Cargo volumes plummet as crisis hits home

Russian Railways says April is shaping up to be a record bad month for cargo traffic, with air and rail cargo volumes down.

Behind the smiles at the opening of Russia's top transport exhibition TransRussia, industry leaders admitted some grim facts. Transport Minister Igor Levitin was able to find a ray of light.

“Air cargo fell 35% in the first quarter of this year on the same period for 2008. The decline's continued in the first 10 days of April. Sea port trade, however, is up.”

Sea ports takes the bulk of consumer goods. Russians have splurged on food and electronics in the wake of the winters Rouble devaluation. Rail suffers since it relies on commodities including oil and steel whose prices have slumped most this year, and Russian Railways Senior Vice-President, Boris Lapidus isn’t seeing any easing.

“In the first ten days of April our cargo traffic fell 22% year-on-year. In March it was 21.8%. We don't expect a rise in volumes soon.”

TransRussia delegates say cargo trade figures are key indicators on the state of the national economy. Most don't see much light at the end of the tunnel yet.