27 december 2010

Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov chairs a meeting of the Government Commission on Transport and Communications


Sergei Ivanov’s introductory remarks:

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,

Today, we are having the last meeting of the Government Commission on Transport and Communications in the outgoing year.

This meeting is taking place at Moscow city hall, which is not our usual ordinary venue. The choice of venue is easy to explain: we have only one item on our agenda. It is a critical issue – urgent measures to develop the transport network in Moscow and the Moscow Region, which involves addressing traffic problems, among other things.

The Russian president issued a relevant instruction in November and now we have all gathered here for discussion.

The heads of two constituent entities – Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and Moscow Region Governor Boris Gromov – are also taking part.

The transport situation in and outside Moscow is currently a matter of close public interest. It is in the focus of the media practically every day. I think every one of us has firsthand knowledge of traffic problems and last weekend was a vivid example of how tough they can be.

I would like to note from the start that system crashes and other failures of the transport network in the city and the Moscow Region caused major problems, which I would like to divide into three major groups.

First, they undermine safety, efficiency and stability in the entire Moscow city and region. Take yesterday’s situation at Domodedovo Airport. True, the problem was caused to a greater extent by energy than transport failures, but I think everyone is aware of the financial losses incurred.

The road accident rate is tremendous. Even when there are no major casualties, traffic jams lead to road rage and we have all seen on television the shooting, fights and everything else that happens as a consequence. There is another problem: People are tired of bad transport. They have less free time, so their labour efficiency is reduced. Consequently, the environment is ever more unfriendly, and health problems and, naturally, social tensions in and outside the city are snowballing.

Third, the economic potential of Moscow and the Moscow Region is shrinking.

It is clear that transport problems demand an all-round solution, as we have said many times.

There must be continuous cooperation between the city and the Moscow region, considering the interdependence of their transport networks. Moreover, the development of all modes of transport and all kinds of transport infrastructure must proceed in parallel.

It is equally clear that in order to put an end to highway overloads in the city and the region, we must not only develop the highway network but also redistribute the load on all modes of transport and all kinds of the transport infrastructure.

As for modes of transport, I will make only a few short remarks.

The metro should come first. It is hard to overestimate the part it plays in urban life. The Moscow metro handles three billion passengers a year – a huge figure.

This is why municipal plans to develop the metro, which include extending its existing lines, some of which will reach towns in the Moscow Region closest to the city, building the light-rail metro, speed tram lines and intercepting parking lots, as well as other measures, will have every support at the federal level. I can tell you this with absolute certainty.

Second, there are railways. Moscow got its basic rail infrastructure, mainly the smaller ring of the Moscow Railway, back in the Soviet years.

The implementation of the project to modernise the ring and build a sufficient number of hubs connecting it with metro and surface transport stations will be a breakthrough in solving the city’s transport problems.

Next, there is suburban transport, vital for commuting between the city and the region. The loads on suburban railways are extremely uneven now. Three railway lines out of the total 11 – the Yaroslavl, Gorky and Ryazan-Kazan – account for more than a half of the load.

Nevertheless, decisions were made recently to reduce the number of suburban trains. As a result, on the three busiest lines people are packed like sardines in the rush hours. Naturally, many commuters give up trains and travel by car, which makes the situation on the roads even worse.

Railway managers have pointed out that suburban trains do not cover transport expenses, and I certainly understand the problem. Mr Vladimir Yakunin, Russian Railways CEO, is here and I would like to tell him that his company and, what matters even more, the regional railways, should be more attentive and socially responsible in funding passenger transport.

In addition, the regions should also budget for railway subsidies as their priority. In this, they must take into consideration that suburban transport is working at a loss due to present-day low fares.

Third, there are inland waterways. A major river and its numerous tributaries cross Moscow and the region. If they are used rationally, water transport can be integrated into the regional transport network, as is the case in many European cities.

Russia was among the bidders to host the 2012 Summer Olympics. The Moscow administration elaborated the Olympic River concept in this connection. It was a highly specialised project, but  I think we can adapt some of its parts.

To prevent transport system collapse, we should use everything we have at hand – all ideas and initiatives, including such exotic projects as the use of the Moskva River for helicopter taxis run by a certified company. Their routes should certainly not criss-cross the city but follow the river, for example, for passenger deliveries to the Moscow airports.

