M12 routing variants: what toll motorway's route in Tatarstan to be like

Strengths and weaknesses of different, including hypothetical, route variants

The yet-to-be-approved M12 routing continues to cause controversy among the public. In early October, another rally took place in Kazan. More than three hundred people gathered to demand to move the route. People are afraid that the highway will pass too close to their homes, and its construction will lead to pollution of reservoirs and deforestation. There is no final decision on the M12 route so far. Avtodor, which is involved in the project, is considering several variants. The exact routing will be defined only after the design is completed and the project is approved by Glavgosexpertiza (Main Department of State Expertise). About how the authorities intend to settle the issue with residents of houses nearby to the highway, what options for routing are being considered, and many other details of the project — read in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

Path to large-scale project

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin confirmed that the M12 highway is to be built in July this year, during a visit to Tatarstan. At the meeting in Alabuga SEZ, he actually launched the implementation of the megaproject.

The road is intended to be part of the Europe-Western China transport corridor. It will stretch for 8,400 kilometres and is designed to significantly expand trade and economic ties between Russia, including Tatarstan, and Western China.

The idea of the highway connecting Europe and China originated in the 2000s. Trade relations between the Old World and the People's Republic of China developed rapidly, and the turnover grew. Goods had to be exchanged along the sea route. So transportation takes 45 days, but after the construction of the road corridor, the route is to be reduced by 4,5 times — up to 10 days. By influence on development of the continent, the project is compared with the construction of the Suez Canal, Trans-Siberian Railway and Channel Tunnel.

The Russian section of road will account to two thousand kilometres. M12 is one of the parts of the highway with a length of 795 kilometres. The highway will provide high-speed automobile communication between the territories of Moscow Oblast, Vladimir Oblast, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, the republics of Chuvashia and Tatarstan.

Its appearance will reduce the travel time from Kazan to Moscow by almost half: from 12 to 6,5 hours. Besides, the highway promises to become a reliable logistics tool for building effective trade and economic relations between the regions. But not everyone sees only advantages in the project. At the beginning, it was assumed that the highway could passes between the new and old villages of Oryol, and this caused concern among the population.

In early October, they once again organised a coordinated rally, wanting to be heard. On the posters — the same calls 'M12 designers, leave our children the forest and clean air”. People are also concerned that the highway may divide a number of settlements into parts.

“The highway is to go right through our village," Larisa Nugmanova, whose house is located in the settlement of Oryol, said at the rally. “Our settlement is actually losing its infrastructure. In the part that will be separated from us by the highway, there are shops, pharmacies, medical centres, and our piece of the settlement remains without anything. We are promised an overpass, but the situation is unclear. It turns out that people with limited mobility will be cut off from everything.

Later this route was revised, but those dissatisfied remained.

“Certainly, when designing highways under construction, it is advisable to lay their route bypassing settlements. But in the absence of such possibility, a road can be laid through a settlement or in the immediate vicinity," says the head of the press service of Avtodor Group, Tatyana Shadrina. “And here it is important that the object does not have an impact on the surrounding areas beyond the norms. For this purpose, a prediction estimate of the negative impact of the estimated traffic flow is made. If necessary, acoustic screens are installed, windows are replaced with an airing noise protection device, and noise protection cladding is installed on buildings. The safe distance to objects varies depending on the effectiveness of the measures defined in the project documentation. In order not to break the existing ties within the region, it is planned to build overpasses of local and regional roads, pedestrian crossings," Avtodor said in an interview with Realnoe Vremya.

But it is not yet clear which settlements will stand in the way of M12. They needed clarification. They were given by the head of Avtodor during the press conference that took place on September 30 at Tatar-inform site via videoconference. Vyacheslav Petushenko stressed that the final project of the construction customer is not yet available, and it is too early to draw conclusions.

The construction customer does not have a final project yet, and it is too early to draw conclusions. The document will be available within three weeks.

Also, the head of the state-owned company revealed some details of the routing, which now has several variants. However, he tried not to go into too much detail.

The first version of the routing

The first designed version of the routing (blue dotted line on the map — editor's note) appeared in 2018. The route was to run through the territories of Apastovsky, Verkhneuslonsky, Kamsko-Ustinsky, Laishevsky and Pestrechinsky districts, crossing the Kazan-Buinsk-Ulyanovsk (P241), Kazan-Orenburg (P239) highways. The point of entry into the territory of Tatarstan is the Kaybitsky district. The route also passed by the villages of Nikolskoye and Kirbi and led to the Shali-Sorochy Gory road.

It was planned to add a bridge over the Volga River to the list of new objects that will duplicate the bridge in Zaymishchi. Then the designers proposed to build an object near the village of Kzyl-Bayrak in the Verkhneuslonsky district. This did not suit everyone and people organised a rally with placards “We don't want to live under the bridge”.

However, this route had to be abandoned not even because of popular unrest. According to one version, the main reason for the rejection of this option was the passage of the Kholmogory-Klin oil pipeline (owned by Transneft Kama Region JSC — editor's note) in the immediate vicinity of the route convenient for placement of the bridge. From a technical point of view, it is impossible to place two such objects next to each other. It's dangerous.

