Speaking at the 1520 rail business forum in Sochi, Yakunin said that continuous dialogue is crucial to overcome cultural and language difficulties and solve the problems of interoperability.

"Our goal is to build cooperation with partners in Europe, Asia-Pacific and CIS countries and contribute to the economic development of the region," Yakunin says. "We want to ensure transport across the region by offering consistent freight flows. To do this we need to find common integration with various European organisations to develop a harmonious transport policy."

Yakunin praised RZD's relationship with German Rail (DB) as well as operators in the Baltic States, eastern Europe, and CIS countries, but urged governments to continue to support the railway business.

This view was echoed by DB chairman Mr Rüdiger Grube, who called for a levelling of the regulatory playing field between different modes to encourage further growth of railfreight flows.

"I would like to ask everybody, but particularly the politicians, to give us the right support like you already provide to air and sea freight," Grube said. "At the moment there is only one set of recommendations for these divisions. Competition is important and decisive for me but so is regulation. Don't over-regulate the market because then you will kill the business."

At present 95% of goods from China and the other Asian manufacturing hubs are transported by sea to Europe. But as European Commission vice president Mr Siim Kallas pointed out, the increasing movement west of China's industry could provide substantial opportunities for rail, particularly on the Trans-Siberian and Kazakhstan corridors.

Grube says that while discussion of ideas to take advantage of this are important, execution is what really matters. He says the example set by BMW which has transported goods to China in 16 days, and Hewlett Packard from Shanghai in 23 days using the railway, cutting journey times in half in comparison with sea freight, shows the potential and it is now up to others to follow their lead.

"If you cut the transport time by 50% it means immediately that you are cutting the overall cost by 50%," Grube said.