At the end of 2012, Aeroexpress managed to expand its quality certificate, the situation of the company suffering significant changes since the expiration of the first certificate. Apart from expanding services to other cities, for the first time in Russia the company managed to launch its own division for rolling stock maintenance and repair.
As a result of the increasing transport demand, as of 2015 Aeroexpress plans to operate double-deck trains and the number of cars to be purchased amounts to 172.
Mr. Alexey Krivoruchko, CEO of Aeroexpress, explains in the interview below the importance of developing railway passenger transport services, as well as the challenges an operator has to face due to the increasing mobility level which influences the entire structure of a transport system.
RailwayPRO: Aeroexpress provides transport services in Moscow and Moscow Region and the number of passengers has constantly increased since the set-up of the company. What are the methods used to stimulate the real increase of the attractiveness of railway passenger transport within the company?
Alexey Krivoruchko: The Aeroexpress company was established in 2005 and now provides rail transport services between airports and cities not only in Moscow, but in Sochi and Vladivostok as well. The number of passengers travelling on our red Aeroexpress trains has been showing very active growth with each passing year. According to the 2012 results, more than 14.9 million passengers travelled on Aeroexpress trains in Moscow alone, representing a 20.4% increase from last year. Among other types of transport to the capital city’s airports, Aeroexpress trains’ share amounts to 23.37%. Annual results on the number of passengers carried since the company’s establishment demonstrate that this means of transport is both relevant and attractive to users.
Aeroexpress’ current policy for improving the quality of passenger services plays a rather significant role in this, and has been certified as complying with International Standard for Quality Management System ISO 9001:2008 in the field of rail passenger service. This includes improved travel comfort for passengers, as well as the introduction of innovative technologies, and new ways to purchase and pay for tickets. For example, in 2011, all Aeroexpress trains were equipped with comfortable and ergonomic chairs. Climate control systems were also installed in cars ahead of the summer season. The terminals were equipped with ticket vending machines, touch-sensitive information kiosks, and much more. We are also developing joint programmes with leading airlines, travel and ticket agencies. One of the recent significant events was the launch of our own mobile application for iOS and Android users, for Windows Phone in progress. And this is only one aspect of the methods the company uses to increase the attractiveness of Aeroexpress trains. But all these are a nice bonus to the main benefit of such means of transport, because the fact is that Aeroexpress is a guaranteed way to travel from the city centre to the airport.
RailwayPRO: As of February 2012, Aeroexpress has started to provide railway transport services in Sochi as well. What is the extension plan of the company to Russia’s largest cities? What is the market share of the company in the regions where it activates?
Alexey Krivoruchko: Indeed, on 15 February 2012, the grand opening of Aeroexpress’ first regional branch took place in Sochi, where trains run between the city’s main rail terminal and Sochi International Airport. Also, on 20 July of last year, regular intermodal services were launched in Vladivostok, servicing the Vladivostok – Vladivostok International Airport route.
In the regions, Aeroexpress trains also serve as commuter rail transport, since, unlike the case in Moscow, they have intermediate stops en route between the city and the airport. In 2013, the company plans to launch its branded trains in Kazan, which is the capital of the XXVII Summer Universiade. On the regional transportation market, the company also services the Moscow (Savyolovsky Rail Terminal) – Dolgoprudny – Lobnya route. In 2012, the volume of this route’s passenger traffic amounted to 2.17 million passengers, which is 28.8% more than the corresponding indicator for 2011.
To date, there are no figures are available on passenger traffic figures for Sochi and Vladivostok that can be used for comparative purposes, and it is too early to talk about any growth in their market share. But the interim results, summarised since putting the Aeroexpress trains into ser-vice in these cities, of course, demonstrate that residents and cities’ visitors are quite satisfied with such mode of transport. In the period since it went into operation through to the end of 2012, the number of Sochi Aeroexpress train passengers carried a total of 142,850 people, 60% of whom are commuters. From July 20 to December 31, 2012, Aeroexpress trains in Vladivostok transported a total of 208,180 people, 75% of whom are commuters.