Although the routing itself was recognised by many as noteworthy: the depth and condition of the bottom of the reservoir would greatly facilitate the work, the width of the river made it possible to build a ferry less long than in any other place, with a length of only 3,641 m. Besides, the road would then pass through a number of unused fields and forestry land. There are fewer localities in this direction than in any other.

The second version of the routing

The oil pipeline, which is almost physically impossible to move, is not the only reason why they had to change the plans. Deputy Minister of Transport and Road Economy of Tatarstan Artyom Chukin noted that in the area of Kyzyl-Bayrak there is a very steep bank that would have forced the road builders to “open wide hole” — that is, to demolish part of the slope, creating an artificial recess under the road. They would have to go to the north — where the terrain of the riverside and the entrances to it are more convenient (green line on the map — editor's note). Besides, this made it possible to combine part of the route with another planned logistics project: “The southern bypass of the city of Kazan” (red dotted line on the map — editor's note). However, the bridge in this case seriously increases in length and will reach 4,700 metres.

In the new version, the routing is very close to the 259-hectare site, which is under long-term lease from TAIF Group, and where the company has been planning to build a sanatorium since 2006.

Offering alternative options during the discussion of the routing, there were suggestions to lay the road on this, almost the only, not yet built-up section of the bank line. Technically, it is possible to put a bridge at this point of the section leased by TAIF Group. However, the map (yellow dotted line) clearly shows that in this case, going up to the “Southern bypass”, the highway will inevitably go right through the village of Oryol. And it's definitely not going to appeal to the locals. The first and second alternative routings are offered by the residents of the settlement that fall into the “gravity zone” of the route (brown and purple lines on the map — editor's note). But they did not find support from the designer, as they reduce the economic efficiency of the highway.

The second (but not yet adopted) version of the routing under consideration, despite the fact that the route does not cross any settlement and is located at a permissible distance (according to the established norms of road construction) from the outskirts of settlements and villages (from 100 metres to 1,5 km), also causes a lot of discontent among residents of the settlements located in the so-called “gravity zone” to the road. Private property should not be affected," said Vyacheslav Petushenko, the head of Avtodor's board, at the press conference in Tatar-inform on September 30. But if this does happen, then Russian legislation has long provided for a way out of the situation:

“First of all, we need to determine the routing. And if for some reason it falls on private ownership, the land will be bought at market value for public needs. In this case, an evaluation will be performed. If the land owner does not agree, he has the right to go to court," said Petushenko.

Not in my back yard

This September, during a discussion on the construction of M12 specially organised by the ministry of transport of the Republic of Tatarstan for journalists, Mikhail Blinkin, the director of the HSE Institute for Transport Economics and Transport Policy Studies, stressed:

“There were no roads in the world practice that the public did not object to . There is such a concept — NIMBY (not in my back yard — editor's note). “Not in my backyard” is the standard psychology of residents of any city in the world. All my relatives and I have cars, everyone drives. The road is necessary, but not in my backyard! And the expert should clearly understand whether we are talking about the NIMBY effect or that we need to look for some compromises.”

He also added:

“There are no global compromises on routing [of roads]. These are fundamental things. Local ones, when plans are transferred to the area, may well be.

And at the very end of September, at a press conference in Tatar-inform, this was confirmed by the head of the board of Avtodor, Vyacheslav Petushenko:

“People, to put it mildly, mislead everyone, claiming that the highway will pass through a particular house or section, since the final version of the routing has not yet been adopted," Petushenko said, answering the journalist's question about the protest movement regarding the construction of the M12 highway. However, the head of Avtodor's board added that the state-owned company definitely does not want to inflate the conflict.

According to the head of Avtodor's board, the final decision on the routing of the Tatarstan section and the place of the bridge crossing over the Volga River has not been made for obvious reasons. First of all, because the state-owned company is looking for optimal options for land owners.

Despite the lack of a clear answer about the second version of the routing, Vyacheslav Petushenko still told some details. The variant two was developed due to the proximity of the route of one of the key objects — a bridge to a dangerous object (oil pipeline), inconvenient terrain and on the recommendation of the republic's leadership. The new route was developed by the Moscow research institute Soyuzdorproekt and Peterburgskie Dorogi company from the northern capital.

The second option is more expensive than the first one. The route turns out to be more curved to avoid some of the settlements that the route was originally planned to pass through. Thus, the Tatarstan distance, which will be built under the terms of a subcontract by Tatarstan companies, will be extended by 12 kilometres — up to 145 km instead of the previous 133. The cost of the project will increase by 24 billion rubles and will amount to 162 billion rubles. In general, the Moscow-Kazan highway will cost 730 billion rubles. The project is planned to be implemented through a public-private partnership: 60% of all funds will be allocated from the federal treasury, and the remaining 40% will be private investment. However, Avtodor said that the project also has the third version of the routing.

Preparatory works on M12 start in 2020

“I believe that this year we are beginning preparatory works, and full construction will begin in the second half of 2021," said the head of Avtodor's board on September 30 during the press conference in Tatar-inform. Before the works start, the routing of M12 is to be approved by the Federal Road Agency, and this is possible only with approval from the subject of the Russian Federation of the Republic of Tatarstan and a number of departments, including the ministry of energy, ministry of forestry, ministry of environment.

