President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, Mr Sokolov. Let’s discuss the sector’s results for 2013 in the area of developing transport infrastructure.
And of course with the Olympic Games about to start soon, I have seen myself what you and your colleagues have done there, and I want to say that it all deserves the highest praise. You have accomplished a lot. But at the same time, I would also like to hear your assessment of the work that has been done.
Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov: Mr President, let me start with the results of work on the Ministry’s plans for 2013, including those related to implementing the May 2012 presidential executive orders and the instructions to the Federal Assembly last year and the year before.
We had quite an open discussion of these plans together with the Transport Ministry’s Public Council.
The implementation of these plans was also examined by the Open Government’s Expert Council, and we worked in constant coordination with the expert community.
Of course, our first priority was to carry out the instructions that I just mentioned, namely, to double road-building and reconstruction over the next decade, increase labour productivity, create productive new jobs, and even out wage levels. We achieved and even exceeded 13 of our 14 target objectives last year.
The remaining objective concerned building and reconstruction of roads in rural areas. But last year we had massive flooding in the Far East, and so we concentrated part of our resources on this, sending 3 billion rubles and another 1.5 billion rubles through the Russian Federation Reserve Fund to the affected regions, including for the purpose of rebuilding rural and municipal roads.
Vladimir Putin: You reformatted them a little?
Maxim Sokolov: Yes, 922 kilometres in all. These roads will be rebuilt, and as things stand at the moment, traffic is open on absolutely all of the roads that were destroyed or damaged in the floods.
Vladimir Putin: The winter frosts have come, that is why it is possible to use them now.
Maxim Sokolov: This was the case towards the end of last year, Mr President. We reported on this and have been in constant coordination in this work with the Government Commission that was established by your executive order.
Vladimir Putin: We visited the Far East together right after the floods, and one of the main problems there was precisely that of road infrastructure: roads and bridges. They were washed away, and to be able to rebuild everything there, including agriculture sector facilities, roads are essential.
Maxim Sokolov: We will definitely have all of these roads rebuilt over the coming year, including bridges, flyovers and other elements of infrastructure.
Thus, apart from rural roads, we achieved our target for building new federal roads and exceeded it by 30 percent, by a third. We built nearly 600 kilometres of federal roads last year, 596.7 to be exact, compared to the target of 450. We achieved this by making use of ‘technological work’ already carried out earlier and concentrating resources so as to ensure additional stimulus above all for economic development and making travel time shorter on the roads.
We also reached our planned target regarding keeping roads maintained to standard. We surpassed by 200 kilometres the target we set for roads maintained to standard. Starting next year, our plan is to have 100-percent maintenance of roads in accordance with the set norms. This way, by 2018, all existing federal roads will be completely up to standard.
As for port infrastructure, we have for the most part reached our planned targets for bringing into operation new port capacity of 30 million tons. This concerns primarily the ports of Novorossiysk, Ust-Luga, Kaliningrad, and Taman. At the end of last year, we also completed construction of a new cruise ship passenger port in Sochi, and have also opened 7 other port terminals for operation for river transport and sea transport.
Vladimir Putin: You just mentioned Taman and the Azov-Black Sea basin. We have discussed this issue many times. The problem is the approach roads. There need to be new railway approach links in order to develop this cluster of port facilities. What are you doing in this area?
Maxim Sokolov: This is true. Our federal targeted programme through to 2020 earmarks funds totalling more than 80 billion rubles for building new infrastructure and reconstructing the Krasnodar hub and the bypass around Krasnodar towards Volgograd. This will make it possible to increase transport volumes by more than 70 million tons of freight a year.
The federal targeted programme provides for these sums and the relevant project documentation is being prepared in accordance. By 2020, when the new Taman project reaches full capacity, together with Russian Railways, we will have carried out all of the necessary work.
Vladimir Putin: I looked through the main transport figures for 2013. Freight traffic at the seaports was up by 3.9 percent. That is a decent increase. Freight traffic by air was up by 1.3 percent. Passenger traffic in local trains was up by 2.8 percent, and air passenger traffic was up by 14.2 percent. These are all good results. But rail freight traffic was down by 2.8 percent, and passenger traffic on long-distance trains was down by 5 percent. Why is this?
Maxim Sokolov: There are various reasons. The rail freight figures reflect the real state of the economy and are always an indicator of the economy’s performance. In the given case, we see that a number of freight types continue to leave rail transport. We are making efforts here and I will brief you on this further into my report.
As for long-distance rail passenger traffic, there are several reasons here. First, unfortunately, we had to raise some prices substantially, more than usual because of the decrease in budget funding for Russian Railways for prices.
At the same time, active steps were taken to develop regional air traffic. The decrease that you see in rail traffic corresponds fully to the increase in developing regional air links. This kind of development had not been taking place before. Regional-level air traffic had previously always grown more slowly than air traffic as a whole, around 3–4 times slower.
This has had an impact in that more people are choosing to travel by air now. Around 8.6 million people used regional airlines last year. This figure roughly corresponds with the drop in long-distance rail passengers.
Vladimir Putin: But all the same, there should not be such an imbalance.
Maxim Sokolov: We will work on this. This year, we have not raised prices on long distance routes as we did last year.
Vladimir Putin: On the Olympic facilities, what is your assessment of the situation?
Maxim Sokolov: Mr President, I can tell you that construction of the transport infrastructure for the Olympics is almost entirely complete. Traffic is open now on the bypass road that duplicates Kurortny Prospekt and runs towards Dagomys. This was the last transport infrastructure site to be completed.
Almost all the drivers and buses that will provide transport services during the Olympics are already there, at the special bus parks. We are completely ready for the necessary transport work, not only in terms of having the infrastructure itself ready, but also ensuring its operation during the Olympics. I have this all under my personal control.
Vladimir Putin: So, the road duplicating Kurortny Prospekt has been commissioned?
Maxim Sokolov: Yes, working traffic is running at the moment one-way only, from Dagomys (from Tuapse) to Adler, and at the start of February, by February 3, that is, before the Games begin, we will open traffic in the other direction too. We could have organised lane reversal, but decided to open the road one-way for now.
Vladimir Putin: This was quite a complicated project to carry out. I hope that everything will be ready by the deadlines we agreed on.
Maxim Sokolov: We have all of our contractors and subcontractors working hard on this right now. They are all working round the clock.