President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, Mr Sobyanin.
Congratulations to you and all Moscow residents. I think I will have a chance to congratulate them in a more direct format.
Whenever we meet, we always discuss the entire range of issues related to Moscow’s life and development. Moscow is a capital, Moscow is a city, but at the same time it is more than a city: it is a huge agglomeration of a global scale, and we know how complex the functioning processes of such agglomerations are.
We have been saying with pride lately that Moscow shows excellent development indicators compared to other agglomerations.
However, there are always issues, many issues, and the first of them is, of course, how the pandemic fallout and pandemic-related restrictions in the economy and the social sphere are being dealt with.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin: Mr President, first of all, I would like to thank you for the huge amount of attention you have paid throughout this period. You always give Moscow your attention but especially during this period because Moscow has historically been an enormous transport hub. The population density is tremendous. The majority of road and rail cargo is transported via Moscow. In addition, as you have rightly said, it is also an agglomeration with a population of over 20 million people. So, the COVID pandemic has probably affected Moscow worse than others.
This unfading care for the city, rendering support, economic support launched by the Government and the State Duma of the Russian Federation on your instruction, means support for business, support for large families, pensioners and other social groups. All that combined with regional support efforts has had an effect. This is number one.
Second, your decision to adjust regional policy during the pandemic, considering that different regions had different incidence peaks, while providing support to operational decisions, which we always discussed with you, also enabled us to manage the economy as well as the restrictions and reduce them to a minimum. This was very important for the economy. If we had closed down the economy for two years just like that, we would have had quite a different situation, an absolutely different situation in every way.
Third, it is necessary to take into account the diversified economy that emerged in the agglomeration over the past decade. It is quite a different economy that is very stable.
Fourth, it is undoubtedly important that pursuant to your instruction and your decision, not a single government programme was stopped at that time. Of special importance are social and infrastructural programmes, such as the development of the Moscow transport hub, investment in the Central Ring Road and so on. This is very important.
Vladimir Putin: Now the country’s economy has been restored on the whole. How about Moscow?
Sergei Sobyanin: Thanks to these measures and decisions, the economy in Moscow has not only been restored, but also exceeded the pre-crisis level of 2019, and substantially so: from 7 to 20 plus percent in various industries and areas. Investment has increased, industrial production has grown, construction volume is up, unemployment has declined considerably and practically reached the pre-crisis level, which is extremely important.
Services is the only sector that remains in the red. However, that is understandable. This includes catering, hotels and transport – the most vulnerable sectors. Still, the decline is not too sharp, about five percent down from 2019. Therefore, this sector will probably reach the 2019 level by the end of the year.
Vladimir Putin: The development plans you have mentioned could not but have been affected by the crisis in the medium- and long-term prospective, including the relocation programme.
Sergei Sobyanin: Yes, Mr President. We discussed the relocation programme for the first time here, in this office. Of course, it is an essential project that involves a million people, a million Moscow residents.
Over this period, we have come a long way. We started with developing the urban planning documents, which was an enormous job, to be honest, like designing another city inside the city. About 50,000 people will have been relocated by the end of this year from the start of the programme. In the future, the figures will grow exponentially, because we have just launched the project, so we are on the starting line now, and there is more to come. We will implement this programme in three periods until 2032, as planned. This is an enormous and important programme.
Vladimir Putin: So these programmes have not been jeopardised?
Sergei Sobyanin: No, not at all. Moreover, thanks to your decisions on preferential mortgages and the measures within the national projects, I believe that, for example, housing construction in general, will be at a record level this year in the entire history of Moscow.
Vladimir Putin: We can set a record across the entire country.
Sergei Sobyanin: Yes, probably. But, speaking about Moscow, if in previous years we commissioned about three million square metres on average, this year we will reach almost six million. This is a lot. Of course, relocation has also played a role here, the volume has increased; nevertheless, it shows that the economy is developing. As you remember, there was such a sharp drop in 2008 and 2009: we dropped to two million from four. But there has been growth since 2010, and now it has reached a record level, which is also stable. We have already seen the volumes of over five million in 2019 and 2020, and now we are reaching six million.
