18th Plenary Session of the Congress

Strasbourg, 18 March 2010

Interview with Stepan KIRICHUK, President of the Russian National Congress of Municipalities

Stepan Kirichuk: "Intra-regional transport in Russia has many facets and requires a case-by-case approach"

At the Council of Europe Congress session, the President of the Russian National Congress of Municipalities, Stepan Kirichuk, spoke during the debate on intra-regional transport in the Chamber of Regions on 18 March.  He points out that the Russian context requires a case-by-case approach to transport routes, taking account of regions' specific characteristics.  At the same time Russia's transport strategy will make it possible to link up disjointed road networks in a single system.

Question:  Intra-regional transport is obviously of paramount importance for such a huge country as Russia.  What is the current situation and what are the problems?

Stepan Kirichuk:  In the Russian Federation, like other developed countries, transport is one of the biggest base sectors of the economy and an extremely important component of the production and social infrastructure.  Road and rail routes are important features of Russia's transport system, which extends over 127,000 km of railway track, 755,000 km of tarmacked roads, 102,000 km of inland waterways and 532,000 km of flight paths, of which more than 150,000 km are international.

Intra-regional transport in the Russian Federation involves 83 regions and is very much a "multi-faceted" operation.  The transport models are strongly shaped by the structure of the region, in terms of the make-up and size of the population, type of industrial production, climate and so on.  In the country's central regions, for example, it is very similar to the western European model whereas the northern regions are characterised by long distances and greater use is made of regional or inter-regional air transport.  In a number of regions, individual situations and special conditions make means of transport such as reindeer sleighs or dog sleds indispensable.

Russia's intra-regional transport (particularly rail and road) is comparable to inter-regional and even international transport corridors - we only have to look at the Trans-Siberian railway, the Caucasus and Don roads, the Moscow-Saint Petersburg-Helsinki-Europe road route and the multitude of flight paths.  This is both an advantage and a drawback, as the amount of traffic on these transport arteries is prompting environmental concerns among residents of the localities they pass through.

The problem with Russian roads is that they are not well equipped for the needs of the people who use them.  Things have greatly improved in this respect but efforts are still needed to build motels, cafes, showering facilities, repair facilities and also to make the existing facilities more comfortable.  The regions and municipalities are now working to make the road networks more "civilised", lay cycle paths and make public transport more efficient.  But these continue to be problem areas in many regions.  And there is one other problem, namely the disjointed nature of our inter-regional transport networks.

Question: Can the Congress' recommendations help Russia's regional authorities to develop their transport network?

Stepan Kirichuk:  Undoubtedly, for Russia, as a Council of Europe member State, the Congress' recommendations constitute an indispensable document for resolving internal problems.  This will also be the case with the recommendations on intra-regional transport, which will be brought to the attention of our regions and forwarded to the ministries and agencies involved in transport issues.  The recommendations will be taken into account when planning activities linked to roads, transport, engineering and the environment and also when devising solutions for improving traffic safety.

In particular I would say that the Congress's recommendations relating to the globalisation of the economy, democracy, people's changing lifestyle and spatial planning have been most useful in helping to boost people's mobility and flows.  I would especially single out the points concerning alternatives to vehicle transport, reducing emissions, the social aspects, cycling, cultural aspects and the role of transport in regional cohesion.

Question: Can you provide some examples of good Russian practices in this area?

Stepan Kirichuk:   In keeping with those "Russian" distances of ours and the different climate zones and time zones, we do not resolve our transport issues by following standard projects and tried technology but rather, in most cases, by taking a case-by-case approach to any given route.  This multi-faceted nature makes our transport system a unique and beautiful thing but at the same time complex and costly.

The Russian Federation has adopted a Transport strategy up to 2030.  By 2015 the distance travelled by the country's population is projected to reach 8,616 km per person per annum; the export volume of transport services will be around 23.4 million US dollars; the volume of transit freight will be around 42.7 million tonnes per annum.  3, 100 km of new railway track will come into operation and the delivery speed for freight shipping will reach 305 km a day, and that will include containers in transit moving at a rate of 950 km a day.

In addition, constraints on throughput have been removed from 6,200 km of federal roads, nearly 8,000 km of roads have been built or rebuilt, including the construction of 1,900 toll motorways and express-ways as part of international transport corridors.

In the drawing up of Russia's future road network in the period 2016-2030 it is planned to include new route directions in the federal road network, linking up regions and making it possible to integrate the dismembered road systems of individual oblasti [provinces] in a unified Russian transport system.  These new routes will create links, over the shortest possible distance, between administrative centres of the Russian Federation's constituent entities, including a Syktyvkar - Arkhangelsk - Finnish border route, a Kazan-Perm route, an Abakan-Gorno-Altaysk-Barnaul route, a Pskov-Smolensk route and others.

They are also regional roads forming part of international transport corridors and ultimately motorways, such as the "Centre-Urals" motorway (Moscow - Saransk - Ulyanovsk - Yekaterinburg); the "Europe-Western China" motorway (Saint Petersburg - Vologda - Yoshkar-Ola - Kazan - Orenburg - Kazakhstan border); the "North-West Siberia" motorway (Saint Petersburg - Kotlas - Syktyvkar - Perm - Khanti-Mansi - Tomsk); the "North-East - Polar Urals" motorway (Syktyvkar - Vorkuta with an access route to Naryan-Maru); and the "Industrial Urals - Polar Urals motorway" (Tyumen - Salekhard).

A good example of a successful intra-regional transport scheme is the variant of the "Commonwealth" programme put forward by three regions: Yamalo-Nenets and Khanti-Mansi autonomous districts and Tyumen oblast and Tyumen municipality.  The scheme involved implementing projects to rebuild airports and runways for local, regional and international aviation, building and equipping the Yekaterinburg-Tyumen-Surgut-North inter-regional route and a whole host of social projects to improve comfort in transit and increase road safety.