President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Not long ago, I instructed the Government and your ministry in particular, to draft a final proposal on airfares for people living in the Far East, and to not just prepare but actually start carrying out the work to compensate Far East residents that I announced a while ago. I would like to hear from you about the situation with this compensation programme today.
Transport Minister Igor Levitin: In accordance with your instruction, we drafted a programme that has been approved by the Government, and seven airlines have signed agreements on carriage of passengers aged 12–23, and passengers over 60. I can inform you that as things stood on April 20, 33,000 tickets have been sold.
Dmitry Medvedev: That is a large number.
Igor Levitin: The actual subsidized carriage will start in a month’s time. This measure will do a lot to make it possible for people from the Far East to fly to the European part of Russia.
Dmitry Medvedev: I have been looking through the calculations for carriage under the subsidised programme. On the Moscow-Vladivostok route, the basic airfare is 28,000 roubles, and the special rate is 14,000 roubles. The subsidy comes to 14,000 roubles, and so this cuts the price by half. From Khabarovsk to Moscow we have the same thing – 26,000 roubles and 13,000 roubles. For Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky we get 28,000 roubles and 14,000 roubles, from Anadyr – 33,000 roubles and 16,500 roubles, and from Mirny – 36,000 roubles and 18,000 roubles.
Igor Levitin: I can inform you that, according to our plan, 120,000 people will be able to benefit from these subsidies.
Dmitry Medvedev: Over the summer period?
Igor Levitin: From May 15 to September 15. Next year, we will allocate more money to this programme. Once the subsidised carriage period ends, we will propose other options for expanding services for these population groups.
Dmitry Medvedev: This is a good programme. Most important is that it supports people wanting to fly from the Far East to the European part of Russia, to Moscow, St Petersburg, or on holiday to Sochi. But it is also important at this time to support traffic itself, support the carriers and ensure that they are filling their seats, because the crisis has led to a drop in traffic, of course. In this way, we thus help to solve two problems at once, and this is good.
I also want to hear about the progress in work on another of my instructions. Some time ago now, we agreed on the establishment of a special company to work on road construction. What is the situation here? What stage are the documents at?
Igor Levitin: We have held coordination and approval meetings with all of the federal executive bodies. Tomorrow, the draft law on this company is to go through its first reading in the State Duma.
Dmitry Medvedev: Give me a brief outline of the company’s organisational and legal details.
Igor Levitin: So as to avoid the company gaining a monopoly hold on road construction, we have agreed that it will be given management, rather than ownership, of heavily congested roads. If a road was designed for 20,000 vehicles a day but in fact is being used by 50,000 vehicles a day, this is a heavily congested road and will be brought under the company’s management. The company could build new roads parallel to the old ones, and these could be toll roads.
Dmitry Medvedev: So, you plan to identify the most intensively used roads and assess the possibilities for investment in these areas?
Igor Levitin: There are 18,000 kilometres of roads with limited throughput capacity today in Russia, and we have agreed that…
Dmitry Medvedev: Sorry to interrupt, but am I right in understanding that you are talking about the main transport arteries that people use?
Igor Levitin: Yes, and we also have freight flows coming along these roads, especially trucks bringing in imports. This is why we have decided that management of the roads will not be transferred immediately, but will depend on first raising private investment. We want this company to make use of credit resources and attract private investment. During the first stage of work, we plan to transfer management of 6,000 kilometres of roads by 2015. Management of particular routes will be transferred, for example, Moscow-Novorossiysk, Moscow-Chelyabinsk, and one company will be responsible for managing these roads. Then we start raising private investment in order to carry out the work.
We have already organised tenders and selected the winners, and we are now drafting a concession agreement. The company will start work next year on carrying out big transport projects in this area.
Dmitry Medvedev: Good, but this work needs to increase possibilities and expand the range of options, and not narrow them. We have obvious interest in investing in roads. All of the roads functioning as toll-free highways today will remain, but need to be improved, and at the same time we need to look at the question of building a network of toll roads that will function in parallel.
Igor Levitin: We will also transfer to the company management of the strip of land alongside the roads, because there is also a need to bring some order to this area. We think that with the right support and infrastructure development, this could provide opportunities for small business development. We have reached agreement with small business associations that we will provide heating, gas, light, and all the necessary infrastructure so that small businesses can develop their services.
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, the roadside service network is indeed an important area for investment, and it is indeed an area that often attracts small businesses, people who open little cafes, offer various services. This sector is not very well developed in Russia at the moment, but we have a big country, and so there is an obvious need to develop this auxiliary sector to the road sector. This is an issue that deserves our attention, all the more so as we are seeking right now to create new opportunities for small business to overcome the current problems in the economy.