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03 november

The point of no return has been passed. Despite the crisis, Moscow-Kazan HSR design works are up to schedule

As far as last year, Moscow-Kazan HSR construction project received a mixed response from the society. The project had its supporters and opposers. After a year, the general positive attitude to the HSR construction is dominant, as Alexander Misharin, First Vice President of Russian Railways and CEO of High-Speed Rail Lines, reminded the discussion participants. He called Moscow-Kazan HSR the “country development project”. And there is a large element of truth in his words. The economy features crisis developments, and industrial production is slowing down. However, by no means the situation should prevent the country from building, operating and developing high-speed railways. Moreover, the experience of the world's leading countries, such as the USA, shows that exactly during a sharp economic slowdown the US Government undertook large infrastructure projects, such as road construction. And it appeared to be the crisis “remedy”. As commonplace as it is, a HSR is the most advanced and appropriate “engine” to pull dozens of related industries and bring them to a brand new and higher level of innovative development. It will help to gain huge and unique experience and roll it out in this country and abroad. Economic estimates and multiple expert reviews speak for a high multiplicative effect of Moscow-Kazan HSR project for the country's economy: investments will pay back many-fold in a few years after the line operates in a regular mode. Given that the total HSR cost exceeds RUB1 tn, the interest on the part of international and domestic businesses is clear. European leaders such as France, Germany and Italy, as well as Asia-Pacific representatives — Japan and China, have already expressed their intent to participate in the project. Each country has a proven and unique HSR design and construction track record, both domestic and international. Currently, the industry's global leader is China, who has built and operates the world's largest high-speed railway network of about 20,000 km long. Although, as far as 15 years ago, China did not have any high-speed line. Totally, over 32,000 km of HSRs are operated globally, and as many are under design and construction. Huge interest in HSR is shown not only by our foreign partners, but by residents of the regions where it will run. People have turned their faces to the HSR, and it is beyond any doubt. According to the recent opinion polls, the idea is supported by 80% of people (against 30-40% in the middle of the last year). Alexander Misharin gave interesting facts. For example, last year the refusal of a Chinese province authorities to finance HSR construction by reason of economic slowdown resulted in mass riots — people demanded to support the construction. The riots gathered over 80% residents of the neighbouring locations. On the contrary, in Italy, who has 1,269 km of high-speed railways, the authorities' decision to build a HSR gathered only 40% of people who opposed the construction. Alexander Misharin believes that community risks associated with HSR construction are comparable to technology challenges inevitably met by designers, constructors, and, later, operators. Not the least role in changing the public opinion belongs to the media, which have provided regular and unbiased project updates since the idea origination until now. And today the media and the public have not lost their keen interest in the HSR. The best proof for this is a large expert community gathered at Gudok's round table. Mr. Misharin underlined social and economic importance of the project both for further growth of Russian high-speed communication sector and development of the areas through which the future line will pass. Remember that apart from Moscow and Moscow Region, it will go through Vladimir and Nizhni Novgorod Regions, Cheboksary (the capital of Chuvashia) and Kazan (the capital of Tatarstan). “The project implementation will create thousands of new jobs”, noted Alexander Misharin. The project will engage both large domestic and global producers, and, what is more important, regional industrial enterprises. For example, gravel, cement and construction material producers. The project will need hundreds of thousands tonnes of gravel, a large number of pylons and miles of contact wires, over 20,000 tonnes of high-quality rails and thousands of modern reinforced concrete cross-ties. Construction of the high-speed railway line will drive development of local small and medium businesses. Various services will be needed, including catering, leisure and maintenance of the future transport hubs, which will fully transform into modern transport clusters after the HSR is in regular operation. Mobility and business activity of the population will grow greatly, which is also a benefit. The regions will draw closer, located at only an hour's