Vladimir Putin: We know very well that when the volume of construction is increasing, it poses other tasks, too. I remember this well from my work in St Petersburg.
When the construction volume begins to grow, another problem appears: the problem of social infrastructure and transport. However, you personally focus a great deal on the development of transport infrastructure. The two of us have inaugurated and even planned some projects together, and you have implemented them all very well; everything is operational already. I mean the development of the ring, the second ring connected to New Moscow, communication with the Moscow Region, and transfer sites. What is the situation like with transport infrastructure?
Sergei Sobyanin: Mr President, this is an anniversary year in this respect. We have launched the Moscow Central Circle (MCC), as you remember, we commissioned surface metro, plus underground metro – in total, 90 stations have been commissioned throughout these years. Ten more will open this year, and before the year’s end there will 100 new stations. Such tempo was not seen even in the Soviet time. These are very serious and big efforts.
You have also rightly said about the metro’s Big Circle Line (BCL), which is an underground metro ring. We have already opened a third of it with another third to be launched later this year. Thus, two thirds of the ring will have been built.
I hope that next year or maybe in early 2023 we will open the remaining third, the most difficult one. It is in a good condition now. This means we will have the world’s largest metro ring; no other city has a bigger one. It will definitely radically change the situation with travelling around the city and traffic load on the radial metro lines. This is a crucial project.
In addition, we opened the Moscow central diameters, MCD 1 and MCD 2. Currently we are working on MCD 3 and MCD 4. MCD 3 is directly linked with the Leningrad railway line and the high-speed railway (HSR). Pre-FEED (front end engineering design) works are currently underway there. However, we think that the MCD should factor in the HSR as well. If we do not factor in those design solutions, then radical changes will have to be made. This is why we are working in parallel together with the railways at the HSR juncture, and the creation of this most efficient and straight diameter.
Vladimir Putin: Are they radial lines?
Sergei Sobyanin: Yes. We will connect these two radial lines here, add up and renovate the stations, renew the passenger rolling stock and make an entrance from the HSR.
Thank you very much. Your instruction has been fulfilled: the Government earmarked about 100 billion rubles from the National Wealth Fund so as not to stop the work on the Moscow transport hub, including this project. We co-fund it from the Moscow city budget. Our colleagues from the Moscow Region are helping, and the Russian Railways is financing it, too. Following your instruction, the Government has also helped to implement this project.
The next one we are working on, MCD 4, seems unattractive but it is in fact a very important project since it joins together all the railway terminals except for the Paveletsky terminal. Six terminals will actually be connected together by this line. This is an unparalleled and extremely challenging project, starting from the Kievskoye line towards the Gorkovskoye line.
Vladimir Putin: It will be very convenient for passengers. They will be able to interchange for practically any railway line.
Sergei Sobyanin: Absolutely. One can get to any terminal railway station in Moscow. It is also a mega project. Giant construction is underway there now – the lines and terminals are being connected; work is underway on all the sections.
We plan to launch MCD 3, and we will try to also launch MCD 4 in 2023. However, its commissioning may actually be postponed until 2024. At present we are trying to expedite it as far as possible together with the railway companies. Then the fifth diameter will be left, scheduled for 2024–2025.
Each of these diameters comprises dozens of kilometres of rail tracks, around 80 kilometres, and dozens of stations. We are remodelling these stations on the lines we are opening into mini-terminals of a high quality level. Initially they used to be just platforms whereas now they are full-scale stations, comfortable with lifts, escalators, ticket offices etc, and a new rolling stock. They are very important, big, huge projects.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Sobyanin, we are talking now about overcoming the consequences of the pandemic in the economy and infrastructure, we are talking about construction and the implementation of our relocation and development plans in Moscow. But healthcare is one of our most important spheres. The pandemic forced us to use part of our hospital beds and medical facilities, both federal and municipal, for a different purpose.
I also know that you have promptly reacted to changes in the situation, returning these medical facilities to their normal operation. How do things stand now?
Sergei Sobyanin: The situation has greatly improved, and we have allowed many hospital beds to be returned to their normal use. We are mostly using the reserve hospitals now, the ones we have created for the purpose, such as the Voronovskaya Hospital and other reserve hospitals that make up the core.
