President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Baysarov, your company has implemented and continues working on rather large, we can even say nationwide projects, such as the Eastern Operating Domain, then the port of Sabetta, which, as far as I know, you have done together with Novatek, is that right?
BTS-MOST Board Chairman Ruslan Baysarov: Yes, together.
Vladimir Putin: Border checkpoints with the People’s Republic of China. Let us discuss all of this.
Ruslan Baysarov: Thank you for the meeting, Mr President.
I will be brief, if I may. The history of Bamtonnelstroy began with an executive order of the Ministry of Transport Construction in 1975.
Everything is here in the book, so I do not miss anything. Let us look through it, and I will comment on it. These are all the projects – well, not all of them, but a part, there are too many and I have just created an excerpt.
Vladimir Putin: Fine.
Ruslan Baysarov: On the first page, as I have already said, you can see the history of Bamtonnelstroy.
I would like you to note, Mr President, that all the ten tunnels, including the one that was the most difficult to build, Severomuysky Tunnel, were built by Bamtonnelstroy workers. First, only eight were planned, but then the Government decided to add another two.
Next, there is a description of the tunnels our workers built. Severomuysky Tunnel. There are many of them: over 50 tunnels. This one is the most difficult tunnel in the world.
Vladimir Putin: Severomuysky Tunnel?
Ruslan Baysarov: Yes, a symbol of the tenacity of the Bamtonnelstroy workers.
Foreign experts refused to build it and suggested we refuse too. In 1984, First Deputy Prime Minister Heydar Aliyev, member of the USSR Communist Party Central Committee, travelled to the construction site to support the tunnel builders.
As you know, the tunnel was completed, and it remains the most difficult tunnel, a very interesting facility.
Vladimir Putin: What was so difficult about it?
Ruslan Baysarov: The soil is very heavy there, and there were tectonic collisions, underground currents, gas emissions. This was a very difficult project, but we completed it.
Vladimir Putin: 45 kilometres, is that right?
Ruslan Baysarov: We have constructed 45 kilometres of tunnels in total there, this one is 15.5 km.
At the beginning, the Politburo planned to build eight tunnels there. When Heydar Aliyev arrived, the workers explained that it was necessary to build another two loop tunnels there, and he made the decision on the spot, together with Bamtonnelstroy workers. So, an additional two loop tunnels were built there. Can you imagine? A very difficult and a very interesting tunnel; it still remains one of the most difficult facilities to have been built in the world.
Here, on page 19, we see the arrival of the first train from Severobaikalsk. By the way, Severobaikalsk is the only city built from scratch by Komsomol members from Leningrad. It is a beautiful city. We opened a tunnel there.
This is how residents of Severomuysk welcomed the tunnellers. And these are our heroes – the tunnel builders. (Commenting on the pictures.)
In addition to three labour heroes, we have over 5,400 employees who received state awards for the construction of tunnels. Forty-eight experts were among the emergency responders at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
Bamtonnelstroy experience was soon in demand all over the country and we started building the metro.
Look at this map, please. It shows facilities at the top. We built over 2,500 unique infrastructure facilities in 46 years. The map shows only the biggest and most important ones – 750 in all.
We have also built two facilities in Serbia this year.
The bridge to Russky Island is a symbol of our company. You know it well. It is depicted on the 2,000-ruble banknote.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, exactly. It turned out to be a beautiful bridge.
Ruslan Baysarov: Very beautiful. You know, it has the world’s longest cable-stayed bay. This is the construction of the bridge to Russky Island.
The Alpika-Servis Ski Resort. You know it well. It was one of the most difficult projects of the Sochi Olympics. This is how Alpika-Servis was built.
Vladimir Putin: Nothing was easy there, I know. This was a difficult project.
Ruslan Baysarov: It was a very difficult project. You know, there were 23 facilities there, and our engineers did a good job.
Vladimir Putin: You even had an international team there, did you not?
Ruslan Baysarov: Yes, we did. We invited foreigners.
And this is our tunnelling shield. This is our equipment with a 12-metre diameter. You know this as well.
The Sabetta seaport is unique in the world in terms of its complexity. This is one of the largest projects. Mr President, the total volume of dredging amounted to 70 million cubic metres. I will mention for the sake of comparison that this is the same as the amount involved in building 70 tunnels with a total length of 490km. Can you imagine this?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, it is a difficult job.
Ruslam Baysarov: In addition, I would like to say, Mr President, that we released 440 million fingerlings into the Gulf of Ob.
The Island of Sakhalin. Please note what we had to face as we undertook construction projects on the island. It was only last year that we managed to implement the long-standing dream of local residents by converting the Japanese narrow-gauge railway over to the Russian 1,520 mm track standard. There are 62 facilities dotting the 454-kilometre-long railway. We had to ferry in whatever was needed from the continent. It was a tough project. You can see the outcome of our work on pages 52 and 53 – nice facilities. The people of Sakhalin are grateful to you for your support: at last, they began to travel.
The new Baikal tunnel. You are well aware of the parameters of the new Baikal tunnel. I would like to add that we have completed the construction project six months ahead of schedule.
Vladimir Putin: This is almost seven kilometers of roads.
Ruslan Baysarov: Yes, quite right. Russia’s first tunnel of this kind has been built despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
A government commission came to check how the work was proceeding. On page 58, please notice the infrastructure we have built to service the new Baikal tunnel. This has made it possible to increase its service life, and, most importantly (you can see a small dot next to it; this is the old Baikal tunnel), there was no infrastructure around the old Baikal tunnel.
