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Interview with CEO and Director-general of the Italian Railway

Renato Mazzoncini: No geopolitics, only business

December 1, 2016 in St. Petersburg, the UIC chairman was elected for 2017-2018 at session of the General Assembly of the International Union of Railways (UIC, Union Internationale des Chemins de fer). It was under the chairmanship of the JSC Russian Railways president Oleg Belozerov.

The general director of the group "State Railways of Italy" (Ferrovie dello Stato) Renato Mazzoncini became the UIC chairman. Mazzoncini was born in 1968 in Brescia, all his life is connected with the railways, from December 1, 2015 he became the head of the Italian Railways. We met with him on the sidelines of the Forum The European House - Ambrosetti Villa D'Este in Cernobbio, on the shores of Lake Como, to talk about the possibilities of the Italian railway workers in Russia.

Renato Mazzoncini (left) and Evgeny Utkin (right)

Renato Mazzoncini (left) and Evgeny Utkin (right), photo © Evgeny Utkin

- What are your relations with RŽD and their leader?

- We are friends with the President of the Russian Railways Oleg Belozerov, and together we work at the International Union of Railways, where he was chairman (from December 1, 2015), until last year, and this year I replaced him. We are the main core there.

- By "we" You mean only the Italian State Railways?

- No, RŽD, Italian State Railways, and several other companies that are the largest in the world.

- Tell us about your projects and opportunities in work with Russia?

- We have two levels of interaction. First, these are projects that can be implemented directly in Russia. For example, the Moscow-Kazan high-speed line project, where we created a pool of companies to participate in tenders for this project. And here is the main problem, it is not technology, because European technologies are reliable and have shown themselves in their countries. It is not a problem whose technologies RZD will choose - German, French, Italian or Spanish, it is about project finance.

The Moscow-Kazan high-speed line project

The Moscow-Kazan high-speed line project, source Russian Railways

Now we are talking about an agreement with either the Chinese or Europeans. If with the Europeans, then we are in a good position, if with the Chinese ... (pause), they are Chinese (sighs). I can say that now we are opening our cards. We play open, follow the road map, which we identified with our colleagues from RŽD in mid-July.

- So you do not have any problems related to geopolitics, sanctions, etc.?

- No, absolutely not. In the railway industry there are no sanctions. Then, we signed Memorandum of Understanding, which concerns not only our countries, but, for example, cooperation in Serbia. And see what can be done together in Eastern Europe. We have very advanced technologies, on high-speed railways, as they have been with us for a long time. RŽD and Russia have influence, including geopolitical, on these countries. And combining these things together could create an interesting business.

- Can you think about the "Silk Road?"

The Silk Road? Here the main thing is to understand if the "Silk Road" starts, and if it starts, on what route it goes, the North or the South. I think that the "Moscow-Kazan" project should go forward in terms of the "Silk Road", and if it develops faster than the Southern Corridor, then for Russia it will be a great opportunity.

Map of potential routes of the Silk Road

Map of potential routes of the Silk Road, photo WEB

- However, "Moscow-Kazan" is needed, first of all, Russia itself ...

- Yes, of course, no doubt. But for Russia now this is the main. After all, if countries in the South, such as Turkey, Iran, etc., start moving faster, it is clear that then it is possible to create a more profitable corridor in the South. I am sure that there is no place for the two corridors of the Silk Road, as these are huge investments. It is also because sea-going ships make up a worthy competition for rail transport. I think that there will be only one railway corridor, and it is not yet clear whether South or North.

- Now your competitor is the climate, more precisely, climate change. If this goes on, then in a few years, the Northern Sea Route will be practically navigable, and this will also increase competition in the delivery of Europe-Asia cargo and back.

- Oh, yes, and that, too. However, I hope that we have several years or decades.

- Returning to the Ambrosetti forum, yesterday you participated in a bilateral Russian-Italian meeting led by Russian Vice-Premier Arkady Dvorkovich and Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano. What are the results of this meeting?

- We can say that this meeting confirmed the friendship between our countries, which is the main element to develop a joint business. Among our Italian companies, probably Enel is ahead of everyone, and has already concluded specific contracts in RES (renewable energy sources). I can say that the "system-country", when working, works for all companies. The fact that other companies, like Enel, are leading a successful business in Russia, helps us too. Then, I hope that we will be able to achieve positive results with RŽD, because yesterday Dvorkovich said that the participation of the Italian Railways in the project "Moscow-Kazan" is among his goals. This meeting was also attended by Vyacheslav Pavlovsky, Vice-President of RŽD, who is responsible for the development of the project.

Eugene Utkin, Italy, Cernobbio