Aeroexpress trains, electric trains and new four-lane highways promised Bashkortostan residents

The recent international exhibition “Transport of Russia” has become one of the important topics of this week for Bashkortostan. The transport reform continues in the republic, and therefore special attention was focused on the event. High-profile statements were made at the exhibition — but will it be possible to implement ambitious projects? Will it be possible to complete the long-suffering “Eastern Exit” from Ufa? Will the “Ufa Aeroexpress” appear at all? What transport projects are promised to Bashkortostan residents in the near future and what experts say about the reality of their implementation — read in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

Instead of a preface

The transport reform in Bashkortostan started at the end of 2018 and became one of the first actions of Radiy Khabirov as the head of the region. In recent years, new buses, cashless fare payment system and Alga single transport card have appeared in Ufa.

Citizens are ambivalent about the reform, the main complaint is the lack of transport, especially in the evening, which arose after some private carriers left the market.

Eastern Exit from the capital and road widening

Already by 2023, Ufa is to complete the construction of the Eastern Exit, which will connect the city centre with the M5 Ural highway. The project includes 10 kilometres of a toll expressway, 1,2-kilometre-long tunnel, and 2,6-kilometre bridge over the Ufa River. The works began back in 1992, but the construction was stopped several times — money was running out. Even in a frozen state, large sums were required annually to maintain it. In 2017, a 25-year concession agreement was finally concluded between Bashkir Concession Company PLC (part of VTB Infrastructure Holding) and the Republic of Bashkortostan on the principles of public-private partnership. The matter moved forward again: it is expected that by the end of 2021, the Eastern Exit should be ready by 40%.

“We are building large facilities — the Eastern Exit from Ufa, the Birsk-Tastuba-Satka highway. We are implementing the national project “Safe and high-quality roads” in the cities and villages of our republic worth 1 billion 713 million rubles," writes the head of Bashkortostan, Radiy Khabirov, on social networks. At the international forum “Transport of Russia”, the head of the region noted the importance of building new highways and expanding those that already exist:

“An important topic is the construction of the M12 Moscow-Kazan-Yekaterinburg expressway. It will pass through our republic, will affect the Dyurtyulinsky, Burayevsky and Tatyshlinsky districts. This is about 140 kilometres. We have a lot of organisational and technical issues to solve. There are questions for discussion on the M5 federal highway. They need quick solutions to expand the road to four lanes, especially on the section from Iglino to the border with the Chelyabinsk Oblast. There are many plans. We keep working. Every year, a large number of accidents occur on the two-lane sections of these highways. We intend to increase their width to four lanes over the next few years.”

Will Ufa be ringed by a railway?

The proposed map of the passage of the railway ring around Ufa was presented this summer. In August, at an operational meeting in the government of the republic, Alexander Bulushev, the minister of transport and road management of the region, told about the details of the project. And at the “Transport of Russia” exhibition, the delegation of Bashkortostan held talks with the leadership of Russian Railways. The main topic of the meeting, of course, was the question of where to get money for this project, how to attract federal funds for it.

Radiy Khabirov pressed in his speeches that the railway “belt” around Ufa would allow commuter and city trains to be launched, connect the capital with the airport — in general, this is all “a good project for people”. Moreover, Putin also said that special attention should be paid to trains.

“Ufa is in the top five million cities that have come out with ready-made projects for the development of suburban railway infrastructure," Radiy Khabirov reminded.

Certainly, Khabirov also said that the railway would not be a thing in itself: it would be included in the transport network of the city so that passengers could freely switch from the train to the bus and back.

Crossing Alga with Troika

The Alga transport card can be combined with the Moscow Troika. Radiy Khabirov discussed this issue with Deputy Mayor of Moscow Maksim Liksutov. The developers of the two payment systems should find ways to implement such project in the near future.

“What's the point? As a resident of Bashkortostan, I fly to Moscow, go to the train and pay there with my Alga card, which will be integrated with the Troika card. The same applies to Moscow residents who come to us in Bashkortostan. It will be very convenient," Radiy Khabirov suggested.

