In Moldova, trains provide a fitting backdrop while they transport goods along river banks, vineyards and medieval towns in and out of the country. They are designed in a combination of yellow, red and blue – the colours of the national flag.
Grain, metal, cement, cardboard and many other products for export make their way to trading partners, mainly European these days, while other trains bring back scrap metal, oil products, paper, salt, flour and many food items.
As a land-locked country, freight transport plays a vital role in people’s daily lives, and many businesses and large parts of the economy depend on efficient rail infrastructure and services.
Connecting Moldova to the European market
“Some locomotives in our fleet dated back to the 1970s,” explains Adrian Onceanu, Interim General Director of Moldovan Railways (CFM).
“For CFM, the critical duration of use and poor technical condition of locomotives entail additional costs and lower competitiveness in comparison with other types of transportation. Fuel and oil consumption increased the cost of transportation and frequent technical failures made it impossible to efficiently plan the locomotives’ trips and ensure that trains ran on schedule.”
The new locomotives will ensure better and safer transport. They can carry much larger loads than before – up to 4,800 tonnes more. They also use less energy, cutting related costs by about 25 per cent and CO2 emissions by 40 per cent. While the old locomotives required maintenance every 48 hours, the new locomotives only need checking every three months, he adds.
The new locomotives are part of a wider initiative to modernise the railways, which includes a more efficient and commercial way of separating passenger and freight operations, improving procurement procedures and introducing a new energy management system. This was funded by the Central European Initiative and Czech Republic.
The improvements are much welcomed by local businesses, as Alexandr Russu from logistics services provider Transfer-SV explains: “Among other benefits, a mоdеrn rаil freight infrastructure will increase our capacity to build lоng-tеrm relationships with customers.”
He added that it was expected to boost exports of key products. Shorter delivery times and competitive рriсеs compared with road transport were also likely to increase the range and volume of imported goods.
Olga Bivol, Supply Chain Director at Lafarge Ciment Moldova, sees similar advantages from investments in the country’s transport infrastructure from Giurgiulesti Port to inland logistics facilities and city terminals.
Given the annual volume of goods transported by rail, a modernised freight railway will benefit customers in terms of delivery time, reliability and, most importantly, cost, she points out.
“Revitalising and modernising Moldova’s railway services will pave the way for developing new intermodal and multimodal logistics. It will also contribute to our country’s economic growth, since improved cargo import-export processes bring new solutions and opportunities to local businesses.”
Improving transport infrastructure and services
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the new fleet arrived on time at Chisinau’s railway station in mid-July, ready to keep the wheels of Moldova’s trade turning.
The colour blue on the locomotives unites all long-term partners – the EBRD, the EU, the EIB and, of course, all Moldovans – as they take people to their destinations and products to their markets.
“The arrival of the new locomotives is a real milestone, which symbolises a more modern, greener and dynamic Moldova to me,” says Angela Sax, Head of the EBRD’s Moldova office.
“It is one of our key priorities in Moldova to improve transport infrastructure and services for businesses and people’s everyday lives. We work tirelessly with our partners from the EU and EIB on this, including modernising the railways, the road network, trolleybuses in Chisinau and Balti, and so much more.”
Peter Michalko, Ambassador of the European Union to the Republic of Moldova, added: “The EU is once again proving its support to the Moldovan people. The 12 locomotives were acquired with support from the European Union, the EU bank (the EIB) and our partners from the EBRD, with the EU contribution financed by the money of EU citizens. This support marks an important step towards making Moldova greener and more sustainable, moving towards progress with higher speeds.”
EIB Vice-President Lilyana Pavlova commented: “It is the task of the EU bank to work towards an upgrade of the transport infrastructure in Moldova. The new locomotives will facilitate a more environmentally friendly transport mode and improve the interconnectivity inside the country as well as with neighbouring countries. This will contribute to better conditions for the transport of passengers and goods.”
The arrival of the locomotives signals the start of a more comprehensive modernisation of the railways, supported by the EBRD and its partners. This includes, for example, the 233 km section from Bender to Giurgiulesti.
Back at the capital’s railway station, the new trains got the green light to start their first journey, which will take them to neighbouring Ukraine. Crossing picturesque villages, vineyards and farmland, they will bring goods to foreign consumers and provide Moldova with a quicker, closer and more efficient connection to the world market.