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Personal Opinion: Free Cheese


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Personal Opinion: Free Cheese
Personal Opinion: Free Cheese

Igor Morzharetto


The possibility of the appearance of toll roads in Russia in the absence of free understudies at the opening of the 5th Pacific Economic Congress in Vladivostok was mentioned by First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov. The official was careful: “This is still a debatable topic. In any country that is engaged in large-scale construction of the road network, financing is carried out both at the expense of budgetary funds and through alternation with private investments.” This is understandable and indisputable. But further, Shuvalov explained that “as a topic for discussion, experts propose to consider the possibility of repealing the requirement of the law that the toll road should have a free alternative.”

What kind of experts, the official did not tell, but what he said was enough: immediately a scandal erupted. The protests were not only representatives of social movements of motorists and many deputies of the State Duma, but even government officials of the highest rank. Significantly, one of the leaders of the Avtodor state-owned company, Sergey Kelbakh, was the first to respond. While the state-owned company is the main road operator, which on behalf of the government concludes all concession contracts for the construction and maintenance of toll roads in the Russian Federation. It seems to be interested in the mass appearance of barriers on the roads, but no …

“The Avtodor state-owned company operates in accordance with the law, according to which the toll road must have a free alternative understudy,” Kelbach explains his position. - This is the basis of our approach. Not a single project that we oversee has a different approach is the subject of consideration."

At the Sochi investment forum, Russian Transport Minister Igor Levitin also spoke out against the “uncontested” idea: “We have an alternative, free road fixed by law, and we will adhere to this.”

Actually, the reaction of transport officials was predictable. They directly "sit on the ground" and understand that any road project is social in nature. The road connects not just abstract points A and B on the map, but real cities and specific people, because any skew here is fraught with consequences. It is enough to recall the recent scandal with the construction of an understudy route Moscow - St. Petersburg. Who heard a year and a half ago what is Khimki Forest in the Moscow Region? And now, perhaps, the whole world knows, although in reality it’s just a few stunted groves interspersed with landfills …

By the way, the statement of Mr. Shuvalov is not the first test ball of this kind. A year ago, one of the leaders of the Ministry of Economic Development made a similar statement - and was immediately abused and branded. So why did you need the demarche of the first deputy prime minister? Is it really impossible to foresee the reaction of the public? After all, there is the current federal law “On Roads and Road Activities”. He clearly says: a decision to use a motorway on a paid basis can only be made if alternative free travel is possible. It is to this norm that the Minister of Transport and the head of the Russian Highways (Avtodor) company refer.

There should be no other approach. Otherwise, a number of risks are possible, primarily of a social nature. You don’t have to go far for examples. Today, even if there are free alternative sites of good quality, people perceive the idea of toll roads disapprovingly. And no positive "examples from foreign life", references to the experience of other countries do not convince. Even if deputies periodically come up with bills on the prohibition of toll roads, what can we say about ordinary people …

However, drivers on the same Don highway choose, as a rule, a high-speed toll area completely voluntarily and consciously: it’s more convenient and faster. And with the existing prices it’s not too expensive. Grumbled - paid - let's go. But they will be categorically against if they are deprived of a choice.

By the way, in the USA and countries of Europe where there are toll roads (in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and Finland they are not), there are bypass routes. The exception is bridges and tunnels, for which you will have to pay for travel in any case. All these points are spelled out in the relevant laws. But the countries where it is allowed to build toll roads without understudies and whose experience Mr. Shuvalov referred to had to be searched. It turned out that such states exist. There are two of them: China and Kazakhstan.

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