Russia to auction off Moscow metro builder: official

23rd November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russia will sell off Mosmetrostroi, the company that built Moscow's fabled metro system under the Soviet Union in the Stalin-era construction boom, a federal agency said Tuesday.

The company, which was created by Stalin in 1931, will be auctioned off next month with the starting price set at 2.2 billion rubles (71 million dollars), according to an announcement by the Federal Property Agency on its website.

Kommersant business daily said on Tuesday that there are already at least two contenders for the company, including Valery Abramson, who has worked with billionaire Roman Abramovich, and the current head of company board Vladimir Kogan.

The Russian government has announced a sweeping privatisation programme in order to narrow a widening budget deficit and bring private investment into the economy.

Private-ownership of Mosmetrostroi could mark the end for lavish stations that are the signature of Moscow's metro system and are often visited by tourist groups.

The network has some 177 stations and 300 kilometres of tunnels in underground Moscow.

The first stations opened in the 1930s as horse-drawn carriages were still widespread on Moscow streets and symbolised the Soviet Union's burgeoning status.

The Moscow metro is also surrounded by legends about its secret underground bunkers, shelters, and evacuation tunnels leading far beyond the capital that were built on the orders of dictator Josef Stalin in case of aerial attacks.

Moscow's new mayor Sergei Sobyanin has also shifted his attentions below ground in recent days, calling for cheaper and more uniform metro stations and an increased pace of constructing new metro stops.

Unlike the capital's clogged streets, the metro remains the most popular and reliable transportation option, though overcrowding and poor ventilation have increasingly become a concern.

© 2010 AFP

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