RailwayPRO: Since November 2012, Aeroexpress has managed to expand its quality certificate compliant with ISO 9001:2008 management system on the railway passenger transport. Since the expiration of the first certificate, according to the press release issued by your company, the situation of the company has changed significantly. What were the criteria that have generated these changes and what influence do they have on the development of the transport market?
Alexey Krivoruchko: Initially, Aeroexpress’s Quality Management System was certified for compliance with the International Standard ISO 9001:2008 by an authorized company Bureau Veritas Certification Rus in December 2009.
However, the changes occurring in the company during this period have made it necessary to perform a new audit and to obtain the required renewal of its certificate. Last year alone brought a significant increase in passenger traffic, together with the opening of branches in other Russian cities. As well, the company has also introduced cutting-edge services for fast passenger service. In addition, the company launched its own subdivision for maintaining and repairing rolling stock (a depot), for which the locomotive train crews who were previously on staff with the Moscow Railway thereby became Aeroexpress employees. This is the first time that this practice has been introduced in Russia, whereby a private rail carrier independently maintains and repairs its rolling stock. We did this deliberately. It is important for us to be responsible for the transportation provided by our company, from the moment a train leaves the depot and enters the line to provide passenger transportation to the airport.
In 2011, we started implementing our own Uniform Dispatching and Situational Centre, providing for the online video monitoring of all our facilities. More than 350 cameras have been installed at the company’s 10 terminals, including our regional branches and for rolling stock. Trains are equipped with GLONASS satellite systems, enabling us to control trains’ movement online and to obtain information in the event of failure situations.
The Uniform Dispatching and Situational Centre’s functioning, the processes associated with the passenger transport and services, procurement and logistics, as well as rolling stocks’ maintenance and repair have all successfully undergone verification by the auditors from the “Bureau Veritas Certification Rus”. As the result, the company’s certificate was successfully extended and the new certificate issued to the Aeroexpress company is valid until December 8, 2015.
RailwayPRO: The advantages of railway transport are known worldwide. This determines the implementation of projects for attracting passengers and massive investments are granted to the acquisition of efficient and comfortable rolling stock aimed to promote transport. To this end, what are Aeroexpress’ plans and how do public authorities involve in financing these projects?
Alexey Krivoruchko: At the moment, Aeroexpress’ own passenger rolling stock is comprised of the modern and comfortable AERO Series trains manufactured by the Demikhovsky Engineering Plant. They were designed according to a special order placed by our company and, of course, they take into account all of passengers’ needs during their travel, thereby helping to attract more Aeroexpress’ customers and making this means of transport more popular.
Special attention is paid to ensuring that physically challenged passengers can travel comfortably: cars are equipped with folding ramps for wheelchair users, there are specialised seats with safety belts, and ticket offices are equipped with special devices that make it easier for hearing-impaired passengers to communicate with the cashier. A Travel Assistance service is also available, which entails providing comprehensive assistance to passengers with disabilities. This includes meeting at the terminal, providing assistance in obtaining travel documents with the right to bypass the queue, helping to load luggage onto the trains and to board the railcar, among other services.
In 2015, the company plans to put a new double-deck rolling stock into ser-vice. This decision arose as a result of ra-pidly growing passenger traffic, which is growing from one year to the next. Under the conditions faced by today’s railroad infrastructure, it is impossible to increase the number of runs to the capital’s airports, and that is the reason that the idea emerged to replace existing electric trains with more spacious ones. The new mo-dern rolling stock will make it possible to carry almost 30-40% more passengers than now. In total, the company plans to purchase 172 railcars.
All of the above is the sole initiative of Aeroexpress management, which is dictated not only by urgent necessity, but also by the company’s policy in the sphere of its service quality to attract passengers. Public authorities provide active assistance to the company in terms of organising intermodal service in other Russian cities, contributing to the organisation of rail transport at the same high level as encountered in Moscow.
On 12 February 2013, Aeroexpress has officially revealed the results of the tender for supplying double-deck rolling stock to Russia. The final stage of the tender for supplying double-deck rolling stock resulted in a competition of three major engineering companies, as follows: Stadler (Switzerland), Alstom (France), and Škoda (Czech Republic). The victory went to Swiss Stadler, with whom Aeroexpress will conclude a contract for supplying a total of 172 railcars – 112 according to a basic contract and 60 according to two options.
