18 Feb 2020 11:29

Approval of priority work on BAM, Transsib delayed - paper

MOSCOW. Feb 18 (Interfax) - The list of priority work on developing railway infrastructure in eastern Russia in 2020-2021 has still not been approved even within Russian Railways (RZD) , although by order of the government this was supposed to be done by February, national daily Kommersant said on Tuesday, citing sources familiar with the discussion of the document.

The list has been worked out with the company's Consumer Council and the issue of timeframes is being considered, a spokesman for RZD told the paper.

The first stage of the modernization of the Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM) and Trans-Siberian Railway (Transsib), which was initially scheduled for completion in 2017, has been pushed back to 2020, and in July 2019 the Federal Railway Transport Agency said that only one section under this project was completely right on schedule, Kommersant said.

Last fall, during the approval of RZD's financial plan for 2020-2022, it emerged that spending on the eastern area of operations had been cut by 161 billion rubles, the paper recalled. The paper's sources said at the time that RZD's customers had agreed to form a working group with the company to approve priority measures on BAM and Transsib to be included in the reduced budget.

On December 12, the prime minister at the time, Dmitry Medvedev ordered RZD to update the detailed plan for measures on eastern railways, and on December 20, the deputy prime minister overseeing the sector at the time, Maxim Akimov gave orders to compile a list of projects by February 1.

The working group compiled a list of 212 projects with the relevant sections of railway and work. The list also set deadlines, with most of the work that was scheduled for the period to 2024 moved up, the latest now scheduled for 2023. The list was approved by RZD's Consumer Council on January 27 and on February 11 it was again discussed at a meeting at the Energy Ministry attended by the main freight shippers, coal companies. The list was compiled taking into account RZD's three-year financial plan, Kommersant reported an industry source as saying.

However, it turned out RZD was not prepared to carry out the projects within the set timeframe. There were disagreements between RZD's traffic division, which wanted projects completed as quickly as possible to curb the decline of freight shipments to the east, and the construction division, which was afraid to take on tough obligations, industry sources told the paper.

One of the paper's sources said that the list was sent to RZD first deputy CEO Anatoly Krasnoschek with a request to hold a meeting to approve it, specifically with the construction division. It was scheduled for February 18, but then rescheduled to February 26. The Transport Ministry will ask for an extension on carrying out the order regarding the list until March 1, another Kommersant source said.

RZD's customers "are not willing to compromise on the list," a source among freight shippers told the paper. "When, in 2018, the Consumer Council agreed to Russian Railways' package of proposals to increase rates, which included an export surcharge, raising the rate for empty runs and maintaining targeted surcharges, a gentlemen's agreement was made with RZD that the monopoly will carry out all work on the eastern area of operations in full," the source said.