructure (PND), which will be considered at a meeting of the Presidium of the Government Transport Commission on November 24. IPAs were introduced in 2003, but in May 2020 they were amended to allow for the distribution of scarce infrastructure capabilities - primarily the Eastern range - between various cargoes.
After the outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine, which resulted in a serious change in the structure of freight flows in Russia, IPAs were suspended (see “Kommersant” dated March 9, 2022) and replaced by temporary rules for determining priority (they are adopted at the level of the board of JSC Russian Railways), aimed at freeing up capacity of the Eastern range for cargo with higher added value than coal, domestic transportation, shipments of enterprises that have lost European sales markets, etc. (see “Kommersant” dated March 15, 2022). The temporary rules have been extended several times - most recently until 2024; it was decided to transfer their provisions to the permanent IPA.
In particular, the wording of the first, highest priority position in the queue has changed, as follows from the text of the amendments, which Kommersant has read. If earlier these were cargoes for emergency response, now we are talking about the priority determined by federal laws - military, special, etc. From April 1, 2024, cargo for northern delivery will be added to the category: necessary to ensure the livelihoods of the population and the stable functioning of organizations social sphere, housing and communal services and energy (according to the explanatory note, about 3 million tons per year) and “others for state and municipal needs.” This is quite a voluminous cargo flow: Russian Railways transported more than 40 million tons for northern delivery in ten months, including 10.8 million tons of petroleum products, 7.6 million tons of construction materials, 5.3 million tons of coal, 4.1 million tons of cargo in containers and 300 thousand tons of food products.
Cargo for emergencies moved to the second priority; transportation was added to eliminate the consequences of military operations and illegal interference in the constituent entities of the Russian Federation, where “separate special regimes” operate, including counter-terrorism operations and high alert. Thus, priority access to limited infrastructure can, for example, be given to cargo for new territories (martial law regime) and border areas (high alert regime).
Now special regimes operate in a significant part of the country: in addition to martial law, in October 2022, the President of the Russian Federation introduced a medium-level response regime in the Crimea, Krasnodar Territory, Belgorod, Bryansk, Voronezh, Kursk, Rostov regions and Sevastopol and a high-alert regime in other subjects in Southern Federal District and Central Federal District, including Moscow.
Traffic volumes in communication with new territories are not disclosed. Since the purpose of the cargo is determined - to eliminate the consequences of military operations and sabotage - priority does not apply to the entire cargo flow. But even if all the products of the new territories had priority, it would hardly have had a significant impact on the overall load on the infrastructure. According to the head of Infoline-Analytics, Mikhail Burmistrov, this flow will not affect the most problematic area on the network, the Eastern Polygon. In southern ports, where there are infrastructure limitations, the expert notes, the main problem is related to approaches, passenger traffic and the increased level of terrorist threat.
In the new edition of the IPA, cargo remains a priority based on individual acts of the president and government (third stage), that is, the export flow of coal from Kuzbass, Khakassia, Buryatia, Tuva and Yakutia will still travel before the bulk of cargo at the Eastern site. Now coal accounts for about 58% of the cargo flow of the BAM and Trans-Siberian Railway and 70% of the export cargo flow, and coal “on orders” accounts for about 90% of all export volumes of this type of raw material. JSC Russian Railways has repeatedly called for a reduction in the share of coal at the Eastern site, estimating its additional income at 1 billion rubles. per quarter, if we transfer coal “on orders” from the third category to the general category for coal (see “Kommersant” dated May 15).
Next come transit and subsidized cargo, followed by cargo in domestic traffic, where at the top of the list of priorities are transportation for material reserves, shipment of socially significant goods, cargo for housing and communal services and energy and the sowing campaign. Behind them, another priority category has been introduced - for products and raw materials for continuous production enterprises. Their list is planned to be approved separately.
Transportation of energy exports in specialized rolling stock is followed by transportation in container trains. As has already been implemented in the temporary rules, the first among them is forestry products from manufacturers (see Kommersant on May 28), agricultural and food exports in containers, as well as internal transportation of container cargo from SMEs. At the end of the list are non-resource exports, followed by raw material exports in gondola cars, with enterprises mining or processing coal having some priority within the category. So far, the IPA has not included a clause on priority transportation under ship-or-pay contracts (see Kommersant on August 11), the possibility of introducing which was discussed with the FAS in the summer by Russian Railways.