Vladimir Putin: This is a current project, isn’t it?
Ruslan Baysarov: Yes, this is the bridge across the Zeya River. Pursuant to your instructions, we have started to build a 9-kilometre-long bridge in Blagoveshchensk, with approach roads. It is a very good and interesting project, as you may know. You have instructed us to do it.
Last year, we completed the construction of a railway bridge across the Don River…
Vladimir Putin: Excuse me, what is the deadline for the Zeya bridge?
Ruslan Baysarov: Across the Zeya – 2023.
Vladimir Putin: Quite soon.
Ruslan Baysarov: Yes, we are maintaining high construction rates. We will show this to you a bit later.
The next project is also an important one.
Vladimir Putin: Blagoveshchensk-Heihe.
Ruslan Baysarov: Yes, Blagoveshchensk-Heihe, the first cross-border motorway bridge linking Russia and China built without federal budget allocations. Its opening has been delayed on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. We would like to ask you to invite President of China Xi Jinping to the ceremony, because this is a very great and important event – the first bridge.
Let us move on. This is the first railway bridge crossing between the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China, which was another major and complex project.
We had to use non-conventional solutions during the construction. At a certain point, the ice was up to three metres thick before it started drifting. We had to use out-of-the-box solutions in order to save the trestlework. We cut the sheet piles under ice.
Vladimir Putin: Under ice?
Ruslan Baysarov: Can you believe it?
Vladimir Putin: No, I cannot.
Ruslan Baysarov: Our specialists cut the sheet piles. We built a bathhouse on the bank (this is true, no exaggeration), cooked hot food and offered them beverages.
People went three metres under the ice. The current was strong, but they cut sheet piles, pipes 1.3 metres in diameter, to be exact. There were cranes up above, which held these pipes to prevent them from falling. Our specialists cut the sheet piling, let the ice go, and then built up the sheet pile, pumped out the water, and went on with the construction.
Had we not done this; the ice could have destroyed the trestlework and the bridge from the Chinese side which would have been a major emergency situation. Mr Trutnev [Deputy Prime Minister – Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District] is in charge of the project. He often visits the project and monitors the progress.
This is the old Zeya Bridge built in 1982. It is the only bridge that connects the city with the left bank. You held a videoconference on an emergency as well. We saved the city, using several technical windows during the night and repaired the bridge. This is the Zeya Bridge, which you asked us to build. Deputy prime ministers visit Zeya Bridge to check how the construction is proceeding.
Mr President, this is the metro. Last year, we made it to the Guinness Book of Records with 23 tunnelling machines operating simultaneously to construct the metro in Moscow.
Vladimir Putin: This is a huge amount of work.
Ruslan Baysarov: Yes, this is a massive effort.
Mr President, this page shows an 11-metre tunnel boring machine. We transported it, already assembled – we were the first in Russia to do so – and then we lowered it – over 800 tonnes – into the head part of the foundation pit in the station under construction.
This shows an overpass built 30 years ago which collapsed due to an excessive load on the Trans-Siberian Railway. The technologies were different back then. We will soon complete the construction of a new overpass.
We are now starting to build the Dusse-Alin tunnel. After the Baikal tunnel, our entire team moved there.
Vladimir Putin: To Khabarovsk?
Ruslan Baysarov: Yes, to Khabarovsk Territory. There is not a living soul 940 kilometres away from Khabarovsk. It is a difficult project, but we are already getting down to work.
Vladimir Putin: It is a big one. Is it about two kilometres?
Ruslan Baysarov: Yes. It is complicated and difficult, plus the climate conditions on top of all that.
As part of the M-12 project, we started building two bridges across the Oka and the Sura rivers.
In Kaliningrad, we began building two bridges – one for trains and one for cars.
Vladimir Putin: Across the Pregolya River?
Ruslan Baysarov: Yes. Germans built the previous bridge, and it has gone down in history as a museum show piece.
These are the new bridges. We are starting to build them this year. They lift up.
Vladimir Putin: They are also beautiful and look unusual. Why are they so high? What for?
Ruslan Baysarov: We repeated what the Germans did in 1922, but ours is a modern bridge. They raised the previous bridge manually, and we do this automatically.
Vladimir Putin: Why are the supports so high?
Ruslan Baysarov: The bridge is raised.
Vladimir Putin: The bridge is raised?
Ruslan Baysarov: Yes, it is raised to let ships pass.
Vladimir Putin: So it will be raised on all supports?
Ruslan Baysarov: Yes, it is raised, lets ships pass and then goes down again. In Leningrad, bridges open up, and here it goes up. This is easier to do.
Vladimir Putin: This is interesting.
Ruslan Baysarov: A large project.
And this is the railway bridge.
Vladimir Putin: Nearby?
Ruslan Baysarov: They are close to each other, and the old bridge is also nearby.
And this is an ambitious transport project in the entire Balkans region. We are completing a project in Serbia. President Vucic often visits us and thanks you for your support. The supports are as high as an eight-storey building.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, this is impressive. Well done.
Ruslan Baysarov: Mr President, returning to the Baikal tunnel, I would like to ask you a favour. Our people worked in difficult climatic conditions, and I would like to ask you to award the most distinguished specialists, as you suggested.
Vladimir Putin: I would be glad to do so. Please convey my gratitude to them.
Ruslan Baysarov: Many thanks. I certainly will.