RailwayPRO: What is Aeroexpress’ role in delivering integrated transport services in Moscow and Moscow Region and how do you manage to meet mobility demand next to the authorities and the other public transport operators?
Alexey Krivoruchko: In the time that it has been operating, Aeroexpress has become an integral part of the capital’s modern transport system, distributing passenger traffic within Moscow and the Moscow Region. Today, the company is part of the solution to the acute transport and environmental problems of the metropolis.
In recent years, a number of measures have been taken, aimed at increasing transport capacity. For example, in 2010-2011, all branded trains received a new seat arrangement, which was modified from a 2+2 scheme to 3+2 one. This measure made it possible to increase the number of seats by 30%. In addition, train sets on all three routes to and from the Moscow airports were increased to the maximum possible number of railcars. All this has enabled the company to cope with the increased demand for Aeroexpress services.
Aeroexpress is a competitive company, and largely because the first priority in its work is to meet passengers’ current demands. The company continuously provides its customers with convenient services to facilitate the purchase of tickets and to significantly save them time. It also offers flexible fares for travelling on the brand trains, and moreover, it cares about socially disadvantaged population groups, providing favourable conditions for Aeroexpress services.
RailwayPRO: What are the challenges you face concerning the increasing transport demand and the changing transport market structure (new transport services are developed, passengers need integrated services to choose public transport etc.)?
Alexey Krivoruchko: One of the main difficulties associated with the increasing demand for Aeroexpress services is the need to enlarge our trains’ seating capacity. But this issue will be succes-sfully resolved by supplying double-deck Aeroexpress trains. Due to the fact that, at the moment, trains run with the lowest possible interval, and the fact there is no way to increase the number of railcars in a train set, this decision is ultimately most effective under the current circumstances. The new rolling stock is designed to accommodate about 700-1100 people per run, while the railcars can be easily separated from the whole set, allowing to change the train’s composition depending on the traffic flow at different times of the day and on different routes.
RailwayPRO: According to the Russia press, Russian Railways plans to sell 25% of the shares it owns in Aeroexpress. How will this transaction affect the company’s activity??
Alexey Krivoruchko: Yes, indeed, the President of OJSC Russian Railways, Vladimir Yakunin, spoke about his plans to sell shares in summer 2012, and Russian Railways is currently in the stage of pre-sale preparation. We are confident that this transaction will not lead to the introduction of any significant changes to the company. We will continue to follow the course that has already been marked out and to develop our services, providing quality rail transportation.
RailwayPRO: What do you think about the development of the railway passenger transport market at national level and what is the authorities’ policy on the consolidation of the railway transport’s position in the entire transport system?
Alexey Krivoruchko: Nowadays, rail transport is the leading means of transportation in Russia. It accounts for over 80% of freight and 40% of passenger traffic. In the context of Russian realities, railroads are irreplaceable. The development of rail facilities system serves the interests of many economic sectors, as well as contributing to social and economic growth and the development of inter-regional relations.
As of late, passenger rail transportation has become more and more popular. Ev-eryone understands the obvious benefits of such transport: it is more environmentally friendly, and it enables transporting a large number of people in a short time. Aeroexpress trains have long become the preferred mode of transportation to Moscow airports. Everyone understands that the road to the airport by car may take much longer than the half-hour an Aeroexpress train takes to arrive at the airport. Last year alone, 14.9 million passengers preferred traveling by Aeroexpress to travel by car. Imagine how many cars were kept off the roads? This is a big plus in terms of unloading motorways and saving a large metropolis from additional exhaust gases.
It is certain that rail transport is gaining momentum, especially in terms of an increase in passenger traffic. And, of course, this is happening within the scope of the development of the country’s transport system as a whole. Infrastructure is also being modernised, new facilities are being built, and new types of unified travel documents are being introduced. Our company is actively involved in joint projects together with the state. This year, the result of our successful collaboration has been the launch of two new regional branches, where Aeroexpress also operates as a commuter carrier. We will continue to remain active in the same direction, dedicating maximum efforts towards promoting rail transportation.