Organisation for Co-operation between Railways (OSJD) - 60 Years
OSJD: 60 Years on the Way. 1956-2016
Address by Tadeusz Szozda, Chairman of OSJD Committee on the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the Organisation for Co-Operation between Railways
The year of 2016 is commemorable for the Organisation for Co-Operation between Railways (OSJD): it marks its 60th anniversary.
In view of the changes, which occurred in the situation in the Eurasian region after the Second World War, and, as a result, an increasing need in passenger and goods exchange between the countries of Europe and Asia, there was an urgent demand in the late 1940s and in the early 1950s for the creation of uniform legal and economic standards to provide the carriage of passengers and goods in the international railway.
To this end, significant and painstaking work was accomplished, which was preceded the OSJD foundation. As a result of this work the first fundamental documents had been developed and agreed by 1951 in order to provide the transport of passengers and goods in international traffic
- Agreement on Transportation of Passengers and Their Luggage by Railways in Direct International Traffic (MPS),
- Agreement on Transportation of Goods by Railways in Direct International Traffic (MGS),
- Tariff for Transportation of Passengers, Their Luggage and Goods-Luggage by Railways in Direct International Traffic (MPT),
- Uniform Transit Tariff for Transportation of Goods through the Countries, which Railways are Participants to the Agreement on Transportation of Goods by Railways in Direct International Traffic (ETT),
- Rules for Mutual Use of Coaches and Wagons in International Traffic (PPW),
- Rules for Accounting to the MPS and MGS Agreements.
These agreements, rules and tariffs entered into force on November 1, 1951. Administration of MPS and MGS was entrusted to the Polish State Railways, which, to carry out this function, established an MPS-MGS Business Administration Bureau, headquartered in Warsaw.
A few years later those agreements, rules and tariffs underwent drastic changes and those agreements were named as SMPS (Agreement on International Passenger Transport by Rail) and SMGS (Agreement on International Goods Transport by Rail). The number of the parties to those Agreements increased as well.
In the course of time, co-operation between railways continued to develop. The volumes of passenger and freight traffic increased considerably, moreover the need for disseminating co-operation in other fields of railway activities increased as well. There was a necessity for the creation of a new structure which would have to be of a higher level, correspond to the requirements of time and cover comprehensively all the matters of railway economy, but the main point was that co-operation must be implemented under the direct control of ministers from the concerned countries, which were to meet regularly within the framework of the sessions of the Ministerial Conference to this end.
As a result, in June 1956, Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, hosted the Conference of Ministers dealing with railway transport in the People's Republic of Bulgaria, People's Republic of Hungary, German Democratic Republic, People's Republic of China, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Mongolian People's Republic, People's Republic of Poland, People's Republic of Romania, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Czechoslovak Republic, who took a unanimous decision to establish the Organisation for Co-Operation between Railways (OSJD). This was the first session of the highest OSJD governing body that is known as "Ministerial Conference". The OSJD Committee, which venue was in Warsaw, was defined as an executive body and depositary of all the agreements existing within the OSJD framework.
With the time passing by the number of OSJD member countries increase continuously having reached 28 at present:
Republic of Albania,
Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,
Republic of Belarus,
Republic of Bulgaria,
Socialist Republic of Vietnam,
Islamic Republic of Iran,
Republic of Kazakhstan,
People's Republic of China,
Democratic People's Republic of Korea,
Republic of Cuba,
Republic of Latvia,
Republic of Lithuania,
Republic of Moldova,
Republic of Poland,
Republic of Tajikistan,
Republic of Uzbekistan,
Republic of Estonia.
Apart from them, OSJD incorporates 7 railways with observer status from:
Germany (DB AG),
Austrian-Hungarian company "GySEV",
Federal Passenger Company (FPC JSC, Russia).
The status of affiliated enterprises is granted to the companies, institutes and organisations from the OSJD member countries, as well as from other countries of Europe and Asia (Republic of Armenia and Republic of Korea), which are engaged in railway transport activities. As of 2016 the total number of affiliated enterprises made up 40, herewith their quantity continues to increase.
The OSJD working bodies include five Commissions and two PWGs:
- Commission on Transport Policy and Development Strategy;
- Commission on Transport Law;
- Commission on Freight Traffic;
- Commission on Passenger Traffic;
- Commission on Infrastructure and Rolling Stock;
Permanent Working Group on Coding and Information Technology;
Permanent Working Group on Finance and Accounting,
as well as a number of ad hoc and joint working groups.
As a result of the structural changes and reforms, which occurred in the railway branch of a number of OSJD Member States, and as a consequence of those changes, railway undertakings came into being as independent economic entities, therefore it was decided at session XX of the OSJD Ministerial Conference in Ulan Bator (Mongolia) in 1992 to establish a new OSJD governing body at the level of railways and railway undertakings that has been known as the "Conference of General Directors (Authorized Representatives) of OSJD Railways".
