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Tramway operation resumes in Öskemen

Saturday 19 May, and the Öskemen trams are back on the road – this is KTM-5M3 car 71 on line 2. Image credit: Valerayka

The Kazakh city of Öskemen (Russian: Ust-Kamenogorsk) took over the legal entity of its tramway on 17 May. After agreeing terms with the electricity company and staff, it resumed tramway operation on 19 May using the KTM-5 trams taken over from the previous private operator.

Öskemen is a city of 321 000 inhabitants located in the east of Kazakhstan at the confluence of the Ulba and Irtysh rivers. During the Soviet era, tramways were opened in Alma Ata (Almaty) (1937), Temirtau (1959), Ust-Kamenogorsk (1959) and Pavlodar (1965), and like many the Ust-Kamenogorsk system was operated by an industrial concern rather than the local municipality.

After independence in December 1991 this was split off to a private company, but due to a lack of investment services gradually declined until just 20 of the 60 KTM-5 trams (built between 1977 and 1986) were running each day on the four-line 16.5km (10.3-mile) system.

By March 2018 the owners were behind in payments to the local electricity company and services were restricted due to limitations placed on the energy supply. Tram services ceased completely on 12 March.

Tramway service was popular and the city council was already making plans to take over operations. On 25 January it successfully won 13 ex-Berlin 1985 Tatra KT4DtM trams at auction that were available in the former capital city Almaty (tramway operation ceased there on 31 October 2015). The first five arrived in Öskemen on 10 May.

The KT4DtM trams, repainted in blue and white livery in Almaty before delivery by road to Öskemen, should enter service this summer, as two specialists from the former capital arrive to train drivers and carry out diagnostic checks.

The capital of Kazakhstan has been Astana since 10 December 1997. In this new city Chinese interests are building a 22.6km (14-mile) light rail line connecting the airport and the railway station, which should be inaugurated at the end of 2019.