THE GOVERNMENT of Kazakhstan has approved draft proposals for the restructuring of the national railway network and the introduction of competition for support services. Kazakhstan Railways (KTZ) General Director Ablai Myrzakhmetov announced at the beginning of August that the ’demonopolisation’ process would be phased over the next four years.

Noting that the bureaucratic structure inherited from the Soviet Union was ’not stimulating a lowering of expenditure and an increase in efficiency’, Myrzakhmetov insisted that the introduction of competition would help KTZ to adjust to free market conditions.

The draft plan provides for KTZ to dispose of its ’large social base’ including hospitals, schools, catering, and cultural institutions. The supply of spare parts will be opened up to competition. A new research centre and heavy repair facilities are being developed to reduce dependence on plants in Russia and the Ukraine, and these may be structured as stand-alone businesses. However, the state is expected to retain ownership of the infrastructure, stations and rolling stock.

Myrzakhmetov anticipates that the restructuring will help KTZ reverse the 67% decline in freight volumes since 1992, which has seen some services suspended and lines mothballed. With the development of new domestic support services, he envisages that the revitalised railway industry could require around 15000 additional staff.