Julian Moxon/PARIS

IN THE ABSENCE of domestic Russian funding, foreign investors are being asked to take an increasing share of the financial burden for upgrading Russian airports, according to the Airports Council International (ACI).

The Russian Government is providing just $336 million in 1996 for improvements to 65 federal and international airports, while the annual demand for foreign money has risen to $570-$660 million. "Non-public funds are becoming increasingly crucial for Russian airport development," says the ACI.

Several major improvement programmes are about to be started. The recently approved state programme for new building work includes major reconstruction of terminals and new runways at Irkutsk, Krasnoyarsk, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Tyumen, Vladivostok, and "at least a dozen others", says the ACI.

A European Union project will pay $900,000 to upgrade the qualifications of Russian airport managers, and economic analysis of how airports can be separated from their local airlines - around 70% are still integrated.

While foreign money is readily available, the ACI notes that the region's airports have had to call in Western help to prepare detailed business plans. Aeroports de Paris prepared the plan for Yekaterinburg's Koltsovo Airport, and a Canadian team has completed a $2 million contract to prepare the plan for upgrading Samara's Kurumoch Airport.

Russian transport minister Nikolai Tsakh has proposed that airports should operate as independent joint stock companies, with the federal government gradually reducing its stake in favour of local authorities and, eventually, foreign investors. He says that the federal government would have to retain a majority at first, but could eventually settle for a minority holding of around 25%.

Source: Flight International