distance. Going from Kazan to Cheboksary for work will be as real as flying to Turkey or Egypt for holidays. To raise HSR awareness of the wider population, information centres have been deployed in the largest localities to aggregate all necessary information, and further, train movement information. Alexander Misharin also noted the importance of revival of the domestic design school. Beside large design institutes such as Mosgiprotrans, over 30 small design institutes and firms are involved in the HSR design works. Mosgiprotrans is currently Russia's oldest and most reputed design institute. It can boast such renowned projects as BAM design and upgrade, Moscow Circle Railway and many other infrastructure facilities. “I would like the expert community to focus on an indisputable fact”, stressed Alexander Misharin, “that if we don't implement such projects, we are going to lose our design companies and they will not have a chance to put their developments and ideas into practice”. Here is another large benefit of Moscow-Kazan HSR: Today we can be positive that the project has rehabilitated Russian design business and revived Russian design school, which we could have eventually lost. The threat was quite real until the last year. First, portfolios of design firms do not have any large important projects. Second, as one of the speakers mentioned, the mean age of a chief project engineer is currently close to the retirement age (60), and in bridge design firms the “youngest” designer is almost 70! Therefore, we may definitely say that the deficit of design capacities, occurring at the pre-project phase a couple of years ago, has been now resolved. Besides, HSR construction will give a strong development impetus to science and R&D. Without research, studies, new solutions and approaches no serious talk is possible about high-speed railways construction. And this is another benefit of Moscow-Kazan HSR. Alexander Misharin also gave key facts of the future HSR infrastructure. According to him, today the “selection of best-in-class solutions” for 350-400 km/h trains is at issue. It refers to all infrastructure facilities and elements, from traditional track option to a wide use of overpasses on certain sections, state-of-the-art SCB systems, extra durable rails, cross-ties, track switches, fastenings, pylons and contact wires. All solutions should be weighted and pass tough expert reviews and testing on test tracks. In this regard, Russian Railways counts on assistance and participation of its Chinese partners, who do not only have the largest HSR network but also the most advanced test tracks to test all elements of the future HSR and high-speed trains. According to Alexander Misharin, Chinese partners have aggregated the entire global experience in HSR design, construction and operation. It should be absorbed to generate our own experience and then apply it in other countries. The client will select test track later. For an unbiased and impartial assessment of design deliverables RZD has chosen SYSTRA, a subsidiary of SNCF, France's national railway company, as a technical advisor. This is to exclude protectionism of any kind. RZD, however, will take the final decision and say the last word. Each design will pass an expert review. Bridge designs will be a special focus. The truth is that Russia currently does not have any approved bridge construction standards for trains moving at 350 km/h or more. Each bridge, therefore, has to be designed individually. “All submitted solutions for KS400 contact wires, rolling stock, fastenings, extra durable steel rails and state-of-the-art technologies are interesting and diverse”, underlined Alexander Misharin. “However, our indisputable condition for all partners is full localisation of the production in Russia”. “Is the existing Russian legal framework acceptable for and to what extent does it meet HSR design and construction requirements?” “It's a difficult and multilayered issue that will require railway community to cooperate closely to look for joint solutions and compromises on a number of challenges”. The subject has raised active discussions. Gennady Talashkin, President of the Union of Railway Constructors, gave a lead to the discussions. He underlined that the large-scale and unique nature of speed and high-speed railway construction projects in this country requires brand new approaches to everything, from the use of innovation technologies, international legal base and human resource training to the interaction between industry experts and academy with the involvement of foreign partners. It is particularly important to ensure security and reliability of structures, technical solutions and technologies used in HSR design and construction. The purpose of a technical regulation framework for HSR projects is to define appropriate requirements and meet the defined level of security in products, processes and services by giving railway product manufacturers an opportunity to use new technologies