Rustam Minnikhanov: ''Our roads look even better today than some European ones''

Four-lane M7 highway from Kazan to Naberezhnye Chelny has opened after 18 years of reconstruction in Tatarstan

Rustam Minnikhanov: ''Our roads look even better today than some European ones'' Photo: Maksim Platonov

A 30-kilometre section of M7 highway was opened on 17 October in Tatarstan — now the whole road from Kazan to Naberezhnye Chelny is four-lane. The capacity has increased from 18k to 40k cars a day. It took four years to complete the works on the last section, the road workers were a little sad that ''the construction of the century'' was over, but they were promised another one. By 2024, a toll high-speed Moscow-Kazan highway is to appear. Rustam Minnikhanov also aimed at China and has already asked for money from Rosavtodor.

''We didn't even dream of realizing the dream of the residents of Tatarstan. But we did realize it''

Tatarstan has never called the M7 motorway, the section of which has recently been opened, as M7. For the locals it has always been the ''Chelny route'', because it connected two major cities — Kazan and Naberezhnye Chelny. It had two more unofficial names – the ''road of life'', as all passenger and cargo transportation from the western part of the country to the eastern one went on it, and the ''road of death''. Crazy traffic, and only one lane each way. Entering on oncoming lane and head-on collisions happened here almost every day. Roadside monuments still remind about the tragedies — there are a lot of them.

The transformation of the road of the second category into the first one — four-lane, with lane dividers and bump stops, which exclude entering on oncoming lane, jughandles — began in 2004. By 2018, all 208 kilometres had been reconstructed. The last 30-kilometre section on the border of Pestrechinsky and Rybno-Slobodsky districts was solemnly opened on 17 October.

''I was here in 2004. We agreed with then President of Tatarstan Shaimiev, Prime Minister Minnikhanov. We didn't even dream of realizing the dream of the residents of Tatarstan. But we did realize it. It's not just a road — it's life. Here everything is equipped to ensure that the driver, who is on the road for days, could relax and safely continue the journey. This road is important not only for Tatarstan — all transit cargo go from there,'' said Assistant to the President of the Russian Federation Igor Levitin when he was minister of transport about when the decision was made to build the road.

However, Levitin had the opportunity to assess the object only visually — the officials of this level prefer to travel not by road, though such comfortable and safe, but by air.

A 30-kilometre section of M7 highway was opened on 17 October in Tatarstan — now the whole road from Kazan to Naberezhnye Chelny is four-lane

''We always envied when we went to America and Europe the roads they have''

Recalling the events of almost 20 years ago, Rustam Minnikhanov said that it was a dream, ''it seemed impossible''.

''We never even dreamed of such a standard of roads. The road is very difficult, and when Igor Levitin took office as minister, due to serious financial investments, the support of the government of the Russian Federation, the federal agency, the ministry of transport of the Russian Federation the highway, which today allows to move safely, has been built. This is a federal road that connects two large industrial agglomerations — Kazan and Naberezhnye Chelny. And the main thing — we always envied when went to America and Europe, what roads should be. Our roads look even better today than some European ones,'' Rustam Minnikhanov compared.

The cost of the reconstruction of 208 km amounted to 37,7 billion rubles. The last section had been built since 2014 by three general contractors: Stroynovatsiya PLC, Kazdorstroy JSC and BSK SPb JSC. The road builders were both happy and slightly sad because such a grand project was completed. But they promised from the stage that they would not be left without work.

''The programme of development of transport infrastructure until 2024 has been approved, and one of the projects is the high-speed road Moscow-Kazan, therefore for you there will be a lot of work,'' Levitin told.

The cost of the reconstruction of 208 km amounted to 37,7 billion rubles. The road builders were both happy and slightly sad because such a grand project was completed

''Who gave us the money? Come on! We'll have to ask for more''

As he told later during a media scrum, it will be a toll highway, which will go to the south of the existing route M7 'Moscow-Ufa'.

''It will be the road constructed from scratch, which will pass to the south of M7. It will be built on new technologies and will go through the territories not covered by M7 route. It will be a new exit from Moscow to Kazan, we are glad that this project has been included in the list of infrastructure projects that were agreed by the president,'' said Igor Levitin.

Andrey Kostyuk, the head of the Federal Road Agency, was standing modestly on the stage, then he was embarrassed to go to journalists, and Minnikhanov encouraged him: ''Who gave us money? Come on! We'll have to ask for more.'' He said it with a smile, but those who know the president of Tatarstan know that in each his joke there is more truth.

In the end, Kostyuk even had to answer the question about how he assessed the road successes of the Republic of Tatarstan.

''Well, you can see it yourself. Tatarstan is one of the leaders, I don't want to offend others, but all those practices in road construction are used in Tatarstan, and the result is obvious,'' he told.

As for the projects, which still need funds, it is, according to Minnikhanov, ''several serious routes in the direction of China — M5 and M7, bypass and exit to Nizhnekamsk and Naberezhnye Chelny, because we go on the dam. All applications are being in the works.''

By Daria Turtseva. Photo: Maksim Platonov
Tatarstan