ARMENIA: South Caucasus Railways officially took over the management of Armenian Railways on June 1 under a concession agreement signed on January 16.

Under the terms of the transfer, SCR, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Russian Railways, received 2?000 freight wagons, 58 passenger coaches, 85 locomotives and 30 EMUs from AR. All 4?300 AR staff have also transferred, according to RZD.

The concession agreement lasts 30 years, with an option to extend for another 20 years available after the first 20 years of operation. RZD has pledged to invest US$400m in upgrading AR’s infrastructure and a further US$170m is to be spent on rolling stock improvement. The management of SCR intends to ‘bring AR into line with Russian regulatory standards for maintaining infrastructure and rolling stock’, with communications equipment and staff training other key areas of focus.

SCR’s planned enhancements include construction of new lines between Yerevan and Batumi and between Yerevan and Poti ‘in the near future’. The country’s key freight corridors are also investment priorities, as SCR believes the network could support up to 30 million tonnes of freight per annum, a level not reached since 1988. In 2006, AR carried 2·7 million tonnes. SCR also plans to ‘promote cooperation with Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Ukraine’ — although at present, the border with Georgia is the only international frontier open to rail traffic.