and materials. Key applicable regulatory documents are the Customs Union's technical regulations in railway transportation 2011, specifically, the “Technical Regulations on Safety of High-Speed Railway Transportation”. At the pre-project phase of Moscow-Kazan HSR, an investment business case was prepared and a set of basic special technical specifications (STU) was approved to govern the design and construction of facilities and elements of infrastructure subsystems of high-speed railway transportation. To prove compliance of the selected designs with the Technical Regulations, eight set of rules for HSR subsystems design should be developed and approved before summer 2016. The task has already been approved by the Russian Ministry of Construction, and the industry institutes are working on it. Design works are financed, beside RZD, by construction and design firms, self-regulating organisations and their national associations. It was also noted that the client required from designers to increase the train weight and axis load from 17 to 23 tonnes for the use of trains propelled by a locomotive. Also, to provide scientific support of design solutions the Union of Railway Constructors proposed to set up a HSR Expert Council. The proposal was supported by the Russian Transport Academy, Moscow State University of Railway Engineering (MIIT), St. Petersburg State Transport University (PGUPS), and a number of other institutes and design and construction firms. “Russian Railways supported the initiative”, said Alexander Misharin, First Vice President of Russian Railways, “and the Expert Council is already functioning in the HSR project management office at High-Speed Rail Lines. I would like to thank the Union of Railway Constructors for their work. Today the organisation plays an important role in shaping technical solutions, rules and new standards for the HSR. For example, based on proposals by Chinese engineers, who are part of the design team for a section of Moscow-Kazan HSR, which proposals were supported by the Union's experts, we are considering over 170 adjustments to the current version of special technical specifications”. “What shall be done to overcome bureaucratic barriers in the design process?” In answering the question, Alexander Misharin told that there are 15 effective special technical specifications (STU) approved by Gosstroy, which enable to proceed to design works, and such STUs are mandatory for all design team members. Besides, the design team is currently preparing amendments to the STUs to be submitted for approval to Gosekspertiza and Gosstroy. The designers have about three months in store, which is quite enough. The design team has developed eight sets of rules and about 30 standards to be introduced in 2016, i.e. by completion of the HSR design phase. All changes are scheduled by month and strictly aligned with the project road map until regular operation of the railway. All works are up to the approved schedule. The key topic of discussions was European and Asian experience in HSR construction and operation. Lars Boessert, Branch Manager Dresden and Member of Board at Obermeyer, shared his personal experience of design and construction quality control and management methods applied for a Chinese HSR with an approved speed of 350 km/h. “We implemented a large-scale Wuchang-Guangzhou line project about 1,000 km long. We built 25 stations, about 670 bridges and 220 tunnels. Overall project was over EUR9 bn, with EUR30 mn of design costs”. According to Mr. Boessert, Obermeyer had confirmed general compliance of the project to HSR requirements. However, German experts identified certain limitations in each technical section (occurring basically due to deviation of initial parameters) resulting from applicable Chinese standards or the client's work acceleration requests. Eventually, German specialists could materially improve each section against the Chinese standards. According to Lars Boessert, the area where the HSR runs is literally the hottest spot of China with summer temperatures usually over 50oC. The factor had to be accounted for. Account had also to be taken of the client's specific requirements, particularly the defined initial parameters. Despite the challenges, the project was implemented in a extra short time, three years after the start of design works. Lars Boessert also acknowledged that Wenzhou-Fuzhou design process was no less interesting. The line is 300 km shorter than Wuchang-Guangzhoua, but it has a triple use and runs along the coast. It is intensively used both for passenger and freight transportation. And the third benefit is that since the HSR runs along the coast close to Taiwan, it is used by the military to deliver special freight. Finishing his speech, Lars Boessert gave advice based on his interaction with Chinese partners, which helped him overcome a number of technical and organizational challenges during design and construction. For example, roles and competences should be clearly