Latvian, Russian railways agree on communications

  • 2001-09-13
  • Jorgen Johansson
RIGA - Latvia's state-owned railway, Latvijas Dzelzcels, signed an agreement with Russia's Railway Ministry to update the telecommunication network between the two countries.

According to the agreement, signed Aug. 20 in Riga, joint usage of an optical cable network will help promote mutual exchange of communications and information, which will simplify ticket reservations, border crossing information, and help clients and customs officials to access information about cargo.

The border crossing points of Karsavas-Pitalovas and Zilupes-Sebezas will also be improved as a part of the agreement.

"The outline for this project was approved already in 1996 during a railway conference," said Janis Upitis, spokesman for Latvijas Dzelzcels.

Latvijas Dzelzcels borrowed $11 million from the American Export and Import Bank for modernizing telecommunication ties to Russia and Belarus. The loan has been set at a low rate and is expected to be paid back within five to six years. So far, optical cables stretching for 450 kilometers have been laid.

In 1997, Latvijas Dzelzcels launched a general telecommunication modernization plan. The company has already replaced its old analog system with a digital one, which covers the whole country.

Upitis said that when this project is finished, Latvijas Dzelzcels will have improved its ability to compete on the east-west transit route.

A spokesman at the Transport Ministry here said he was pleased with Latvia's progress in telecommunication modernization.

"But this is just the beginning," he said.

There is still plenty of work left to be done."