30 august 2010

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting in Chita to discuss road construction

Vladimir Putin

At a meeting in Chita to discuss road construction

“I have confidence that the Far East and Russia as a whole will benefit from this motorway. I hope that it will breathe new life into dozens of towns and villages as it offers new business opportunities and helps create new jobs.”

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's introductory remarks:

Good afternoon, or rather good evening. It's already quite late here, past midnight.

We have gathered here, in Chita, the capital of the Trans-Baikal Territory, to discuss the construction of federal motorways, primarily the M58 Amur highway to connect Chita and Khabarovsk. We will discuss what we have seen during our trip down this highway. It's still too early to sum up the results of this construction work because it's not yet finished. But I have no real doubt that it will be completed on schedule.

The Amur highway is the largest road-building project in Russia, and now, thank God, it's almost complete. In case any of you are wondering why I said ‘thank God,' it is because the plans for building this road were adopted back in 1966. Actual work didn't start until 1978, and what work there was, was carried out very slowly. Between 1997 and 2000 construction was suspended. From 2000 to 2010 we revived this project, investing a total of 70 billion roubles in that period. We allotted almost 10 billion roubles, 9.6 billion roubles, to it in 2010 alone.

We've just had an excellent opportunity to take a drive along this highway. What's been done on it, especially recent work, is looking good. This is a truly modern highway. I have confidence that the Far East and Russia as a whole will benefit from this motorway. I hope that it will breathe new life into dozens of towns and villages, as it offers new business opportunities and helps create new jobs.

I'd like to repeat that when the Amur highway opens to traffic, Russia will have its first road connecting its most western point with Vladivostok.

Now that work on the motorway between Chita and Khabarovsk is almost over, the Federal Road Agency should think about how to make sure companies that have been involved in this project have sufficient work through new contracts.

We've just met workers and managers, and everyone wanted to know how this motorway will be serviced and whether they'll need to return with their machines and equipment to repair the road surface in, say, six months' time. This would require additional funds, primarily from the federal budget. I expect the minister to submit proposals on what should be done to avoid such problems. These are purely technical issues. We have budgeted for quite a significant sum, over 40 billion roubles for these purposes, to be allotted within the next three years.

The companies working on this project have gained valuable experience, and good new teams have been created, able to work in extreme weather conditions. Clearly, this is something we should take advantage of.

I'd like to express my sincere gratitude to everyone involved in the construction of this motorway between Chita and Khabarovsk, the designers, engineers and workers. These people have been working in extreme climatic conditions and have done an excellent job.

At the same time, this is something I have already raised with the minister about it but I would like to repeat it here, we need to consider how this highway will be serviced. The manufacturers of the necessary materials - and there are several such companies in the region - should stay on hand to service this road all the year round. Unless this is done, all our efforts could go down the drain.

This year we're not only finishing the construction of the highway connecting Chita and Khabarovsk. Construction on other sites is also well underway, for example, in Sochi and Vladivostok, for the 2014 Olympics and the 2012 APEC summit respectively. The planned reconstruction of the M4 Don and M53 Baikal highways is also ongoing. The Baikal project envisions the construction of bypass roads around Novosibirsk and Irkutsk.

While preparing amendments to the federal budget for 2010, we found an opportunity to allot an additional 16 billion roubles to repair and modernise urban roads. Many people, including those I met today, say that this motorway is quite good but the roads feeding into it are in a dire state. We'll certainly attend to this issue further down the line. Many cities and towns, including those we have visited during this trip, are facing similar problems. This is why today I signed a government resolution on this issue. Sergei Ivanov (Deputy Prime Minister) will take this document to Moscow today.

We'll allot 16 billion roubles to resolve these problems across 32 administrative centres of the Russian Federation.

However, our efforts and the funds we allocate for these purposes are not sufficient to create a thoroughly modern transport infrastructure, as required by the long-term plan for the development of Russia. This is why we decided to change the status of road construction and repair issues, making them top-priority budget expenditure items and from 2011 we will focus a special pool of resources on this through the federal road fund.

Under preliminary estimates, next year the federal road fund will contain 377 billion roubles, over 80 billion roubles more than what has been budgeted for roads in 2010. The amounts allotted for these purposes will increase annually, reaching almost 500 billion roubles by 2015.

The federal targeted fund has been set up to stabilise the situation in the road construction industry and to help us move from these massive but sporadic projects to comprehensive work to modernise the Russian road network, including in towns, where development - and I'm sure you'll agree with me here - is virtually suffocated by traffic congestion. In 2011 the regions will receive an additional 34 billion roubles to address these problems.

Let's move on to the discussion.

* * *

Vladimir Putin's closing remarks:

So, what should I say in conclusion? We‘ve been on the road and had a good look at it. Indeed, everything is at an advanced level of readiness. I'm not sure but I think it is about 90% ready. However, we need it to be 100% and I hope that everything will be completely ready by the end of September, as agreed.

However, you know I've taken a look at it and have to say that a great deal remains to be done. There are many unsurfaced gaps in the road. Mr Levitin (Transport Minister) said there are 35 but I think there are more. Maybe, when you are rattling along it, it just seems endless but there's a lot to be done. 

Cement kerbs still need to be installed. I can see they are still lying on the ground. There really is a lot of work to do. We have gathered here now to praise the road builders for their work on a lengthy section of the road, especially where they had to start from scratch, but they must complete the job. That is the first point.

Second, there needs to be an acceptable route to Chita. Sometimes, at a certain distance from the city it's just terrifying...

Remark: at 96 km.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, it's an old and very narrow road. It is in poor condition, it is old and it needs to be repaired.

Remark: It was built in the 1970s.

Vladimir Putin: It needs to be rebuilt and returned to an acceptable condition. It has to meet today's requirements.

And, finally, we should think about infrastructure development. Mr Geniatulin is right. The road will be used as soon as it is commissioned. You are not going to tell people "You can't use the road because there isn't any infrastructure." People will use it, both individuals and companies, but it won't be ready. It is ready to drive down but not ready to really offer people a service in the fullest sense of the word. So, rapid, high quality work needs to go into making sure the road and attendant infrastructure are ready.

Indeed, this is the best platform to coordinate the positions of all the ministries and departments. This will be overseen by Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, who is in charge of the relevant commission.

Let's agree that all work on these proposals should be completed in November. Mr Ivanov will then hold a final meeting to close the chapter on this. We will then have a clear sense of where we are heading, what the timeframe is and how much it will cost us. Agreed? Thank you.