World railways are rapidly developing. Activities and policies of railway authorities are aiming toward converting to environmentally friendly technologies. As emissions coming from cars running on petrol constitute the main source for pollution and carbon emissions, railway systems in other countries are starting to be constructed in-between cities. In other words, railroads are connecting city centers with its outer-lying districts. They are building compact sized, above-ground, underground, and rope railways. Also railway authorities around the world are attempting to increase their effectiveness, and for this they are changing to electrically powered railway systems, and enhancing their capacity.
However, what is the new policy for railway transportation in Mongolia?
It is clear that the Government will follow a policy to retain the main structure and facilities of the railway, while the private sector will be able to conduct transportation services, and freight forwarding operations. L.Purevbaatar, vice Chairman of Railway Authority, defines the future development of the Mongolian railway sector in the following terms: Firstly, it will follow the growth of the mining sector; secondly, it will grow according to network principles and finally, it will develop according to state regulations.
So as in other countries in which railroads are designed to pass through cities and settled localities, because of the specifics of its economy, Mongolia is following a policy to build railroad lines in areas of mining and mineral deposits, even if transporting the mined resources will wind up going through uninhabited and deserted land. Òherefore, hoping to attract the interests of foreign and domestic investors to the area’s rich mineral deposits, the administration of the railway sector has now set their eyes toward the south Gobi, and have confirmed that they will construct a new railroad line in the direction of “Tavan Tolgoi–Sainshand–Choibalsan”. The Government will construct in total, a 5,800 km long railroad line and plan to put the first 1,100 km of the railroad line into operation within 2-3 years. Despite the fact that the width of the new railway track will be 1,520 mm, similar to Russian railway tracks, the progressive technology and experience from other developed countries will be introduced to the project and the project will employ Mongolian workers to build it.
The right to execute the construction of the new railroad was granted to the “Mongolian Railroad Company” according to a Law passed on Concession, and it was decided that the required financing be transferred from the Development Bank (DB) of Mongolia. However, the DB’s operations have not been started yet. If the construction of one kilometer of railroad line requires 2.5 million US dollars, then in order to construct 1,100 km of the railroad line, it will require 2-3 billion US dollars to finance it. The new railroad line is expected to begin construction in the second quarter of 2011, and depending on the investment, a technical and technological feasibility study for the entire project is expected to be finished within 2 years.
Currently there are no other companies whose names have been connected to the project other than the “Mongolian Railroad” state owned joint stock company, however, there is a strong likelihood that another company may win the tender bid of Tavan Tolgoi and then participate in the construction of this railroad. The winning company should fulfill the requirement of being able to produce the sufficient capital in order to construct the railroad line.
When asked about the environmental effects of the many kilometers of railroad to be constructed through the Gobi region which has already been adversely affected by desertification, L.Purevbaatar explained, “Horizontal railroad lines will be constructed in the Gobi region, and we espouse the long-term goal of building green fences along the railroad line.” The advantage of the railroad is that once the railroad is constructed it will lead to sustainable development. Therefore, it is possible to grow trees and plants, and build green facilities along the railroad. This is the reason that the railroad is being considered to be an environmentally friendly project by other countries around the World.
The expansion and development of the railway system is an important issue. Our two neighboring countries’ railway systems are experiencing rapid development. However, they seem to harbor a certain disappointment over the fact that Mongolia does not provide conditions to link these two railway networks, which use different gauges of track. Our neighbors voice their criticism that they face significant obstacles because of Mongolia’s underdevelopment, despite the fact that both the Russian and Chinese railway systems come close to our borders. Experts say that China does not express an interest in constructing a railroad to help Mongolia to cope with these problems of connecting their new railway lines to existing Chinese lines. However, recent interest by the Russian Federation in the development of the new Mongolian railroad lines can be explained by the potential wealth of the mining deposits. According to the geopolitical interests of our Northern neighbor, they propose to cooperate with Mongolia in building the new railroad tracks using a 1,520 mm gauge, while our Southern neighbor is conducting negotiations on connecting their railway tracks using a 1,435 mm gauge. In such a precarious situation, since Mongolia cannot have two different railroad tracks and two different railroad systems, it will observe a policy of maintaining their current railroad system, which is compatible with the Russian track gauges.
New Policy of the Ulaanbaatar Railway
The Ìîngolian-Russian Joint Venture “Ulaanbaatar Railway”, of which both sides equally own a 50% share, welcomed a new administration. And the new head has devised a reform plan. The Government Implementing Agency Railway Authority is also trying to reform the Ulaanbaatar (UB) Railway. It will monitor the conformity of the current UB Railway, which has been operating via a cooperation between Mongolia and Russia ever since socialist times, to current Mongolian laws, to make it subject to taxation, and to ensure that all policies for announcing tender bids will be observed, as required by the new legislation.
Studies have been conducted to determine how best to make major reforms, including increasing safety, raising the railway service standards, and abandoning the practice of applying pressure to follow internal rules via external means. In other words, customers will not be asking for services, but rather, the UB Railway will be asking them which services they would require. Today this goal might sound odd, but for the next decade, this will be a goal to be practiced regularly. The time is coming when it will not be necessary for customers to purchase train tickets from the railway station by queuing up in desperation, but instead, by purchasing them online, or at their nearest train ticket office. In addition, its half-regimented reputation will be abandoned in favor of a strong discipline. Relevant authorities will monitor its transition from “war” time to “peace” time operations, and from a half-regimented state, to a civil organization. If in the past decade the Mongolian Railway experienced the tough times of adopting to a new market economy and staying “afloat”, then the next decade will, undoubtedly, be the times of improved services and reformation.
In explaining the new century’s new railway policy, L.Purevbaatar says, “It is time for railway transportation organizations to acknowledge the criticism of failing to conduct environmental policies, reduce the level of noise, conform to sanitary requirements, purchase quality raw materials, install bio toilets, improve the condition of railway stations and lining, and pay attention to the environment by planting trees and plants.”