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What Carriage Would Vladimir Putin Pick?

What Carriage Would Vladimir Putin Pick?

07.12.2009 — Analysis

In 2010 Concern "Tractor Plants" Ltd. is going to start production of the new cargo railway carriage based on the US dolly with a million kilometres' mileage between overhauls. Through this innovative product the company is planning to increase its market share in the Russian five times. Managers of Uralvagonzavod (Ural Railway Car Plant) Corporation (UVZ) that specialises in the production of open top carriages doubt that the competitors will allow the company to implement this ambitious project. In particular, the Nizhniy Tagil plant is hoping to get new orders at the behest of Vladimir Putin who will visit Uralvagonzavod on 8 December. Just before the visit the RusBusinessNews observer has been finding out details about industrialists' plans.

In the end of November the component aggregates for the new carriage dolly with the Motion Control system have successfully passed acceptance tests. Concern "Tractor Plants" Ltd. is going to produce a new carriage based on this dolly; it will have extra cargo capacity (payload of 25 tons of force per axle) and mileage between overhauls of a million kilometres which is twice as much as the indicators achievable today. The manufacturer is planning to supply Russian Railways' subsidiary companies with the rolling stock of a different quality in the next few years, which would ensure savings of many billions of roubles. According to the railways' plans there must be no less than a million of the new model carriages in their fleet by 2020.

The Strategic Communications Department of Concern Tractor Plants Ltd. informed RusBusinessNews that the current capacities of CJSC Promtractor-Vagon (the main production facility of the company in the railway machine building sector) can produce up to 2000 carriages annually. The completion of the construction of the all purpose assembly and welding complex will increase this figure four times.

Concern Tractor Plants Ltd. had about 3% of the railway machines market in 2008. This year, according to its employees, the presence share has grown to 15%, predominantly through the production of new models of carriages. The use of the US dolly, according to Alyona Yashina, the Deputy Head of the Railway Casting and Car Building of Concern Tractor Plants Ltd., will enable the company to secure the achieved positions.

Viktor Yefimov, a design engineer from the Nizhniy Tagil Uralvagonzavod, however, reckons that the new carriage which Promtractor is planning to produce has nothing innovative to show. All the declared performance indicators are not substantiated in any way and look more like advertising promises. According to the expert it is just old plain and simple lobbying for the US dolly which virtually is no different from the model designed by the Uralvagonzavod engineers. Meanwhile nobody is making any attempts to compare the two with each other.

Boris Mineyev, the UVZ's Press Secretary, however, expressed doubts that the designers could say anything about the US dolly since they have never actually seen it. Nevertheless the manager does not have any doubt that Uralvagonzavod will stand up to the competition from CJSC Promtractor-Vagon as the concern does not have own technologies for the manufacturing of 25 tons of force per axle carriages. The Urals company has 45% of the market, has guaranteed orders making 1,300 carriages per month, and is planning for good production volumes in 2010. In recent years the Nizhniy Tagil plant has been making improvements to their dolly which is why they do not feel it necessary to discuss the advantages of imported products. Regarding the wish of Concern Tractor Plants Ltd. to have 15% of the market Boris Mineyev said, "They can try if they want to. It is not that simple."

An independent expert Vadim Sverdlov, a Head of Laboratory at the Urals Branch of the Russian National Railway Research Institute, flatly refused to compare the US and the Nizhniy Tagil dollies, as, according to him, one can get seriously punished for this. There are too many interests at stake here, in the expert's opinion, and it is better, the expert reckons, to ask Russian Railways for comments.

The cause for caution of the employee of the research institute has become clearer after finding out the opinions of specialists regarding the dolly designed by Uralvagonzavod in early 2000s. In 2004-2005 the company made 14 thousand open top carriages based on this dolly and they have not let the railways down, according to the UVZ Press Service. The mileage between overhauls has been increased from 160 thousand to 500 thousand kilometres which served as a substantiation to start the batch production.

The RusBusinessNews observes has found out, however, that technical specialists of the Russian Railways were far from being overjoyed by the new product. According to Igor Kharybin, the Chief Specialist of the Department for the Development of New Cargo Carriages of the Technical Policies Department of JSC Russian Railways, the carriages are taken out for maintenance every 160 thousand kilometres.

The certification testing of the product manufactured by the Concern "Tractor Plants" Ltd. is being carried out at the Byelorechenskiy Testing Ground now. Later the trial batch of new carriages will be made but Igor Kharybin does not know when CJSC Promtractor-Vagon is going to start the production. The process of production of new carriage will be delayed, he reckons, as the acceptance of the product may only happen in April 2010 as it is very important for the railways that the dolly is tested in the winter conditions.

At the moment the expert has difficulties saying how many rolling stock units will be ordered from Concern Tractor Plants Ltd. altogether. According to Igor Kharybin, it is very difficult to find a buyer for new carriages and this is why many manufacturing companies, including, for instance, Uralvagonzavod, are either idling or using only a half of their production capacities. This is why it is very hard to say anything definite before the spring 2010 regarding the trial batch.

Concern Tractor Plants Ltd. is in no rush to make predictions either. Olga Meshcheryakova, the Economics and Finance Director of CJSC Promtractor-Vagon, says that the company would like to start production in 2010 but the crisis is capable of destroying any plans.

At the same time the number of carriage builders in Russia is declining rapidly; according to Yelena Yanshina in 2008 there were 38 of these while now there are only four serious carriage manufacturers left. When the crisis is over the railways will suddenly discover the shortages of rolling stock for the transportation of cargo.

Vladimir Terletski 

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