Russia’s Prime Minister has unveiled a plan to double the number of roads in the country, as well as to radically improve their rather grim quality.
Putin said that Russia’s first aim is to make sure that “the price per kilometer is not off the mark and that the quality meets the best world standards."
“It’s vitally important that we employ only those road construction firms that use the best technology available on the market and with the best business reputation,” Putin stressed. “We need roads of a totally different type, with modern interchanges, higher capacity and more lanes.”
Russia’s next step, Putin said, will be re-organization of the road construction process. The country has long been planning to switch to life-cycle contracts – long-term agreements to build and operate roads over periods of 10-30 years.
After signing such a contract, the contractor lays the road at its own expense or with loans and then it is fully responsible for the road’s upkeep, while the state pays the contractor in equal installments or for the duration of the contract.
"It will be in the companies' interests to build decent, lasting roads," Putin said.
It is also expected to prevent money laundering, which, Putin added, is quite rampant in road construction projects. The PM asked the Transport Ministry to come up with new proposals for comprehensive monitoring for roads, involving the GLONASS satellite system.
Putin also ordered a range of federal and regional road funds to be set up which, he hopes, will enable Russia to double road construction in the next five to ten years.
"According to our calculations, we will have accumulated over 8 trillion rubles by 2020,” Putin said at a meeting on problems in the road-construction sector. “But these sources alone won't be enough, so we’ll use public-private partnership mechanisms," Putin added.
He also said a bank of master specifications ought to be set up to speed up road construction and establish a solid system for pricing and quality standards.
The prime minister said that 18,000 km of federal roads alone should be built by 2020.
According to the Interfax news agency, 25,000 kilometers of federal and regional roads were built between 2002 and 2010.
Road specialists have warmly welcomed Putin’s proposals, saying that it is vitally important to increase the number of roads in Russia.
“Russia cannot exist without high-speed motorways – and so far it has almost none,” Sergey Kelbakh, the first deputy head of the state roads company, told RT. “The number of roads in Russia is considerably fewer than in Europe – I’d say there are about half as many here. The lack of mobility of cargo and people holds the economy back considerably. For example, to go from the Volga region to the Black Sea, one needs to go all the way north to Moscow and then back down again.”