A government-proposed amendment to the Railway Law will allow private companies to organize their own rail freight transport. The amendment passed the first reading in parliament earlier this week and if it will be adopted, companies will have the right to purchase and own rolling stock and also to hire train operators.
“This will mainly interest big companies, mostly from the metals sector that are big importers and exporters and have the capacity to organize such transport,” Deputy Transport Minister Nimetula Halimi explained.
The new amendment signals a change of direction in policy on the railways. Two years ago Macedonia postponed moves to part-privatize the railway sector until the country enters the European Union. In 2012, Transport Minister Mile Janakieski defended the move by saying that the state owned firm needed to be defended from competition, as a major employer.
This was unwelcome news to Slovenian Railways and the Czech firm Loco Trans, which had expressed interest in entering the Macedonian railway freight market, which is estimated to be worth some EUR 30 million a year.