PLANS to separate the Macedonian rail network into infrastructure and operating companies are due to be authorised by the government this month, in line with legislation approved last year.

On February 17 Makedonski Zeleznici signed a loan agreement with the World Bank which will provide US$15m to support the restructuring. The deal was negotiated last year, and the loan will be released once the restructuring has been approved by the government. It is intended to fund redundancies and staff retraining, improvements to the communications network and some upgrading of track and rolling stock. In parallel, the government is expected to write off MZ’s accumulated debts, which stand at €143m.

According to the railway’s Deputy Director of International Relations Ratko Stefanovski, MZ will remain a state-owned company responsible for maintaining and managing the rail infrastructure. A new joint-stock company, MZ Transport AD, is to be formed to take over freight and passenger operations. The 2005 legislation envisages that the operating company will be transferred to the private sector, probably three years after the split.

  • MZ is hoping to raise €234m to fund the completion of the cross-border rail link from Kumanovo, north of Skopje, to the Bulgarian capital Sofia. Since 1994 the railway has invested €103m in the project, which is intended to form part of the planned pan-European Corridor VIII linking the Albanian port of Dürres with the Black Sea ports of Varna and Burgas.