In contrast to the transportation conditions in the European countries, the railway traffic between the OSJD Member States is featured by a considerable length of transport routes (8-10 thousand km) passing through different climatic zones (including regions with severe extreme climate conditions) and operating with a double-time track gauge changeover en route in one way of the trains run (1435 mm / 1520 mm / 1435 mm). At the time of OSJD's foundation the overall operational length of railway lines of the OSJD member states amounted to about 227,000 km, and at present the length of railways achieved 281,215.8 km, through which about 4 billion passengers and 6 billion tons of goods are carried annually.
The large number of countries participating in the transportation between Europe and Asia have different national legislation. The legal norms and documents that are developed and adopted within the framework of OSJD provide uniform legal margins in international railway traffic between Europe and Asia, which require improvement of and concord in regard to the traffic conditions, tariff matters, customs procedures, rules for mutual use of coaches and wagons, information and technological support, financial accounting between railways and many other issues. In this regard OSJD carries out activities aimed at the development of international railway traffic, including contrailer and combined transportation between Europe and Asia, as well as at the increase of railways' competitive ability and efficiency.
In 2006 in Sofia (Bulgaria), during its XXXIV Ministerial Conference session, the Organisation celebrated its semicentennial anniversary. During the session the results for the past 50 years of the Organisation's activities were summed as well as new goals for the near future were outlined, by achieving which it was made possible in 2006 - 2016:
-to increase considerably the level of transportation of passengers and goods on the railways of OSJD member countries;
-to carry out fundamental revision of the existing SMGS Agreement with the purpose of approaching it to the realities of today: new edition of SMGS took effect as of July 1, 2015;
-to implement the OSJD/CIT joint project for the application of the uniform CIM/SMGS consignment note and considerably expand the area of its application that made it possible to facilitate considerably the border crossing by rail, having reduced thus time and expenses;
-to perform large-scale work for the development of new Convention on Direct International Railway Traffic which included all advanced trends in railway legal relations and significantly increased the OSJD status as an intergovernmental organisation;
- to take active part in the UNECE work towards creation of a uniform railway transport law;
- to perform a large-scale work aimed at the improvement of OSJD railway corridors thanks to monitoring, development of measures and comprehensive plans to improve their operation, identification and elimination of bottlenecks, creation of technical and operational passports, signing of Memoranda for all 13 OSJD corridors covering cooperation in the field of their technical, operational and commercial development;
- to work purposefully on the draft Convention for facilitation of border crossing by rail;
- to perform successfully a large-scale work for the preparation and implementation of Annex 9 "Facilitation of border crossing procedures in international rail traffic" to the International Convention on the Harmonization of Frontier Controls of Goods (1982);
- to perform huge work for the creation of 280 container route trains in OSJD countries;
- to bring ETT and MTT in line with the new updated version of SMGS;
- to create more than 500 leaflets (industry standards) in the field of infrastructure and rolling stock;
- to develop new systems of information exchange in the international railway traffic and introduction of paperless technology;
- to carry out, in cooperation with EU, activities towards interaction of 1520- and 1435-mm railway systems;
- to establish closer and more effective cooperation with the international organisations;
- to raise the level of OSJD recognition and influence in the OSJD countries and on OSJD railways, as well as among international organisations.
The year of 2015 became a significant milestone in the history of OSJD: the process of drastic revision of OSJD fundamental documents, including the revision of SMGS and SMPS Agreements, was completed, and the draft Convention on Direct International Railway Traffic was finalized, which incorporated all restructured and revised current international agreements, contracts, rules and other documents existing within the OSJD framework.
The Organisation's activities which are aimed at achieving the main objective that is to develop and improve the international railway traffic between Europe and Asia and to increase its efficiency and level of provided services continues at the present time despite the difficult kaleidoscopic economic and market conditions. Above all, these activities include improvement, harmonisation and unification of transport law and technical regulations and standards, development of railway transport corridors, better tariff regulations for railway traffic, facilitation of border crossing procedures, including more extensive use of the uniform CIM/SMGS Consignment Note in order to reduce time and costs at border crossing, development of container, contrailer and combined transport and many other issues.
OSJD collaborates actively with many international organisations in the field of railway transport, such as UNECE, UNESCAP, DG MOVE of the European Commission, OTIF, CIT, EAEC, UIC, ERA, CCTT, UITP, FIATA, FTE and others. The joint work with these organisations provides for considerable positive results to address various issues on international railway traffic and allows for extending significantly the range of tasks to be tackled.
The thorough understanding of global processes and requirements in regard to the environmental protection and energy efficiency, ongoing at present time, will make it possible to raise the significance of OSJD railways for the development of international railway transport.
On behalf of the OSJD Committee I aware of this opportunity to express best gratitude to all ministers and heads of railway administrations, experts, specialists and workers of the railway industry, freight forwarders, manufacturers of railway equipment and machinery and all other international railway transport participants in the OSJD area and congratulate on the occasion of this remarkable date - the 60th Anniversary of the Organisation for Co-Operation between Railways - and wish you all the best, further prosperity of your countries and railway transport for the benefit of all mankind.