South Caucasus Railways (SCR) priority for 2012 is to upgrade its rolling stock
Interview with Gagik Movsisyan, head of SCR’s directorate for passenger traffic
Q. Mr. Movsesian, could you sum up what was done last year and highlight also last year’s main achievements?
A. Last year was quite successful in terms of passenger traffic indicators. Of our major achievements I would like first of all to single out the introduction of Orion automated ticket reservation system for international passenger trains. It was essential for improving the quality of services at box office. Thanks to Orion system passengers can reserve tickets for Yerevan-Batumi-Yerevan train 40 days in advance. This is also important for predicting what we call "train population" and accordingly, the need for rolling stock. As a result, the population of Yerevan-Batumi-Yerevan trains in summer season increased by 19.2%.
Apart from Yerevan, Gyumri, Vanadzor and Armavir, the Orion system was installed also in Nagorno-Karabakh. Now train tickets can be reserved not only by Nagorno-Karabakh residents, but also by residents in southern Armenian Goris, Kapan and other communities in Syunik region. By the way, last year we sold 400 tickets in Nagorno-Karabakh via Orion system.
Opening of a new platform near Almast plant in northern Yerevan t was our second major achievement to operate electrical trains which take Yerevan residents to popular Lake Sevan.
We had another achievement last year – I mean the introduction of cash registers for sale of tickets for commuter trains. Cash-registers are connected online with electronic data transfer system. A cash register receipt is equal to a train ticket. This innovation will help us save annually about 3-4 million drams.
Q. How big is the demand for international trains?
A. As you know, the SCR operates two international trains: Yerevan-Tbilisi-Yerevan, which runs from October through early June, and Yerevan-Batumi-Yerevan, which runs from mid-June to late September. The biggest demand is for seasonal Armenia trains which transport Armenian holiday makers in summer and September to Batumi, a popular tourist destination on the Black Sea in Georgia. Last year, from June 15 to September 30 the SCR transported 42,200 passengers, up from 40,300 from a year before. The SCR could have transported more Armenian holidaymakers to the Black Sea if we had enough rolling stock. We had 12 cars, but we needed at least three more to transport all those who wished to spend their holidays in Batumi.
This year we are not going to have this problem any more because we had 7 additional passenger cars repaired in Russian Voronezh. They are now in Gyumri waiting for summer. As for the Yerevan-Tbilisi-Yerevan train, the demand for it grows usually during the New Year and Christmas holiday season. In 2011 we transported 57,500 passengers to Georgia, up from 53,700 in 2010.
Q. What are the priorities of your directorate in 2012?
A. Our number one priority in 2012 is the upgrading of the rolling stock. It's no secret that most of the cars operated now were manufactured back in 1950-1980. We also want to increase up to 100 km /h the speed of commuter trains running between Yerevan and Armavir, Yerevan and Artashat and Yerevan and Gyumri. This will significantly improve the competitiveness of railway passenger traffic.
Also together with the ministry of transport and communication of Armenia we plan to create transport hubs at railway stations in Yerevan, Armavir, Artashat and Gyumri, which we expect to increase the number of passengers traveling by rail. For example, the number of passengers transported by buses and minibuses from Yerevan to Gyumri in 2011 decreased by 26%, while the number of passengers transported in the same direction by rail, by contrast, grew by 34%. According to our forecasts, increasing the speed of trains on Yerevan-Gyumri route and creating favorable conditions may attract additional 5000 new passengers every month.
Incidentally, in 2011 we saw a decline in the flow of passengers from Yerevan to Armavir both by rail and road transport by 7% and 27% respectively. However, the ratio was 9:1 in favor of travels by rail. In 2010 the ratio was 11:1. Modernization of this route, reducing the travel time will attract about one thousand new passengers every month. The same is true concerning the trains running from Yerevan to Artashat.
Thus, potentially passenger traffic in these directions could increase by 15%, and revenue from passenger traffic may grow by 16 million drams. As for the modernization of international rail services, we plan to have this year baggage cars, coffee shops, dining cars and so on.
