THE FINAL programme for structural reform of the Russian rail network was formally endorsed by the cabinet and Prime Minister Mikhail Kassyanov on April 12. The policy was debated by the Duma in March, although it has not yet been voted on. The cabinet agreed to submit the programme for approval by the government by May 1, after which it will be sent to President Vladimir Putin.

According to Railways Minister Nikolai Aksyonenko, operations will gradually be opened up to competition, but he insists that the railway will remain an ’integrated network with centralised control of operations and safety’. The reforms are to be implemented in three stages (RG 10.00 p641), which will run in 2001-02, 2003-05 and 2006-10.

RZD has already established six Long- Distance and six Commuter passenger operating companies, and will shortly set up RAO Railway Stock Company. The passenger subsidiaries will be floated in Stage 2, as will 63 ancillary businesses, including 16 rolling stock repair factories and 23 construction companies. New directorates have been formed to manage the overhaul of locos (Zheldormash) and rolling stock (Wagonremmash). During Stage 2, RZD will also convert its freight operations into subsidiary companies.

Stage 3 will complete the reform programme by introducing full competition.

H A train of six 200 km/h coaches built at Tver is to be tested between Moscow and St Petersburg on May 1. Based on a prototype built in 1999, the stainless-steel Series 61-4170 stock will be built at the rate of 30 to 40 coaches a year. n