What we needed to do was not just to ensure the necessary assistance for coronavirus patients but also to continue providing planned medical care. We also needed to continue working to implement the national projects, the programmes to develop the primary care sector, overhaul old outpatient clinics, which we are turning into good modern facilities with up-to-date equipment, the necessary number of specialists, information technology, plus a patient-oriented approach, which we are talking so much about – all of this is becoming a reality at the new, modernised outpatient clinics. In this manner we are gradually improving the primary care sector.
We are also building new clinics: medical facilities with about a million square metres of floor space are under construction. They include new ER departments at the existing clinics and new hospitals, such as an oncology clinic at the Loginov Moscow Clinical Research Centre. A huge infectious diseases hospital has been built and is at the interior construction stage. This also includes several other new outpatient clinics and hospital blocks, including the ongoing construction of new hospital blocks in Kommunarka. In other words, we have not suspended a single of our healthcare projects. On the contrary, we have accelerated the implementation of these projects as much as possible.
Vladimir Putin: Very good.
You have mentioned the speed of new construction projects. This brings to mind the matter of improving the historical centre, the areas where no major construction projects are underway, and the new construction projects.
Sergei Sobyanin: Mr President, this is a very good point, for last year we suspended these projects because people were working from home. It stands to reason that it was not a good time for major renovations.
This year we have resumed this programme in full. It covers some 20 Moscow streets and embankments, which we are renovating, and includes about 3,500 sites, such as courtyards in residential neighbourhoods, the improvement of the territories of outpatient clinics, schools and social facilities, and so on. It is a large and ambitious programme.
Our main focus is on comprehensive improvements, which means that we are not trying to work on individual elements but are trying to improve a residential district as a whole where people will be able to live comfortably without having to travel anywhere for services, or to enjoy fresh air in a park and a garden, or just to take a walk. People must be able to feel as comfortable in their neighbourhood as in the very best area in the city. People are proud of this, they know the history of their districts, and it is important to improve them as well as possible.
Vladimir Putin: This is marvellous, very good. As far as I know, Moscow has the largest number of electric buses in Europe. It is not just something to boast about; this is very important for ensuring the necessary environmental standards. Moscow is a large industrial centre and a major transport hub. I know that you team is paying considerable attention to these matters. How would you describe the environmental situation in the city?
Sergei Sobyanin: Mr President, it is believed that fundamentally large cities have a bad environmental situation, and the larger the city, the worse its environment. But modern cities can reverse this trend. How can we do this? By developing an eco-friendly industry.
You and I attended the opening ceremony of new facilities, new technological facilities at the Moscow Oil Refinery, which removed 99 percent of the smell and emissions. The modernisation of the plant is not over. It used to be one of the main pollutants in Moscow. Another major project concerns the renovation of the city’s water purification facilities.
Moreover, we were among the first to introduce Euro 5 fuel standards thanks to the modernisation of the Moscow Oil Refinery. This is extremely important. Plus we have restricted the movement of vehicles with Euro 2 engines to some parts of Moscow.
In the meantime, we have planted some 10 million trees and shrubs in Moscow.
Of course, you have mentioned quite correctly the programme of replacing old municipal vehicles. First, we replaced outdated buses that had Euro 2 engines with Euro 4 and Euro 5 versions, and now we are converting to electric buses. We have established two facilities at the KAMAZ and GAZ plants, which are producing one of the best electric buses in the world. Actually, this is a completely new industry; we are going to have about a thousand electric buses in Moscow by the end of the year. In other words, we have a really big pool of electric buses, which means that this mode of transportation has caught on and is working well even in our harsh northern conditions. It is an extremely important sphere.
Taken together, this is producing a good effect: the amount of pollutants has decreased by one-third or even by half. This is especially important near major thoroughfares and avenues with heavy traffic. The level of pollution there has decreased by half or two thirds.
Therefore, the environmental situation is gradually improving in Moscow thanks to all those involved, including the car owners who are buying better cars, municipal transport and city programmes. This gives us hope that the city environment will improve despite the growth of population and the number of cars in Moscow.
Vladimir Putin: Good.