The President noted, in particular, that developing high-speed railways will require serious investment in transport safety, including anti-terrorism security, technological security and fire safety. Mr Putin also stressed that ticket prices for high-speed trains should be affordable for the general public.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,
We are meeting today to examine a matter of great importance in any country, and doubly important in a country as big as Russia. This is the issue of developing a modern railways infrastructure and modern rail links.
Keeping all parts of our country connected and creating the conditions for rapid transit of people and goods at affordable prices are key priorities for our economic and social policy. This brings new opportunities for economic growth, developing the regions, creating jobs, and giving people greater mobility. It greatly improves our people’s quality of life and makes the country more attractive for tourism and for doing business. It makes full use of our transit potential and integrates us more closely into the Eurasian transport space and the Eurasian economic space in general.
There are a number of different options for reaching our objectives. We will discuss some of them today.
High-speed railways are a global trend. Everyone here knows the difference between express routes and high-speed railways. The technology and infrastructure used in high-speed travel certainly belong to the 21st century. Building high-speed lines is in itself evidence of a country’s high level of technical capability and technology and investment potential.
We know that many of our partners in countries such as Japan, China, France and others are developing high-speed railways and this is helping to increase their railways’ traffic capability, make people more mobile, and also ease the burden on airports.
Russia still has only modest achievements as far as moving people and especially freight around the country are concerned. Our level in this area is not much different from what it was in the late 1980s at the end of the Soviet period. We therefore need to undo the bottlenecks and build new railway lines, increase trains’ speed and improve traffic organisation on the existing lines. In other words, we need to develop a genuinely effective railway network.
Colleagues, I want to hear from you today on what role you think high-speed railways can play in resolving these issues.
[Deputy Prime Minister] Mr Dvorkovich and I discussed this matter quite recently. The Government has some proposals and ideas in this area and we will discuss them in more detail today. We have already taken some steps in organising high-speed railways. We have high-speed rail links operating between St Petersburg and Moscow, Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod, and St Petersburg and Helsinki. These lines have already shown that they work effectively and that there is demand for their services. Passenger numbers are growing fast, very fast in fact.
But there are also problems, and we will discuss them too, today. These high-speed lines should be adapted to people’s needs after all, including the needs of those living in all the areas through which the lines pass. I am not sure that this side of things was as carefully planned as it could have been.
Now we must keep moving further, take into account all the new developments, identify the possible problems in advance and settle all of these issues first.
We need to develop express and high-speed transport. We need to do this in comprehensive and gradual fashion, based on the economic feasibility in each specific case, choosing the transport options most suitable at present for this or that route and working out which solutions will be best for Russia’s transport system as a whole.
We are currently examining several possible new high-speed lines, including one linking Moscow to the Volga region, and specifically the city of Kazan.
We will discuss this possibility in detail today and analyse how relevant and realistic this project is from the financial point of view.
According to the preliminary data, if we build and complete this project, it would cut the time it takes to travel between Moscow and Kazan from 11.5 hours to 3.5 hours. That is a big difference. The Volga region is an industrial region. It includes not just Tatarstan and Kazan; it is home to a large number of people, it is growing fast and of course needs to have better connections to the country’s capital.
Another possible line is Moscow-Rostov-on-Don-Adler. This would cut travel time to 8 hours. This is also a high-demand route. The Moscow-Rostov-on-Don link would have year-round demand, while the link onwards to Adler would have seasonal peaks, but given that we are turning Sochi into a year-round resort, this would also be of considerable influence.
Of course, we first need to study the economic feasibility, the returns and the time it would take for these projects to pay off their costs. These are things that must be studied thoroughly.
We need to draw up a clear and transparent financial, organisational and legal scheme for carrying out these projects. We need to calculate the expected effect these lines’ operation would have for the state and for potential investors. Only then can we ensure rational use of resources and get private business and the regions involved in the work.
The project plans and feasibility studies also need to set out decisions on price policy and ticket costs. I stress in this respect that prices need to be reasonable and affordable for the majority of our people.
We also need to examine what impact this would have on the speed of freight transport and in general see what direct and indirect relation carrying out these projects would have on freight transport speed.
There is also the big issue of allocating land for building railway lines. This often concerns the interests of the people who own this or that plot of land, and this is an area in which we must act very carefully and in balanced fashion, based on our laws and their practice. We already have experience in settling these kinds of issues, not just for building the Olympic sites, but also for infrastructure projects such as railways and highways.
Another matter is that the basic demand for contracts to build railways is that priority should go to Russian subcontractors. This concerns both the general construction work and the high-tech areas. Of course we also all know that we cannot get by without our partners to the east and the west of Russia, and we should not try to get by without them, but our work, especially in the high-tech sector, should be designed in such a way as to ultimately lead to greater localisation of technology and production here in Russia. We are already doing this with some success in a number of other sectors.
Finally, developing high-speed railways will require serious investment in transport safety. I am talking about technological security measures, antiterrorism security, and fire safety too.
Let’s now go over all of these issues in more detail.