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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Sokolov, there are several questions I want to discuss. The first is passenger traffic from the Far East. You recall that during one of our trips to the region, local women said they do not think it very fair that women are entitled to discount ticket prices only from age 60 onwards – the same as men – even though women retire earlier. We agreed then to fix this matter. What is the situation now?
Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov: Yes, Mr President, the Government has already approved changes to the categories of passengers benefiting from discount prices for travel between the Far East and Siberia and European Russia. Women who have reached retirement age – starting from 55 – are now entitled to these discounts.
Vladimir Putin: So their entitlement now starts at 55, not at 60.
Maxim Sokolov: That’s right. The discounts also apply to people with category 1 disabilities and the people accompanying them, and also passengers accompanying disabled children. An additional 400 million rubles was allocated this summer to finance this programme.
Vladimir Putin: Is there enough money to finance all of this subsidised travel?
Maxim Sokolov: We already see now that there is such demand for this travel that around 450,000 tickets worth a total of around 3 billion have already been sold. There was a shortfall of 100 million rubles to finance all of the subsidised tickets. The Transport Ministry made up the shortfall from its own budget, without having to increase the budget’s overall funding this year, and the money was used to meet the demand from all of the entitled passengers.
Vladimir Putin: In other words, the programme will be carried out in full.
Maxim Sokolov: Yes. All those entitled will be guaranteed subsidised travel to and from the Far East.
Vladimir Putin: Excellent. That is a long-distance travel issue settled. Another issue that people often raise, however, is that of local travel, and this problem has persisted for a number of years now. We know there are many problems involved here. What is the Ministry doing now to resolve the situation?
Maxim Sokolov: Developing regional traffic is one of the Ministry’s top priorities. Starting next year, our budget allocates an additional 5 billion rubles annually to develop regional traffic. Of this amount, 3.5 billion will support the subsidies I mentioned before, and we will carry out another programme with funding of almost 3 billion rubles to subsidise travel within regions. This will concern primarily regions in the Far East, Urals, Siberian, and Northwest federal districts, where air travel is often the only option for getting from one place to another.
This programme will target specifically not the main route carriers but regional carriers providing local travel services, and as I said, 3 billion rubles has been earmarked for this.
Aside from this, we are starting a pilot project next year in the Volga Federal District. The plan here is to increase five-fold the amount of regional traffic within the federal district based on co-financing from all of the district’s regions. If the project proves a success we will launch similar programmes the following year in the Northwest, Southern, and North Caucasus federal districts, where they are already being drafted.
Vladimir Putin: You need to work more closely with the Industry Ministry so as to acquire Russian-made goods. The Ministry needs to coordinate its needs with our manufacturers so that our foreign partners who have been supplying their goods so far know in advance what kind of timeframe they will have ahead in order to shift production here, for example, just as happened in the automotive sector, and you need to coordinate things so that our own aircraft manufacturers can develop production accordingly.
Maxim Sokolov: Mr President, the objective is clear. We are indeed working together with the Industry and Trade Ministry. We have subsidised leasing programmes for regional aircraft. We are currently working with the Industry and Trade Ministry on drafting proposals that will give priority use of these subsidies to Russian aircraft or to aircraft assembled on Russian territory.
Vladimir Putin: With a high degree of local production.
Maxim Sokolov: Yes, understood, Mr President.
Vladimir Putin: In other words, we do not need simple assembly of foreign-made parts, but localised production. Simple assembly operations can go ahead, but only in the short term.
Maxim Sokolov: Yes, this is not something that can all just take place overnight.
Vladimir Putin: It is essential to move in this direction, essential that everyone makes this change and not come to rely on constant supplies from abroad. Understood?
Maxim Sokolov: Yes.
Vladimir Putin: When will you and [Minister of Trade and Industry] Manturov report in detail on this matter?
Maxim Sokolov: I think we will be able to do so within a month. We are already working on it and will be ready to report on the actual programmes and projects that our companies are carrying out.