REVIEWING developments on the Russian rail network in 2000, Minister of Railways Nikolai Aksyonenko noted at the annual meeting of the ministry’s board of management on December 26 that RZD carried 1300 million tonnes of freight last year, an increase of 11% over 1999. Given that both motive power and wagon fleets are ageing rapidly, with very few modern locomotives acquired in recent years, this was a remarkable achievement.

Aksyonenko indicated that investment in RZD is to rise substantially from now on, with 110bn roubles earmarked for this year alone compared with less than 14bn roubles in 1998. Higher investment will be matched by an efficiency drive that will include establishing regional control centres in seven major cities, including Moscow, St Petersburg, Novosibirsk and Irkutsk. Locos will be used more productively thanks to elimination of motive power changes at the ’frontiers’ of the 17 regional administrations. This will allow locos to run up to 2000 km compared with a maximum of 780 km at present. Staff productivity was reported to be up by 11% last year, but this year’s target is 20%.

Progress is expected with heavy haul technology to allow trains of iron ore and other bulk commodities to be raised from a maximum of 12000 to 18000 tonnes. Aksyonenko also signalled further development of international container services which promise high returns.

At the same time the minister expects to make progress with strategic reforms (RG 12.00 p798), with draft legislation being prepared that promises to bring major change in the long term.