Latvian Railway council sacks chairman, adopts new "strategic approach"

  • 2005-08-31
  • Staff and wire reports
RIGA - The council of Latvijas Dzelzcels (Latvian Railway) on Aug. 29 dismissed long-time chairman Andris Zorgevics and appointed Ugis Magonis, former council chairman, in his place. Transport Minister Ainars Slesers said that the railway company must develop more dynamically in the future by cooperating with private companies, devoting more effort to logistics, and cooperating with ports.

"The railway company should be working not only for the East but also for the West. It must be understood that we are not a remote province of the former Soviet Union any more, but we are a center connecting the former Soviet Union with the European Union," Slesers told the Baltic News Service.

He added that it was precisely cooperation with the West for which Magonis was better suited than Zorgevics to lead the company.

Slesers said Magonis would have to cooperate with businessmen from China, who are interested in beginning large cargo shipments to Western Europe via the Baltic states. It would be unforgivable if Latvia missed such a chance to increase cargo volumes, he stressed.

What's more, Magonis will have to assume the initiative and push for implementation of the Rail Baltica project, the minister added.

Zorgevics refused to comment on the decision.

The new chairman, for his part, said a restructuring of the company would be one of his key tasks in the new job. "We have to do things the previous board was unable to do," Magonis told the press.

The aim of restructuring, he said, would be to separate cargo transportation from passenger transportation as well as infrastructure, as required under the EU law. This separation is needed to raise transparency, promote competition in the sector and ensure the smooth development of passenger transportation, which is currently a loss-making venture.

The restructuring could run into opposition in the government, as several ministers, particularly Economy Ministry Krisjanis Karins, have spoken out against the idea of separating Latvian Railway into three units.

Uldis Petersons and Aivars Traksa were appointed to the new board of the railway company, while Stanislavs Baiko, Maris Gavars and Janis Veveris lost their seats on the board.

Magonis has had a seat on the councils of Riga Free Port, the Privatization Agency and Latvijas Kugnieciba (Latvian Shipping) since 1999. He headed the railway company's council from 2003.

As Slesers' adviser, Magonis also holds posts on the councils of airBaltic and LMT, Latvia's largest mobile phone operator.