FEASIBILITY STUDIES have been completed for a 220 km rail link in the northern Caucasus, designed to improve access to the Caspian Sea oilfields. The line is being promoted by Russian Railways, with the regional government in Stavropol and various Russian and foreign oil companies.

A committee was formed in 1998 (RG 4.98 p207) to determine the best alignment for the route. The favoured option is to run from Budyonnovsk on the Stavropol - Georgiyevsk line via Neftekumsk to Kochubei on the coastal route from Astrakhan to Makhachkala. Together with the recently-completed cut-off between Kizlyar and Kizilyurt, this will create a new route to the republic of Dagestan, bypassing the Trans-Caucasian line through Chechnya.

On February 15 Lt-Gen Alexander Shabanov of the Russian army’s railway division reported that his troops had restored over 75% of the Chechen network to traffic, de-mining and repairing 300 route-km. He hoped to have trains running into Grozny last month. n