“We clearly understand that we will reach Kazan in one light day”
The Transport of Russia Forum has announced the imminent start of the construction of the Moscow-Kazan High-Speed Highway
The construction of the Moscow-Kazan High-speed Highway (M12) is going to start soon. The head of Avtodor's management board, Vyacheslav Petushenko, dispelled concerns about the possibility of freezing the megaproject in the context of the coronacrisis, speaking at the international forum Transport of Russia in Moscow. Despite a deep downturn in the transport industry, investment in infrastructure will continue. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin even warned the leaders of regions about the responsibility for the quality of construction and repair of state-funded roads. About whether Russian Railways and air carriers are ready to reduce the fare and what technologies Avtodor introduces for collecting tolls on toll roads — read in the report of Realnoe Vremya.
The regions will take the fall for the smooth operation of transport in the pandemic
“Speed, convenience and efficiency, or how fast and how much you can drive on the roads of Russia” — these issues were discussed in the plenary discussion of the 14th international forum Transport of Russia, which was opened by the country's prime minister, Mikhail Mishustin. In Moscow, a large exhibition of key transport projects was opened in Gostiny Dvor, but its inspection was on a limited basis and did not become mass as in previous years.
Nevertheless, key industry representatives came to participate in the “transport week”, but without the “top person”. “I know that Minister of Transport Vitaly Savelyev was supposed to be at the forum with us. He was preparing to participate in the forum, but, unfortunately, had to self-isolate due to a positive test for coronavirus," Mishustin warned in advance, opening the session. He wished him a quick recovery. “And all of you, dear colleagues, take care of yourself and your loved ones in this difficult time," the prime minister added. Instead of the new minister, his deputy, Alexander Neradko, who heads the Federal Air Transport Agency, attended the forum.
Nevertheless, the prime minister himself did not participate in the plenary discussion but managed to leave instructions to the federal and regional authorities. According to him, in the situation with the spread of coronavirus, “it is extremely important that transport works reliably anywhere in the country, so that people can receive medicines, personal protective equipment, and food without interruption and on time”. For this reason, he set the task to closely monitor the smooth operation of transport. He admitted that the year has been very difficult, and the transport industry has been one of the most affected by the spread of coronavirus and the restrictions imposed in this regard. “Despite this, transport continues to work, ensuring the needs for transportation, and most importantly — their safety," he said.
On the other hand, next year they will continue to invest in the development of road transport infrastructure in the regions.
“The government promptly responds to requests from the subjects of the federation and provides them with appropriate assistance. With state support, about 1,700 kilometres of regional roads will soon be commissioned and another 16,000 kilometres will be repaired, " the prime minister said. “But, unfortunately, not all regions are able to independently cope with the repair and update of road infrastructure. It is necessary to effectively use and reconstruct the infrastructure in its area of responsibility in order to prevent failures, especially accidents, at dilapidated or obsolete facilities.
A Russian's dream: to get somewhere quickly and inexpensively
How can we make transport fast, convenient, or affordable and give passengers these three-in-one qualities immediately after the pandemic? First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Andrey Belousov, Presidential Aide Igor Levitin and Acting Transport Minister Alexander Neradko discussed this topic. For example, Andrey Belousov believes that in Russian conditions it is most important to ensure transport accessibility, and the rest — later.
“Builders have a joke. If we take quality, speed, and cheapness, then choose two out of three items. There are four positions on transport: accessibility, safety, speed, and price. The art is finding the right balance. Today, the issue of accessibility comes to the fore because entire regions and their development are hindered by the underdevelopment of the transport network," he said.
In the background — the issue of speed. “Our passenger travels from Moscow to the Black Sea coast sometimes for more than 30 hours — this is a big problem, it shouldn't be like this. But these issues are inertial, very long-term, and we will solve them," the deputy prime minister promised.
Igor Levitin spoke in unison with him. He reminded that the push to build roads in the country was made 15 years ago, when road funds were created. Over this time, 1 trillion rubles were spent, but 2,000 kilometres of roads were built. Despite the pandemic, 540 km of federal roads and 1,700 km of regional roads were built, and 16,000 km of roads in the regions were reconstructed. “Never before has Russia built so many roads," Levitin rejoiced.