defined and appropriate disciplines set up. Besides, legal framework should be improved and aligned with HSR technical parameters and standards with a focus on interface management. And of course, it requires an ongoing contact with the client. Joerg Liebscher, Country Division Lead Mobility Siemens, presented the round table participants a number of innovation technologies, fitted for Moscow-Kazan HSR, in the field of SCB — cutting-edge Automatic Train Control systems (ATC 400). Already available are traction substations and contact wires that totally differ from the previous models, and a new generation of Sapsan designed for 350-400 km/h speeds. Its key performance characteristics are: 8 to 10-car train with an energy-efficient РЕМ engine, — 40 to +40oC operating temperature range, while the strength ratio of steel used in the train design allows for operation at lower temperatures. The train also provides for using double traction. Mr. Liebscher stressed that these developments account for full localisation of production in Russia. “Our slogan is “In Russia — for Russia”, he underlined. No less interesting was the discussion of taking up and adapting of global HSR experience to Russian conditions. First of all, this is about certain operation challenges of a HSR running through regions with different climates and terrains. Therefore, protection of rails, fasteners and other infrastructure elements from aggressive environmental affects is of top importance. Maria Eksler, Director General of TERMISHIN RUS, offered the railway community a number of innovation anti-corrosion technologies. The company is the holder of a patent for Termishin (Levicor) protection technology for steelwork of any grade, including spring steel and heavy-duty steel, cast irons and nonferrous alloys by using a thermal diffusion zinc coating method. During eight months fastening elements were exposed to environment and chemical agents in the cold season. And there were no traces of corrosion. Today the method is one of the most efficient anti-corrosion protections of steel surfaces. It helps to extend life cycle, improve durability and strength, raise security and reliability of structures and save maintenance and repair costs. Sergey Palkin, Vice President of the Union of Industries of Railway Equipment (UIRE), touched upon, perhaps, one of the most pressing issues: Are domestic manufacturers ready to fulfil orders for high-tech equipment, infrastructure elements, construction and maintenance machinery for the HSR? He focused on the production of high quality new generation rails fit for 400 km/h speeds. Such products require the use of revolutionary innovation technologies and high-precision equipment. In this regard, Sergey Palkin pointed out to the downsides of the current GOST R 51685-2013 as it applies to rails for HSR400. The speaker listed a number of requirements to Russian-made rails to be fit for 400 km/h speeds. They include higher impact ductility and drop strength, and longer fault-free performance until overhaul. However, Russian manufacturers are already prepared to produce rails fit for 400 km/h speeds. In particular, EVRAZ ZSMK (EVRAZ Consolidated West-Siberian Metallurgical Plant) has developed OTЗ50NN and DTЗ50NN rails that have successfully passed tests on BAM and Transsib tracks. DT350СС rails were laid on Moscow-Saint Petersburg section this year for controls in real operating conditions. The principal requirement to rails is their fault-free performance with a tonnage capacity of up to 500 mn tonnes (i.e. over 10 years of continuous operation); and their service life until the first overhaul should be brought up to 1.5 bn gross tonnes or 30 years of performance. Sergey Palkin proposed to develop and have duly approved, as a supplement to GOST R 51685-2013, a draft of updated technical specifications (TU) for HSR 400 rails. In late 1950s, at the start of active space exploration, many asked: What are the benefits or is it just a waste of money? “For almost half a century we've been commercialising space, and the question of whether it is feasible is no longer relevant. Almost the same, once Moscow-Kazan HSR is put into operation, no one will longer question the feasibility of a high-speed railways. And the railway’s extension to Yekaterinburg and Beijing will mark a new age in the history of HSR development globally”, said Yuri Saakyan, Director General of the Institute for Natural Monopolies Research. The point of no return has been passed. Summing up the discussion outcomes, Alexander Misharin, First Vice President of Russian Railways, said: “Despite macroeconomic challenges, the project will be taken to its logical end. So we all, throughout the implementation period, should meet regularly to discuss the arising concerns, more actively continue the professional dialogue, discuss potential technology and other risks and challenges and seek to appropriately resolve them”. Source: Gudok

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