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Soviet Union

The Postwar Period, 1946-60

During the postwar recovery period, the railroads played a key role in rebuilding the national economy, in both the industrial and the agricultural sectors. To enable the railroads to carry out assignments, improvements had to be made in traction equipment, rolling stock, roadbeds, stations, yards, and traffic control equipment. New diesel-electric and electric locomotives were produced, and heavier rails allowed increased axle loads and train speeds. Automatic block signaling systems also contributed to higher speeds and better traffic control. Electrified lines were slowly extended. Although the Fourth Five-Year Plan (1945-50) provided for the restoration of damaged rolling stock and rail facilities, the Fifth Five-Year Plan (1951-55) emphasized new construction. The plan's goals were severely underfulfilled, mainly in production of freight cars, trackage, and other equipment, but freight turnover was 57 percent above plan. This achievement was made possible by increased train loads, higher operating speeds, more efficient loading and off-loading procedures, and higher labor productivity. The higher speeds and higher number of average daily runs of locomotives hauling freight were made possible by growing numbers of diesel-electric and electric locomotives coming into service.

At the urging of CPSU first secretary Nikita S. Khrushchev, in the late 1950s electrification proceeded on some high-density passenger and freight lines. Khrushchev gave priority to railroads in the Ural Mountains area and to those connecting the Urals with southeastern and central European areas and with Siberia and other eastern regions. By the end of 1960, the railroads had a network of 125,800 kilometers of lines, some 13,800 kilometers of which were electrified.

Beginning in the early 1960s, the railroads experienced a period of prosperity. Freight traffic grew rapidly, by 59 percent between 1961 and 1970, while passenger traffic increased by 50 percent. New equipment improved labor productivity. More electric and diesel-electric locomotives entering service, combined with improved tracks and roadbeds, increased net train weights and speeds. In the late 1960s, as the growth of net train weights and speeds leveled off, train density--the number of trains moving on a given track--increased, thus allowing further increases in freight carried. Nevertheless, in the early 1970s train productivity continued to grow, but at declining rates. By 1975 the railroads reached their limits in terms of traffic density and train speeds and weights. Subsequently, the railroads strained to satisfy the demands of the national economy. Between 1977 and 1982, the total tonnage of shipments stagnated, increasing only from 3.723 billion tons originated (see Glossary) to 3.725 billion tons originated. Other indicators dropped--such as the average daily distance traveled by locomotives and cars, and speeds--the result of ever increasing track congestion. Additional factors contributing to poor railroad performance in the late 1970s and early 1980s were a deteriorating labor discipline and a decline in the quality of repairs and maintenance.

In 1983 recovery from the slump started when managers reduced traffic congestion and made train and other operations more efficient. Use of electrically synchronized double and triple engines made running heavier trains possible and reduced traffic congestion.

In the late 1980s, railroads carried a larger share of freight and passengers longer distances than any other transportation system in the Soviet Union. In 1986 railroads transported 3.8 trillion ton-kilometers of freight, or a 47 percent share of all freight carried by all systems (see table 39, Appendix A). At the end of 1986, the railroads reached a length of 145,600 kilometers, of which 50,600 kilometers, or almost 35 percent, were electrified.

Data as of May 1989