I have heard about the project many times. It is only an idea now. Let us work on it and see if it is practicable – at least in this small but vital part of Moscow’s transport network.

Now, let us pass to what I consider the principal problems with our roads. As I have said, every one of us is acutely aware of the situation.

Moscow lags behind all the other major European cities in terms of the ratio between the road area and the overall urban area. It is just 8.7%, while the respective percentage is two to three times greater in European metropolises, and three to four times greater in North American cities.

Moreover, we have to acknowledge that many Moscow streets, especially in the centre, have long turned from roads into parking lots.

The conclusions are evident. The municipal administration is ready with practical plans to expand the road network and build additional parking lots.

Second, the Urban Development Code clearly needs drastic amendments. At present, roughly 40% of major offices are in the city centre. Everyone knows also the situation with spaces between buildings in Moscow – they are crammed with cars.

I often go to the Transport Ministry for its board meetings. The ministry is located in the city’s centre, in Lubyanka Square next to the Detsky Mir department store. I am amazed every time I see cars parked there in three or four rows. There is not enough space left for pedestrians, let alone vehicles. Cars are parked on the pavements, too – absolutely everywhere.

Relevant proposals for legislative amendments concerning urban construction – I mean the Urban Development Code – have been submitted to the federal government. They revolve around mandatory stock-taking of traffic loads.

We had nothing of the kind previously. When a new neighbourhood is built, construction plans must include approaches to houses, driveways and parking lots at a distance from them. Separate areas must also be assigned for underground or aboveground parking. Every building must have a parking lot.

When such developments as the notorious Moscow City are built, the law – if its new version is endorsed – should envisage the construction of a major transport logistics complex because such centres house tens of thousands of people with tens of thousands of cars, which have to be parked.

The third road-related theme concerns national highways outside Moscow, in the region, and the Moscow Ring Highway. “Bottlenecks” is the best word for them all.

Whatever we do in Moscow, however much we expand its transport network, the problem will never be solved entirely unless we take serious steps on the approaches to the city. As you know, millions of cars travel to the countryside on summer weekends and on holidays, and then back into the city.

The federal government’s plans on this score have been made public. They envisage a new Moscow-St Petersburg Highway, a byroad round Odintsovo, and increased funding for the construction of other national highways. The Transport Ministry is responsible for it all.

I would like to call your attention to another aspect of the problem – illicit inserts to national highways in the Moscow Region and to the Moscow Ring Road. Even a superficial inspection has revealed that there are 206 such inserts to national highways and 43 to the Moscow Ring Road.

The question arises why their construction has been overlooked and what we should do about them. I think the issue demands tough decisions: Either these illicit inserts should be barred or the owners of businesses located on these roads, mainly shops, must be forced to build proper stopways and exit roads to highways so that they don’t block the normal flow of traffic, that is, make civilised stopways and slip lanes. Transport Ministry representatives, please note that this will be your responsibility.

Fourth, there is above-ground public transport, including taxis, and lanes reserved for it.

We have already discussed this issue a great deal, and such lanes must be provided wherever possible. I see a very simple main criterion here: If public transport travelling on reserved lanes can move faster than private cars, it will encourage people to use municipal transport. Conversely, if municipal vehicles move along at a snail’s pace people will avoid using them whenever they can.

The final item is a smart control system for traffic, light signals, cloverleaves, etc. It is clearly unattainable without state of the art IT systems and GLONASS. Moscow and the Moscow Region must have a consolidated system.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to say the following in conclusion. A strategy of transport development of the Moscow Region for 2010-2015 and up to 2020 has been drafted on the Transport Ministry’s order – a generic plan of action to tackle transport problems.

We will discuss this strategy in detail today, and its implementation is up to a Coordinating Council headed by Transport Minister Igor Levitin.

The transport problems of Moscow and the Moscow Region have been stocking up over many years, even decades, and they cannot be solved at one fell swoop. We can only achieve success if we stick to our plans closely in every detail. I repeat, we must follow these plans comprehensively, with every agency – federal, municipal and regional – responsible for its own sector, with strict deadlines, and explicitly assigned contractors and sources of funding. We will never solve the problem otherwise.