Liksutov, in turn, curtsied to his Bashkir colleagues and hinted at the advantages of further development of the transport card system:

“We highly appreciate the potential of the Alga transport card and are also interested in integration with our Troika card, as in the end it will be useful for all passengers. Information technologies based on transport maps allow you to see the situation on the roads and promptly respond to a shortage of rolling stock on a particular site. Besides, these are transparent finances and taxes to budgets of all levels.”

“The story with the railway ring is like a favourite joke with a beard”

So, the plans sound quite ambitious. But Oleg Arefyev, an expert in the field of crisis management in the field of transport, says in a conversation with Realnoe Vremya: the exhibition did not surprise him in any way and was more of a presentation character than it was a place for solving transport issues:

“In principle, the vector of development from the point of view of the transport concept was quite clearly defined. Although this forum, unlike the same Comtrans (Comtrans 2021 — ed.) is more of a pretentious event than a place to solve real issues. For Bashkiria, I didn't see or hear anything interesting at all. The only thing — I know about a number of meetings of our officials with real specialists. It's very early to say whether they will be useful or not.”

According to Arefyev, the Eastern Exit and the railway ring have already been widely discussed before, and it is not worth talking about them as something new:

“Bashkir officials entertained the visitors of the forum, repeating once again the old song about the Eastern Exit and the project of the railway ring around Ufa. All this has already been presented, and exactly in the same format, at last year's “Transport Week”... At the same time, if nothing is clear with the Eastern Exit today, and the construction of the “century” is on the verge of another conservation due to that sharply more expensive construction materials simply kicked it out of the estimate, then the story of the railway ring is generally more like a favourite joke with a beard, which he tells every new year, hoping that everyone forgot that he had already told it.”

Railway ring can give a good effect

Architect Semyon Kucherov, who is engaged in the implementation of urban projects, expressed the opinion that the creation of a railway ring could seriously relieve urban roads, however, due to the remoteness of stations from busy streets, problems may arise:

“I approve the railway ring project as a whole. Because it will allow unloading the meridional direction of transportation in Ufa, the most vulnerable. And the best moment of this project, as it seemed to me, is the railway line to the airport from Urshak station. This will significantly increase the use of public transport. The disadvantages of this project are also obvious — all the stations from the prospekt are very far away. No one will use them, even if you make a good road to the platforms. Because we need transport, transfer hubs from the train to the tram and bus, within a reasonable range of 150-200 metres, no more. Ideally, it should all happen on the same square, even in the same building. Transfer hubs are already being made in Moscow, but there are also problems there — in order for the new construction to pay off, they are brought to shopping centres, and passengers have to pass through the entire shopping centre to get from one transport to another. So the whole idea of hubs is lost — a transfer with minimal loss of time and effort for passengers.”

Semyon Kucherov reminds that the main role of the city train is the transportation of passengers along the periphery of Ufa. It will be able to work fully only with a well-functioning transport system.

“There is still competition in the city for the transportation of passengers on the popular Chernikovka-Centre routes, and the electric train could reduce tension by only a small percentage. Many experts consider the main solution to be the return of mainline transport to the prospekt — Ufa needs metro-type transport, light ground metro. It can be a high-speed tram, and the railway ring will complement this line, covering the periphery of the city. Also, if the delivery routes to the platforms of the city train are properly organised, the frequency of the train itself, there can be a good effect. They have been saying for a long time that the transit of freight rail traffic prevents the organisation of a sufficient frequency of commuter trains. And if, within the framework of this railway ring project, it is possible, first of all, to remove freight traffic, move it across the river — this will be the first step in this large and complex project. So, personally, I have been dreaming about the Ufa analogue of the Aeroexpress to the airport for a long time — I would be glad if it could be realised by the anniversary," Semyon Kucherov told Realnoe Vremya.

Emil Ziyangirov

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