Rail transportation: safety, advantages and new opportunities for international cargo transportation in 2024

29 December 2023

Safety and benefits of railway transportation: new factors of stability in 2024

The current situation, related to the security of maritime transport, could potentially attract more shippers to rail transport. Landrail transport is yet another time playing the role of a balancing factor for international supply chains.


Even in the early to mid-2010s, the problem of congestion at major border crossings, especially on the border with the European Union, was relevant. This was followed by a phase of «explosive» growth in transport in 2016-2020 when the deficit of new infrastructure was compensated by technological innovations.

China-Europe trains successfully coped with these challenges. Multimodal transport involving rail stations and ports in the Kaliningrad region was launched. The number of rail freight terminals at the border with the European Union countries increased, both at the Belarusian station Brest and at the nearby stations Bruzgi and Svisloch. Technological solutions such as the coordinated passage of extended container trains XL-Train by the railway administrations of Kazakhstan, Russia, and Belarus using the technology of reloading three trains from China into two trains on the 1520 gauge allowed reducing the load on the network, providing an additional margin of strength for the infrastructure.


The 2020-21 pandemic «hit» the Eurasian land transport system from both sides: at the beginning of the pandemic, the loading of trains from China decreased, and then the loading from Europe fell. However, consistent work to ensure balanced transport led to the emergence of new points of origin for cargo flows in Europe destined for China, as well as attracting new types of goods and new cargo-generating provinces in China, previously traditionally inclined to other modalities. New routes and new services emerged, and loyalty to rail transport showed a multiple increase.

Traditionally, rail transport was accessible to large manufacturers and resource extraction companies. But with the introduction of the «freight express» service (and its variants «grain express», and «cold express»), rail transport became more accessible to small and medium-sized customers.

A major push was given to the development of digital technologies. For example, in 2023 «RZD-Technologies» introduced an online service for managing the delivery of exchange goods across the country. The integration of the state electronic transportation document system and the RZD electronic transport bill of lading service allows for paperless (and thus faster) delivery of goods not only by rail but also by road transport. Artificial intelligence technologies are already helping to control the displacement or improper securing of cargo in an automated mode. Moreover, experiments are being conducted using third-level autopilots, the introduction of which is expected to increase the throughput capacity of stations by up to 20%.


In the current difficult situation with the safety of maritime transport, the advantages of rail services, such as rhythm and regularity of dispatches, as well as almost absolute safety of goods, where the percentage of cargo preservation consistently remains at 99.997%, become even more crystallized. For example, this year the company UTLC ERA statistically recorded a cargo theft rate of 0%.

Currently, instability in transport rates is projected at the beginning of 2024. China-Europe trains, in turn, provide an opportunity for cost management on «long distances». Railway tariffs are characterized by high reliability and predictability in the long and medium term.

Main railway routes China — Europe,, China — Central Asia, and China — Southeast Asia have already proven the ability to flexibly adapt to changes in the regions of origin and absorption of cargo flows. And this is one of the new factors stabilizing global supply chains at the turn of 2023-2024.


By 2024, the national program «Digital Economy» is coming to an end. It will be replaced by the newly announced program «Economy of Data». Participation in its implementation opens wide opportunities for creating cost management strategies based on data arrays:

  • Implementation of systems for through data analysis. Modern solutions (for example, SberTech Platform V Archiving) allow seamlessly combining data from different sources, archiving them, and supplying them to central accounting and monitoring systems. Such coverage of data within the company allows a fresh look at the situation with the company's route network, as well as assess the efficiency of resource and inventory management.
  • Process automation. The results of a thorough analysis of process quality within the company also become a good basis for building plans for the implementation of automation systems. For example, the introduction of robots in RZD's speech services has already allowed to speed up the processing time of user requests by 3-5 times. The use of automated technical inspection and repair systems allows more flexible maintenance of rolling stock.
  • Implementation of geographic information systems. Allows collecting and analyzing information about the movement of goods in real-time, compiling and optimizing the schedule of movement, and reconciling the arrival of resources at the enterprise with production plans.

In addition to digital means of reducing costs and increasing the flexibility of routes, there are also traditional ones, such as the modernization of rolling stock and the application of multimodal transport.