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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Power Cuts Hit Trans-Siberian Rails

Freight traffic on an eastern Siberian section of the Trans-Siberian Railroad was delayed Monday after the Chita power company cut power to the railroad because it hadn’t paid electricity bills totaling 140 million rubles ($488,000).

The section is east of Lake Baikal and connects traffic to Vladivostok and North Korea, but Trans-Siberian branches to China and Mongolia have not been affected. Diesel locomotives have taken over hauling some trains.

The deputy director of the Mogocha Station on the Zabaikal section of the railway, who refused to be identified, said Tuesday in a telephone interview that 11 freight trains were stranded at the station.

"But we are controlling the situation. All passenger trains are going through without any serious delay," he said.

About 28 trains use the line past Mogocha daily, he said, adding that the impact of the power cuts shouldn’t be serious unless diesel runs out.

Dmitry Korshunov, a spokesman for national power grid Unified Energy Systems, said the utility was determined to collect its debts.

"We will continue to cut off our debtors regardless of their circumstances," he said.

Korshunov said the railroad’s problems can be solved if it agrees to a payment schedule and some of the railway’s debtors are transferred to regional energy companies’ books.

"We did not undertake active actions against the Zabaikal railway. We gave them notice first, then we made an offer of negotiations, but they did not accept it."

Korshunov said railroads had been offered very easy conditions of payment and they should at least try to pay.

A Railways Ministry spokesman, who refused to be named, said, "The situation is under our control. No more comments."

However, asked about the loss of power to the Zabaikal railway, he criticized UES for cutting electricity "for such a trifle."

Korshunov said the Sverdlovsk railway in the Ural Mountains will be partly cut off Wednesday because of a debt of 5.2 million rubles, much less than the Zabaikal railway owes to UES.

Between July 15 and July 31, UES’s regional subsidiaries cut or restricted power to more than 7,500 enterprises of the company’s 70,000 debtors, which owe a total of 140 billion rubles ($5.05 billion), Prime-Tass reported.

Interfax quoted Railways Minister Nikolai Aksyonenko as saying Friday that the nation’s 15 regional railroads’ cash reserves are almost exhausted and their capital assets are rapidly aging. In the past three years, the wear and tear on railways and rolling stock has grown from 40 percent to 60 percent.

The Railways Ministry declined to answer questions about the cash cost of power cuts.

A full overhaul of the nation’s railways would cost $22 billion, Kommersant newspaper estimated.