Shift to rail in Kaliningrad: how freight contributes to decarbonisation of Russian exclave

2021/06/28 at 9:41 AM

The Kaliningrad region, which is cut from mainland Russia, is well-known among the logistics experts as an important hub on the New Silk Road. This stimulates the development of container transport on the railway network of the Russian exclave. Meanwhile, another type of freight is becoming more and more popular in the region.

In 2020 the Kaliningrad Railway, the regional branch of Russian Railways (RZD), set almost fivefold growth of the transit container traffic between China and Europe by transporting 47,500 TEU. At the same time, another type of freight is also gaining more popularity among the shippers. It is the construction materials, which show almost threefold increase compared to the year before. There were transhipped 115,000 tonnes of the mentioned freight last year on the region’s railway network. And this is not the end in terms of opportunities.

Environmental benefit

Besides additional freight volumes, the rail shipments of the construction materials in the Kaliningrad region has another benefit. The ecological one. According to the Kaliningrad Railway, the delivery of the construction materials across the region’s tracks generates less CO2 emissions. To verify this, the railway company estimated the environmental efficiency of rail shipments of gravel and sand in the Kaliningrad region, namely from the Krasnolesye quarry.

A freight train in the Kaliningrad region loaded with bulk, source: Russian Railways (RZD)

The Kaliningrad Railway transported 27,300 tonnes of the construction materials from the mentioned location in January – May of the current year. 61 freight trains were dispatched from the Krasnolesye station. This data was a basis for a comparative analysis of the fuel consumption of diesel locomotives and heavy goods vehicles. And the locos won having shown a better environmental efficiency: they produce CO2 emissions by 2.8 times less than the trucks used for carrying gravel and sand from the Krasnolesye quarry. As a result, the rail shipments allowed the railway operator to reduce 108 tonnes of CO2 emissions during the first five months of the year.

Automated system

To estimate the environmental benefit, the Kaliningrad Railway applied the ‘Ecology’ automated control system, also known via the Russian abbreviation ASU Ekologiya. The solution was developed by JSC NIIAS, RZD’s research subsidiary. It has been gradually implementing by various regional branches of Russian Railways since the late 2000s. The ASU Ekologiya system allows the enterprise to automatically calculate the environmental impact of the rail operations, to define the type of emissions and waste. Moreover, the solution identifies the fine payments for a negative impact of the rail operations including the payments with penalty coefficients. All the mentioned features facilitate putting into practice the environmental policy of the railway undertakings.

Additional activities

It is worth adding that the Kaliningrad Railway started to separate waste at the train stations and recycle waste paper and plastic. According to the company, recycling 1 tonne of waste paper allows saving 10 trees from cutting down and thus saving ionised oxygen for 30 people. RZD’s regional branch in the exclave region is also recycling waste plastic collected at the train stations into some useful things to improve passenger comfort. For instance, there were installed several benches produced from the recycled plastic near the station buildings in Kaliningrad, Svetlogorsk, Pionerskiy Kurort, Zelenogradsk.

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