Avtodor Group will direct 247 billion rubles for Moscow-Kazan Highway
However, the public money will not be enough the autobahns, the speakers stated. Despite the vast distances, there are obscenely few high-speed roads in the country without traffic lights.
“In the near future, the construction of the M12-Moscow-Kazan High-speed Highway will be launched," Vyacheslav Petushenko, the chairperson of the Avtodor management board, dispelled fears that the project would be frozen.
According to him, the company is confident about the attractiveness of the project “Moscow-Kazan-Nizhny Novgorod”, as it covers a significant part of the population of the Volga Region. “Now regulatory obstacles are reduced, so we are ready to build it in 4 years, while the M11 was built for 8 years," Petushenko said. He specified that the 4-year period also includes the design stage.
According to Petushenko, it is planned to attract 247 billion rubles of extra-budgetary funds to the construction. They will be registered on the balance sheet of the state company Avtodor. After the completion of the Central Ring Road in Moscow next year, labour resources will be directed to this route. Besides, the issue of extending the route to Yekaterinburg is being worked out, which means that the Shali-Bavly section will be included in it, Petushenko said. By 2024, it is planned to attract 500 billion rubles to the construction of high-speed roads, including through infrastructure bonds, Petushenko said.
The attractiveness of the route, according to him, is that the driving time is reduced by several hours.
“We clearly understand that we will reach Kazan not in 16 hours, as now, but in one light day of 7 hours. We are fully confident that the cargo will be delivered to the destination within a day," he said.
Let us remind that the length of the route will be 794 km. Mars Gazizullin, the first deputy chairperson of the board of the state-owned Avtodor company, later added that the time frame for the construction of the first technical category highway is tight, but given the experience on M11, it is feasible. According to him, the route is rich in plenty of engineering and network communications that will have to be transferred to their owners (energy, gas and oil companies), and the company itself will only pay them money for the transfer.
According to him, today the country has built 6,000 expressways, and only 1,750 km of toll roads. “But there will be more and more of them. Every year, 200 km will be put into operation," Petushenko promises. At the same time, he relies on high demand. “At the end of the year, the fare collection has increased by 20 per cent. We see that users vote for them with money," he said.
Some people want skip past the cash register
The participants of the discussion were interested in why Avtodor is switching to the Free flow payment system, refusing automatic barriers. The new system consists of a frame with sensors and cameras that record the fact of driving a car, its registration plate and the number of axles, and to pay, you do not need to slow down — the system automatically deducts the fee.
“We have been heading for this for a long time, there were a lot of discussions," said Vyacheslav Petushenko. “Some people said: “In Europe, Free flow works in a little different way. Under the barrier system, we collect 99,7 per cent, and here everything will depend on the legal nihilism of drivers. There are cases of suspended or even removed plates, there is a desire to skip and not pay.
However, “free riders” face fines because the electronic system still recognises the car. “The punishment is inevitable. If you want to get a product that allows you to save on speed and gasoline, you need to pay. We attracted money from the market — they need to be returned," Petushenko explained.
Answering questions about whether carriers are ready to reduce fares, Oleg Belozerov, the director general and chairperson of the management board of Russian Railways, said that they have already been lowered to support passengers. Alexander Neradko, on behalf of air carriers, said that the answers to these questions should be sought from low-cost airlines.
“The pandemic will not end in the spring of 2021"
Roman Trotsenko, the chairperson of the board of directors of AEON Corporation, predicted that the pandemic will stretch until 2023, and next year will be even harder than this year. “We expect that next year will be difficult. This year, the aviation industry will finish with a minus 42 per cent to the level of 2019. And last year was a record one, with 128,1 million passengers transported by air. We will finish at the level of 67-68 million and expect that in 2021 there will be a decrease — up to 65 million passengers," he described the situation.
“Unfortunately, the pandemic will not end in the spring of 2021. We assumed that there will be two or three waves of the pandemic, the peak will be in 2021. A wave from Central Asia will take over the first half of 2021. We believe that we should prepare for a storm that will continue until mid-2022. In these circumstances, we decided to save those projects that were in the highest degree of readiness," Trotsenko concluded.