Russia - Transportation
In the post-Soviet era, Russia’s transportation infrastructure continued the process of deterioration that began in the last years of Soviet governance. The systems also suffered from a Soviet administrative design ill-suited to a market economy: modes of transportation were vertically integrated, placing control of all aspects, from equipment production to station management, under the same authority. That handicap, together with the long distances covered by roads and railroads, adverse climatic conditions, and the stress of the post-Soviet transition, placed Russia in need of massive overhauls in all aspects of its transportation system.
Modes of ground transport have dominated passenger traffic. According to a 2006 poll, 82 percent of Russians have traveled by motor vehicle, 64 percent by railroad, and 15 percent by air. Roads: In 2005 Russia had 897,000 kilometers of roads, 762,000 of which were paved but none of which could be classified as a Western-style trunk highway. An estimated 40 percent of rural villages are not connected to a paved road. In 1999 an estimated 43 percent of federal roads (which account for 46,000 kilometers and half of the country’s trucking volume) did not meet minimum quality standards because of broken surfaces, poor marking, and poor lighting. Road conditions are a major factor in Russia’s very high rate of traffic casualties.
The road crisis was exacerbated by steady increases in vehicle volume. The Roads of Russia program, established in 1998, aimed at large-scale restructuring, including conversion of some federal roads into privatized toll roads. In 2004 the program laid out road building plans through 2025, with early phases concentrated around Moscow. However, only 2,000 kilometers of new roads were built in 2005. A US$2.6 billion investment fund established in 2006 targetted infrastructure improvement and projects around Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Railroads were a vital economic link, particularly important for hauling coal, coke, ferrous metals, ores, chemicals, fertilizers, grain, and timber products. Largely because of increasingly poor long-distance road conditions, between 1992 and 2004 the share of total freight haulage by the railroads increased from 34 percent to 43 percent, and in 2005 they carried 80 percent of Russia’s non-pipeline traffic. Rail transport of oil to seaports increased significantly in the early 2000s. The railroads also accounted for 38 percent of passenger transport.
In 2005 Russia had 87,000 kilometers of rail line, nearly all of which was broad gauge, including 46 percent electrified. An additional 30,000 kilometers of rail line served specific industries. Although the government had recognized the need to restructure this system to keep it competitive with the improving road system, Russia’s railroads remained a state monopoly. The system is divided into 17 regional railroads, which have a contractual relationship with the Ministry of Railways. A restructuring plan adopted in 2001 called for partial privatization between 2006 and 2010, with the creation of separate state enterprises for constituent services as an intermediate step. Priority projects were improved telecommunications and traffic control and modernization of rolling stock. As of 2005, the plan had made little progress, however. In 2005 six cities had underground rail lines: Moscow, Nizhniy Novgorod, Novosibirsk, St. Petersburg, Samara, and Yekaterinburg.
The breakup of the Soviet Union deprived Russia of 51 of the 92 marine ports to which it had access prior to 1991, necessitating reliance on other former Soviet countries for a large share of its seagoing commerce. Remaining Russian port capacity is not sufficient for the current level of foreign trade. In 2005 some 43 ports were in operation. The most important ports are St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea, Novorossiysk and Sochi on the Black Sea, and Magadan, Nakhodka, Vladivostok, and Petropavlovsk on the Pacific Ocean. Two major ports above the Arctic Circle, Murmansk and Arkhangel’sk, are closed by ice part of each year. The Pacific ports are located far from European industrial and population centers. Demand far exceeds capacity at Novorossiysk, the main Black Sea port. Much infrastructure such as port cranes and loading machines was in poor condition and did not meet current international standards.
Major deficiencies existed in freight forwarding systems, cargo processing terminals, integration of land and sea transport services, computerization of cargo flow, and cargo processing services. Government programs to improve port capacity have come under particular pressure from the oil industry’s need for expanded port capacity, and that industry largely determines port development policy. A new oil terminal opened at Primorsk near St. Petersburg in 2001. Plans called for a new oil port at Perevoznaya Bay on the Sea of Japan as a Pacific terminus of the trans-Siberian pipeline scheduled for completion after 2008. Other port expansion programs have been delayed because of funding problems. In 2005 Russia’s merchant marine had 1,199 ships with a gross registered tonnage of more than 1,000.
Russia had 102,000 kilometers of inland water routes. A system totaling 72,000 kilometers in European Russia links the Baltic, Black, and Caspian seas and the Arctic Ocean. Some 60,400 kilometers of the system have night navigation capability, and 16,900 kilometers are man-made navigation routes. The main European waterway is the Volga-Don system, which connects the major river ports of Nizhniy Novgorod, Kazan’, Samara, Saratov, Volgograd, Astrakhan’, and Rostov with the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea and leads northward via canals to link with the Baltic Sea at St. Petersburg. The system links the Don and Volga rivers by the 60-kilometer Volga-Don Canal. Expansion of commerce on inland waterways has been hindered by shallow water and weather conditions. The Volga-Don Canal is closed for several months in winter.
Air travel decreased sharply in the 1990s; in 2001 passenger kilometers were less than 40 percent of the 1990 total. Passenger numbers recovered gradually in the early 2000s, increasing by 4 percent between 2004 and 2005 to about 35 million. However, in 2006 most domestically produced airliners had been in service for more than 20 years, as the aviation industry’s output remained very low and funds for replacement were lacking. Safety concerns about the aging fleet accelerated in 2005–6 as crashes increased significantly. Although plans call for streamlining the Russian airline industry under a single United Aircraft Building Corporation, foreign builders Airbus and Boeing are expected to provide most of Russia’s new airliners in the ensuing decade, further damaging the domestic industry.
Despite losing its monopoly, Aeroflot remained the largest domestic carrier in 2005. Its 90 planes made flights to 54 countries from the hub city, Moscow, accounting for about 50 percent of Russia’s air passenger kilometers. However, in 2005 foreign carriers increased their passengers by 12 percent, compared with a 2 percent increase by domestic lines. In 2006 Russia had 616 airports with paved runways, 51 of which had runways longer than 3,000 meters and 198, runways between 2,500 and 3,000 meters. Major international airports are located in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Rostov, Yekaterinburg, Novorossiysk, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Khabarovsk, and Magadan.
Because of the vital role of oil and natural gas in the national economy and the need to move those commodities over long distances, pipelines occupy a critical position in the national transportation system. The system includes 46,800 kilometers of trunk pipelines, 395 oil pumping stations, and 868 storage facilities. In 2005 the overall pipeline system included 150,007 kilometers for natural gas, 75,539 kilometers for oil, 13,771 kilometers for refined products, and 122 kilometers for gas condensate. The state-owned Transneft’ company had monopoly control of that system, although the government has proposed privatization of some parts of the pipeline infrastructure. Transneft’ is divided into several regional trunk-line operating companies. Several major new pipeline projects have been proposed to expedite transport to critical ports such as St. Petersburg, Murmansk, and Novorossiysk, relieving overloaded lines designated for export.
The condition of the pipeline infrastructure declined significantly; in many areas, maintenance is complicated by permafrost and climatic conditions. Modernization and expansion have been hindered by the monopoly positions of Transneft’ and Gazprom. A new, 4,000-kilometer trans-Siberian oil pipeline was scheduled to begin deliveries to China and the Pacific in 2008 but has been delayed, and a planned Northern European line would bypass Poland and Ukraine to increase Russia’s share of the West European natural gas market. In 2006 Russia agreed with Bulgaria and Greece to expedite construction of a natural gas line connecting Russia’s Black Sea terminal Novorossiysk with Alexandroupolis on the Mediterranean Sea via Burgas.
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