On October 9, at the final board meeting of the ministry of transport of the Russian Federation, First Deputy Minister of Transport of Russia Innokenty Alafinov in his report noted: "...out of nine stages of M12, eight stages have already been contracted on the principles of 'design plus construction', so to speak, the first major swallows of EPC contracts in road construction.”

The starting point for the M12 entrance to Tatarstan is still planned to be the Kaybitsky district.

From there, the route will pass through Apastovsky, Verkhneuslonsky, Kamsko-Ustinsky, Laishevsky and Pestrechinsky districts. According to the new scheme, the route will approach Kazan, with access to the Volga River in the area between the villages of Grebeni and Nariman. The route will not pass through the village of Nikolskoye.

About 30 villages will be located at a distance from 100 to 1500 metres from M12. The bridge over the Volga River will move closer to Kazan by 10 kilometres — which will allow combining the route with part of the planned southern bypass of the capital of Tatarstan. As a result, the 20-kilometre section in this direction will be toll. The approximate cost of a kilometre of road, the developers are still estimated at 2,5 rubles. The passage of oversized vehicles will be limited, but for all other vehicles, the entrance will be simplified.

“There will be no barriers at the entrances to M12"

The ministry of transport and road management of Tatarstan specified that 15 interchanges are planned to be built on the autobahn, which will make it possible to enter from regional roads. The Kazan entrance is planned to be located no more than 20-30 kilometers from the capital of Tatarstan to make it more convenient for motorists, and the way to Moscow is shorter and more comfortable. They will try to build the autobahn as close as possible to the Kazan Airport.

“There will be no barriers at the entrances to M12.” The highway will be equipped with the Smart Road project," Petushenko said. According to him, the quality of the route and equipment with an advanced system will allow the use of unmanned vehicles on the M12. In November of this year, test trials will be held in Moscow Oblast, and then the developments will be extended to the highway under construction.

The money for tolls will be used to pay off debts to investors. But, as they explained to Realnoe Vremya in the organization, for any toll road, the government has set a maximum tariff limit. They cannot set a higher price. Now they are talking about the amount of 2,5 rubles per kilometre, but the exact amount of the toll Avtodor will define after accurate calculations of the project's payback are made.

“We also differentiate the toll depending on the vehicle category, payment method (cash or transponder), time of day, day of the week, and season. To do this, we study the curves of uneven traffic flow," said the head of the press service of Avtodor Group, Tatyana Shadrina.

The state-owned company is considering attracting extra-budgetary financing in the amount of 243,6 billion rubles by issuing bonds, of which 150 billion are redeemed at the expense of the National Welfare Fund of Russia. The remaining 93,6 billion are market bonds with a rate of up to 8% and a maturity of up to 20 years, subject to guarantees provided by the ministry of finance of the Russian Federation.

There is no doubt that the road will pay off and be in demand in the future. At least because of the increased comfort that will be offered to motorists.

Drivers will not have any obstacles during the entire route: intersections with other roads will be solved by interchanges at different levels, pedestrian crossings are planned to be made aboveground or underground, the representative of the state company said. Every 50-80 kilometres on the way, there will be filling stations, tyre service, mini-hotels and eateries. The estimated speed is 120 km/h.

On the website avtorosdor.ru, it is noted that along the entire length of the route, there are also planned exits to free alternate roads. And it is also reported that by 2025, the new route plans to attract up to 70 million tonnes of cargo traffic, and the total economic macro-effect from the project will reach 2,45 trillion rubles.

According to the website of the Federal State Information System for Territorial Planning (FGIS TP) of the ministry of economic development of the Russian Federation, the high-speed road belongs to category IB, which involves 4-6 lanes (2-3 in each direction), with a lane width of 3,75 m. The state-owned company is confident that the highway will last 12 years before the first repair, and it will need a major overhaul only in 24 years.

In addition to caring for car owners, they will also think about the comfort of those on whose territory the M12 will pass. One hundred and ninety-six crossings will be built through agricultural and local roads intersected by roads and railways. In total, it is planned to build 348 bridges and overpasses for various tasks.

Special attention during the design and construction is planned to be paid to reducing damage to cultural heritage sites and wildlife. For example, 62 passageways will be specially constructed for migration of animals living nearby, and deforestation will be reduced to the necessary minimum with provision for compensatory planting.

Also, the designers have been informed about the requirements of the government of Tatarstan, outlined in the opinion on the draft amendments to the scheme of territorial planning of the Russian Federation in the field of federal transport. The document, signed by Prime Minister of Tatarstan Aleksey Pesoshin and published on the website FGIS TP, highlights the need for the further design stages to include minimising the negative impact on the environment, the maximum bypass sections of the forest, works on specially protected natural territories should be done only after the state environmental expertise. Besides, the Cabinet of Ministers of Tatarstan suggests the possibility, if necessary, adjust alignment on the results of the design work.

Realnoe Vremya will continue to monitor developments and promptly provide up-to-date information to its readers.

By Alsu Gusmanova, Arseny Favstritsky