The Study Group “Wagon Users” which represents UIC freight railway companies that apply the “General Contract for the Use of Wagons” (GCU; learn more about it at www.gcubureau.org) held its autumn meeting on 14 September 2017 in Warsaw, at the kind invitation of OSJD and PKP Cargo. On this occasion, the meeting was followed on 15 September 2017 by a Joint UIC/OSJD workshop on wagon use.
Managing the haulage of wagons from hundreds of keepers in trains by different railway undertakings throughout Europe is a complex undertaking in terms of responsibility, liability and maintenance, underlined Study Group chairman Mr Nicolas Czernecki from Fret SNCF (France). More than 10 years ago, the GCU replaced the RIV – the agreement among former state railways – in order to respond to market opening and competition in the EU. And during all these years, it is in continuous development due to evolving European legal framework and technological development.
Other than the former RIV, today’s GCU does not contain any tariff issues or commercial agreement, but focuses entirely on responsibilities between railway undertakings and wagon keepers in cases where either technical failures are detected at a wagon during the operation of a freight train or a wagon not being at a given moment where it should be (e.g. due to lateness, re-routing, loss…). Any relationship regarding pricing and tariffs is strictly kept out of the contract and is left to individual, undisclosed commercial agreements between involved parties and between them and their customers.
As the GCU focuses on the railways of the European Union, the PGV Contract (Dogovor polzovanii gruzovymi vagonami v mezhdunarodnom soobshchenii – Contract on the use of freight wagons in international traffic) is governing the use and exchange of wagons between the OSJD members, i.e. in general the railways of the former Soviet Union, of Asian and European countries. PGV Contract is the one and only document for the most railway companies, contracting parties to PGV Contract, which makes it possible for them to transfer wagons in the international railway traffic between Europe and Asia. “Managing and administrating millions of wagons in an enormously large area of the world is an impressive challenge”, said Mr Czernecki towards his OSJD colleagues during the workshop. “Since we are today talking about trans-continental corridors from Western Europe to China, we must keep in mind that UIC and OSJD railways will have to intensify their cooperation”, he continued.
However, it became evident that the exchange of wagons with gauge-adjustable wheelsets has not yet met expectations. Transhipment of goods or changing bogies are still the predominant measures at border stations between the 1435 and 1520 mm gauge railway systems. At the Polish-Lithuanian border, cautious optimism is expressed towards Rail Baltica, the project of a new standard-gauge high-speed line for passenger and freight across the Baltic countries. However, the project is still in too early a stage for preparing investment in new standard-gauge wagons, said the representative of Lithuanian Railways.
All in all, the Joint UIC/OSJD Workshop has proved to be a good forum to exchange views and keep both railway “worlds” up to date about developments in trans-continental freight transport. The dialogue should be intensified.