TRANSCRIPT: [Putin at] Meeting with Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov

Moscow Roads

( – April 10, 2017)

Mr Sokolov briefed Vladimir Putin on the transport sector’s main results in 2016. Subjects of discussion included air, sea, rail and road transport, and also road construction and projects for developing Crimea’s transport infrastructure.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Sokolov, let’s examine the full range of issues under the Transport Ministry’s responsibility: freight, road construction, air, sea, rail and road transport.

Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov: Mr President, let me outline the transport sector’s main results for the recent period.

Road construction is the area of greatest concern to all transport sector users. Over the last year, we have made substantial progress in bringing federal roads up to standard.

Now, 71 percent of federal roads meet the standard, the best result over recent years. This year, we are making a concerted effort that will bring the share of federal roads up to standard close to 80 percent.

We have completed a number of significant projects, such as the roads leading to Murmansk (for the city’s 100th anniversary), the Sortavala and Chuysky Trakt roads, and roads in Siberia.

Our road builders are particularly proud of our bridge construction projects, of course. Last year, more than 10 new off-class bridges were opened, as many as were opened over the preceding five years. Of course, the Western High-Speed Diameter is the crowning jewel in this respect. I briefed you on this project.

Vladimir Putin: The route is almost entirely made up of bridges now?

Maxim Sokolov: Yes, practically the whole route. Here is a map of bridge construction. We have made a lot of progress in this area, reviving and advancing our skills. Many are using our projects now as examples for their own study.

In air transport, there was a drop in international passenger traffic for the reasons we know (the closure of three of our main destinations – Ukraine, Egypt and Turkey), but our interregional passenger traffic was up 7 percent and we carried a record 56 million passengers on domestic routes, out of 88 million passengers in total.

This year, over January and February, we also saw growth of around 15-18 percent. This is partly the result of our efforts to open new airports and develop infrastructure. New airports have opened in Tyumen, Nizhny Novgorod, and Volgograd. We also opened a new airport in Moscow Region, Zhukovsky. It has already had more than 50,000 passengers. Reconstruction of the runways in Ufa, Volgograd and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky has been completed, making it possible for the biggest planes to land there (this will significantly increase Kamchatka’s tourism potential).

Vladimir Putin: You said at one point that we need to have a reserve stock of materials in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, should the need to repair runways arise.

Maxim Sokolov: We established this reserve stock a few years ago. It is composed of special slabs used for runways and is kept as a strategic stock at the site.

Vladimir Putin: Check that this is all in place.

Maxim Sokolov: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: After all, if an earthquake or something happens there, they need to have everything there at the ready.

Maxim Sokolov: Yes, I will check and brief you on the results.

Vladimir Putin: The same goes for Sakhalin.

Maxim Sokolov: Yes.

In the sea transport sector, we have also considerably increased freight transport. It is up by 7 percent and now comes to 720 million tonnes. This is the best result in this sector over recent years.

We have not neglected sea passenger transport though, and have opened sea passenger terminals for cruise ships in Murmansk, the Far East, and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.

Our icebreaker fleet has modernised. We launched a new non-atomic icebreaker, the Viktor Chernomyrdin. It has power of 25 MW and is the biggest of its kind in the world. We also raised the flag on the 16 MW icebreaker Novorossiysk.

We restored the Khersones sailing ship that was abandoned in Crimea. It has taken part in regattas for the biggest sailing ships since then. The programme for fleet construction is going ahead practically entirely as planned.

As for rail transport, we have reversed the negative trend of the past three or four years, when the volume of passenger transport was declining.

Of course, our biggest and so far the world’s only project is the Moscow Central Circle, which opened last year. Today the MCC carries some 350,000 passengers a day and the overall number has exceeded 43 million.

Vladimir Putin: How long did it take to build?

Maxim Sokolov: Five and a half years. The project involved 54 kilometres of rails, huge investments of some 100 billion rubles and 31 connection stations. It is a good example of a project built with combined – federal and private – investments.

There are other projects based on public-private partnership, including the Western High-Speed Diameter in St Petersburg and the Kama Bridge near the city of Kambarka in the Republic of Udmurtia, which has opened to transit in test mode. It is a PPP project, too.

Similar projects have been prepared for many regions, including a motorway bypassing Khabarovsk, a bridge and tunnel in Bashkortostan (Ufa), and a bridge crossing in the Perm Territory.

In general, the system of public-private partnership is being widely used for transport projects. For example, the State Transport Leasing Company has invested over 300 billion rubles in the national transport network. The PPP investment multiplier is one to four compared to the budget investment multiplier. It has helped produce over 70 aircraft, including 18 Sukhoi SuperJet planes, 50 sea and river vessels, and 30,000 rail cars.

Despite the above, our attention is focused on Crimea. It is a strategic project in which we are investing heavily. More than half of the Kerch Strait transport crossing, commonly known as the Crimean Bridge, has been completed. Over half the piles have been hammered into the soil. Work on this project is proceeding slightly ahead of schedule.

Today, we are focusing on building and reconstructing the Tavrida road, which is close to 240 kilometres. Preparatory work is underway along the whole length of the route. We have completed drafting the project documentation and will submit it all for expert evaluation. Starting this summer, as the weather allows, construction work will begin along the entire route.

Vladimir Putin: You can work all year round there.

Maxim Sokolov: We first need to get the state expert evaluation’s go-ahead. The preparatory work is underway now. We are collecting inert materials, clearing the soil, carrying out mine-clearing work. Work is already underway, in other words. Once we get the state expert evaluation’s results, we will start practical work on the road itself.

Vladimir Putin: As we discussed in the past, the road and bridge need to operate simultaneously.

Maxim Sokolov: We will do everything possible, at least within the agreed parameters (this project is being discussed in the governmental commission for developing Crimea’s transport infrastructure). This work will be synchronised.

The plans for the far approach links have been approved in accordance with your instruction and the State Council instruction regarding the Rostov Region and Krasnodar Territory. This concerns the road and rail links. The work here is going to schedule.

Vladimir Putin: You are building an airport in Rostov?

Maxim Sokolov: The airport in Rostov will be ready to open this December. This is another of our big projects.

Vladimir Putin: I saw it from the helicopter. How do you assess it, is everything going as planned?

Maxim Sokolov: Yes, it is. We invite you to come to the airport’s opening in December.

Vladimir Putin: This will be our first airport built from scratch.

Maxim Sokolov: The first of this class, yes. There is the airport we built in the Kuril Islands, on Iturup, but this airport, of course, is of a completely different class.

[featured image is file photo, not directly related to article subject matter]