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Plenary session of the Third Railway Congress

November 29, 2017, Moscow

Vladimir Putin addressed a plenary session of the Third Railway Congress, organised by Russian Railways (RZD) and the industry union.

The congress participants are discussing development guidelines for the rail transport and related industries for the immediate future, as well as strategic plans.

Representatives of industrial and transport companies, research centres, federal and regional authorities, and trade unions are taking part in the discussions.

The Third Railway Congress is being held in the year of the 180th anniversary of Russian railways. The first two congresses were held in 2007 and 2011.

Earlier in the day, Vladimir Putin visited the train service depot at the Moscow Kievskaya station.

* * *

Speech at plenary session of the Third Railway Congress

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends,

I would like to begin by thanking you for inviting me to the Third Railway Congress.

It should be said that your congress is an event on a national scale, considering the strategic importance of your industry as a backbone of the country’s development.

To begin with, I want to thank you, the hundreds of thousands of professionals, for your contribution. I wish health to the veteran workers and congratulate them on this anniversary: the first Russian railway line opened 180 years ago, in October 1837, to connect, as you know very well, St Petersburg and Tsarskoye Selo. Since then, the history of Russian railways has been inseparably connected with the history of Russia.

The development of Siberia and the Far East, the rapid industrial growth in the second half of the 19th century and in the early 20th century, the construction of industrial giants, as well as stable railway connections between the Baltic Sea and the Pacific Ocean – all of this only became possible thanks to the hard work of your predecessors and your work today.

Of course, we will never forget the heroism of the Railway Troops during the Great Patriotic War. Working in difficult frontline conditions under enemy fire, they ensured the transportation of military goods and the evacuation of people and industrial enterprises to the hinterland.

They restored old railway lines and built new ones incredibly fast: 20 million railcars with shells, military equipment and Red Army personnel were delivered to the frontline and 2,600 large industrial plants were evacuated to Russia’s eastern regions.

Many generations of railway staff worked to create the high prestige of your profession and the solid foundation that continues to serve Russia.

Our country is among the world’s largest in terms of the length of railways and ranks first internationally in terms of the length of electrified tracks. As many as 45 percent of the cargo in our country is transported by rail; on average, every Russian citizen uses the railways eight times a year.

Russian Railways is Russia's leading service company, which also competes for international freight flows. It is our country’s largest corporate employer and a major customer for the machine-building industry and many other sectors.

Importantly, Russian Railways systematically increases the efficiency of its operations and boosts productivity, which has grown by one third over the past five years. This year, it will grow by another 9 percent and, as planned, another 5 percent in 2018.

Thus, productivity will have increased by 50 percent by the end of 2018 as compared to 2011. This is a very good figure as compared to many other sectors of our country's economy. In fact, it is a key indicator.

Notably, the growth and quality of national economy, as well as its global competitiveness, largely depend on Russia’s railways. So, the tasks facing this industry require priority and constant attention and coordinated actions on behalf of the state, the regions, businesses, and, of course, Russian Railways as the key market participant.

I believe this is what we should focus on.

First, in the coming years, we will need to implement major projects which will form a space for future development of entire industries and territories, cut the costs of domestic producers, and help strengthen Russia's standing on the international market of cargo traffic, including container service.

Primarily, the issue is about increasing the throughput capacity of the Baikal-Amur Mainline and the Trans-Siberian Railway, developing railway infrastructure near the seaports of the Azov Sea and the Black Sea basin, the Russian Far East and northwestern Russia. It is also about a promising project such as the Northern Latitudinal Railway, which will shorten the cargo delivery distance to Western Siberia and give a new impetus to the development of the Russian Arctic and the Northern Sea Route.

To reiterate, it is important to coordinate railway construction and renovation with the plans to develop regions and industries. Building up transport infrastructure should open new opportunities for economic growth and expanding region-to-region ties, as well as forming globally competitive and attractive transport corridors.

The second point. To work successfully in the domestic market and enhance Russia’s transit potential, domestic carriers should constantly develop, raise their speed and improve the quality of service of passengers and cargo shipments. This means modernisation of management at railways, and more effective methods of train operations and new, modern logistics services.

To achieve this it is necessary to use digital technology on a broader scale and lay emphasis on domestic developments and competitive domestic software in introducing such decisions. I would like to ask the Government to thoroughly monitor these processes, including the work of the import replacement commission.

The third point. As I have already mentioned, Russian Railways is one of the largest customers in the country. The company is exerting strong, and sometimes decisive influence on the condition of the whole economic sector as well as the structure of the economic activities in the regions.

Russian Railways should organise its purchasing policy so as to encourage the development of the innovative segment of the domestic economy and production of modern products – from steel construction to rolling stock.

Naturally, it is also important to make sure that Russian Railways’ orders help develop small- and medium-sized high-tech enterprises. I would like you to pay special attention to this although this is exactly what is taking place now: in ten months of the current year Russian Railways bought 79 billion rubles worth of products or 51 percent more than during the same period of the past year. Overall, the Russian Railways holding purchased more than 190 billion rubles worth of products from small and medium-sized companies. These are impressive figures!

Fourth. It is necessary to continuously strengthen the personnel potential of the railway industry together with upgrading the professional skills of its workers. I know that Russian Railways has launched a large-scale youth support programme and is actively taking part in the WorldSkills Russia movement.

The executives of Russian Railways and I have just been to the Kievskaya Railway Station. I must say it was a great pleasure to talk with its workers who are all different ages. However, for the most part they are young people – very up to date, with extensive knowledge of many areas and well-educated too.

It is necessary to continue using branch-oriented education on a large scale, improve working conditions on the railways, increase wages, and pay close attention to the needs of the railway workers, including that of their housing and support of the industry’s veterans.

Friends! Our task is to continuously develop and strengthen Russia’s railway complex. I am sure that such important events as your convention will continue making a tangible contribution to this work.

I will return to my workplace to deal with the current problems at hand and I would once again like to congratulate you on such a wonderful event and wish you every success. Thank you very much for all the work you are doing.

November 29, 2017, Moscow