Q. There were discussions on the possibility of operating rail buses. At what stage is this project now?
A. Indeed, we have been looking into the possibility of running single-section diesel rail buses which may pick up to 120 km/h speed between Yerevan and Armavir and Yerevan and Artashat. They consume 40 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers. These buses have 78 seats and may transport as many as 160 passengers. Transition to diesel rail buses would let us save 16 million drams which otherwise would be spent on purchase of fuel, while the annual saving may amount to 192 million drams. The cost of a Russian-manufactured rail diesel is 30 million rubles (about 360 million drams). Thus, the cost of a bus will pay in 4 years.
Q. What are you planning to do for development of railway stations network?
A. In 2012, we will focus on the efficient use of railway stations for commercial purposes through public-private partnership and promotional activities. Regarding the Yerevan railway station I can say that the left wing of the building will be leased for banking business and the right wing will be given to a beauty center that will conduct different competitions. In addition, we want to lease the underpass tunnel.
The stations in Gyumri and Vanadzor will house youth development centers, wedding halls. The station in Vanadzor may house also a hotel. All three stations will be provided with wireless Wi-Fi Internet connection. They will offer also trade and catering as well as car rental services.
Q. What new types of services SCR intends to offer to its passengers in 2012?
A. Beginning from 2012, we plan to start selling tickets for passenger trains in Russia and Georgia. As you know, last summer we started offering a new service for organization of transit trips to the Russian and Ukrainian Black Sea resorts. In 2011, 30 people made use of this service. This year we intend to develop services for transit passengers and start organizing traffic from Yerevan to Batumi and then to Russian Sochi and from there to other Russian cities, as well as to Crimea and Illichivsk in Ukraine and also to Turkey.
Together with travel agencies we plan to organize our own tourist routes. Last summer, we visited Haghpat and Sanahin monasteries in northern Armenia and discussed the possibility of organizing railroad tourist routes to these sites. From 2011 SCR together with the Georgian tour operators offer railway tours to neighboring Georgia.
Q. What are your short-term development goals?
A. The SCR has developed a strategy to boost passenger traffic in 2012-2020. In accordance with it we plan to increase the speed of commuter trains traveling between Yerevan and Armavir and Yerevan and Artashat to 140 km/ hour and also to cut the travel time from Yerevan to Gyumri to 2 hours. This is expected to result in a 12% rise in the passenger flow.
In 2012 we plan to start rehabilitation of 10 passenger facilities (platforms) in the section between Shorzha and Vardenis. In 2015 we plan to start also operating a passenger train from Almast platform in Yerevan to Vardenis which will travel at 80 km/hour and make the journey in 2 hours and 15 minutes to take 2.5 thousand passengers per month. As you know, we also plan to build a railway line from Yerevan railway station to Armenia’s international airport Zvartnots.
By 2020 we plan to have a modern railway network based on advanced technologies that will provide high mobility and safety. By 2020 we want to operate high-speed trains manufactured by German Siemens for travels between Yerevan and Armavir, Yerevan and Artashat and Yerevan and Gyumri. The travel between Yerevan and Armavir and Artashat will reduce to 17 minutes and to 1 hour to Gyumri.
Given the government's program to establish a banking center in Dilijan, we want to expand the network of intra-rail traffic on Vanadzor-Fioletovo section by operating an electrical train that will run from Almast station in Yerevan to Vanadzor at 80 km/hour speed. The entire travel will take 90 minutes, by 30 minutes less than a travel by automobile. According to our forecasts, the train on this route will transport 8-10 thousand passengers a month. We also plan to expand the network of passenger transport in the direction of Tsakhkadzor via rail buses.
Q. What about international routes?
A. By 2015 we plan to expand the network of international rail traffic with access to the Russian Federation and other CIS countries. For example, we plan to start operating a passenger train Yerevan-Moscow by that time. By 2015, we plan also to upgrade the fleet of passenger cars and to increase their number to 150. The development of passenger traffic on international routes by 2015 is supposed to double the number of passengers. And by 2020 we plan to integrate with the transport and logistics system of the West and East transport corridor. -0-