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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sleek New Trams Pique City's Interest

The sleek new cream-and-blue tram car scooting smoothly down the street Tuesday may have looked a trifle out of place at the shabby Izmailovsky tram depot.

But the tram, produced jointly by the German company Siemens and two Russian partners, may appear soon on Moscow streets, officials connected with the project said during a test run.

Stanislav Shlyonsky, chief engineer of the Ust-Katavsky wagon building factory, said the city of Moscow was interested in acquiring the new vehicles, but he would not say how many trams or how much money was involved.

Nevertheless, the 20-minute tram ride during the presentation ceremony gave rise to hopes that noisy bone-jarring journeys on Moscow streetcars might become a thing of the past.

Under an agreement signed in March 1993 and coming to fruition now, Siemens is providing gears and other components for the new tram car, which will be built in the Ust-Katavsky wagon building plant in the Urals region. The cars will use electrical equipment provided by another Russian company, Dinamo.

But the all-important question for the tram's manufacturers is how to find buyers for the improved vehicle.

Few Russian cities, Shlyonsky said, had the funds to renew public transport facilities despite a desperate need. His plant, founded in 1901 and once selling 60 trams annually, is down to selling just 15 a year, despite a capacity to produce 800 vehicles a year.

"It will probably be a tough job to find buyers," he said.

Neither side would reveal financial details of the deal or the price of the trams, although officials stressed that Siemens' contribution to the project had been minimal in order to keep costs down. "The trams are 93 percent Russian," Shlyonsky said.

He said the increased energy efficiency and reduced maintenance needs would offset the slightly higher costs the company incurred by Siemens' participation in the project.

The tram program is yet another feather in the cap for Siemens, which has been active in Russia for nearly all of its 150-year existence and reported a turnover of 843 million Deutsche marks ($565 million) here last year.

"We are definitely here to stay," said Hartwig Heinz, director of Siemens' department of transport technology. He said his firm would work with local partners and technology as far as possible because of the need to keep costs low.

Future projects of Siemens in Russia include a trolleybus-building venture with Dinamo and a possible transport-technology joint venture, he said.