Geographic area within which the railway network is characterised by a 1520 mm gauge

What is zone 1520 ?

Zone (region) refers to the geographic area within which the railway network is characterised by a mm gauge. This region of Europe covers 17 countries.

The following nations belong to zone :

  • member countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS): Belarus and Russia (its founding member states), Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan ;
  • and the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), Ukraine, Georgia, Finland and Mongolia.

The characteristics of zone 1520

The railway gauge in zone differs from the railway standard established by the International Union of Railways (UIC). The UIC standard is actually 1 435 mm (four feet and eight and a half inches). It is applied in the majority of countries of the European Union (EU) having chosen to establish interoperability between countries.

In the transport sector, the difference between the original Russian railway system and the European standard is not without consequence. Travel from one region to another requires various technical procedures which can cause delays to trade.

Examples and application

There are several solutions to ensure the continuity of transport between the different gauge systems:

  • transhipment which involves an interchange for travellers or products transported. For the transport of goods, this long and costly operation can be rationalised by packing in containers or in bulk ;
  • change to the gauge of the railway networks. This adaptation may be partial if the standard is applied in a neighbouring territory. In certain sections, there may also be physical interlocking of the systems: a third rail can accommodate two types of traffic on one track, either permanently or temporarily ;
  • changing the running gear (axles or bogies), which requires constraining lifting of the vehicles ;
  • the adoption of variable gauge axle systems on which the gauge between the wheels can be adjusted. This solution reduces costs and operating time (from 3 hours to 15 minutes). This system has been used on Talgo at the France-Spain border for over thirty years. It also allows the Shinkansen, the high-speed Japanese train, to transition from a normal track to a 1 067 mm gauge.

Thanks to a globally integrated network and over 10 years of experience in the region, the GEFCO group operates seamlessly in zone . In 2017, the first full train transporting containers from China arrived in France after a journey of 11 000 km in less than 3 weeks. Departing from Wuhan in China, the rail convoy passed through Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus, located in zone , before crossing Poland and Germany for France.

Zone 1520 in figures

The railway gauge of the tracks located in this zone is mm.

17 countries belong to zone including members of the CIS, Ukraine, Georgia, the Baltic states, Finland and Mongolia.

Regulatory framework

Commission Decision 2011/275/EU of 26 April 2011 concerning a technical specification for interoperability relating to the ‘ infrastructure ’ subsystem of the trans-European conventional rail system.