Train Services in Moldova Won’t Be Suspended After All

The indebted national railway company of Moldova has announced that train services in the country will continue to operate as normal, denying earlier reports citing the contrary.

Suspension

The national railway company of Moldova (Calea Ferată din Moldova – or CFM) is in dire financial problems having accumulated a debt of 459 million Moldovan lei (22 million EUR) after years of mismanagement.

The financial crisis at CFM was so severe that according to company sources, all trains in the country would be indefinitely suspended from 12th February.

ungheni railways
The Moldovan-Romanian railway border at Ungheni where the train wagons are jacked up and have their bogies changed from Russia’s broad gauge railway tracks (5′) to Romania’s standard gauge (4’8.5″) tracks. ©Paliparan

Normal service

However, a CFM director has now denied reports that train services in Moldova will be suspended. According to First Deputy Director of Strategic Planning Vitalie Mucan, all trains services are operating and will continue to do so.

Mucan said: “At the moment, intercity trains run normally. I don’t know where it came from that we want to stop the trains.”

According to Radio Europa Libera Moldova, Mucan accused unnamed political forces of using CFM accounting data from CFM for manipulations to further aggravate the situation.

chisinau station moldova railway train
Chisinau’s central train station. ©Paliparan

Unpaid workers

Currently, CFM’s bank accounts are blocked as the railway company has reportedly not paid its employees in months.

During a meeting of the Public Finance Control Commission, commission chairman Igor Munteanu previously said that the “the railways have had their accounts blocked due to the existence of salary debts.”

Munteanu added: “The arrears of several months in relation to CFM employees create a rather problematic situation for the crisis management of this company. For all omissions and mistakes in management, someone must be held accountable.”

moldova chisinau government building
A small triumphal arch in front of the building in which the government of the Republic of Moldova is housed. ©Paliparan

Moving forward

According to Mucan, everything will however soon be resolved as CFM is working hard to resolve all issues.

He said: “We are now working on paying salaries, unblocking our accounts and paying salaries.”

Mucan even said that international railway connections might be restored in the near future, although he added that it would not depend on CFM but on political factors such as neighbouring countries reopening their borders.

Currently, all international train connections from Moldova such as the ones to Iași and Bucharest in Romania, Kiev and Odessa in Ukraine and Moscow in Russia, are suspended because of the corona virus pandemic.

chisinau street
A street in the city centre of Chisinau. ©Paliparan

Corruption investigation

At the same time, the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office of Moldova announced that it would open an investigation into the situation at CFM.

Chairman of the Parliamentary Public Finance Control Commission Igor Munteanu said that the prosecutor’s office will investigate suspected “siphoning of public property, embezzlement, theft, extortion and other crimes”.

Munteanu added that “the current situation of CFM is critical”, with local media reporting that CFM is still on the verge of bankruptcy.

chisinau moldova
A Church in the centre of Chisinau. ©Paliparan

Mismanagement

The parliamentary commission previously reported about some shocking cases of mismanagement at the Moldovan railways. In the years 2018-2019, CFM allegedly sold 66 thousand tons of ferrous metals without the approval of the board of directors.

Reportedly, railway rolling stock and infrastructure (such as train wheels) worth an estimated 168 million lei (8 million EUR) was dismantled and sold as well.

An overconsumption of fuel (62,000 litres) was also reported as CFM employees allegedly used company resources to refuel their own personal cars. Auditors also discovered unjustifiably bought goods worth over 51 million lei (2.5 million euro).

moldova railway train
A 1st class compartment (Spalny Vagon – SV) on the Bucharest-Chisinau sleeper train. ©Paliparan

Conclusion

Although it is good news that previous reports of all train services in Moldova being suspended were seemingly incorrect, this story is far from over.

CFM is still in a critical situation, having accumulated massive debts. With the company now under official investigation by the anticorruption prosecutor’s office, the story is likely to continue.

In typically Moldovan fashion, even political rivalries reportedly play a role in the whole CFM saga.

As it’s a bit too political for the purpose of this website I decided to leave it out of the above article, but the aforementioned sources even reported that most of the CFM management are still reportedly loyal to former Moldovan President Igor Dodon, a pro-Russian socialist.

Moldova is currently led by President Maia Sandu, a pro-European reformer who managed to beat Mr Dodon 57.72 percent to 42.28 percent in the presidential elections of 15th November last year.

Radio Europa Libera Moldova reported that some politicians have accused CFM of “hiding other interests behind the financial disaster”. I therefore would personally not be surprised if there is some fear among CFM bosses that Ms Sandu’s government might uncover more financial malversations. To be continued..!

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Koen

Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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