Sergey Kelbakh will leave the high road

He will leave the post of head of the state company Avtodor. The decision was made against the background of claims by the control authorities on how the project for the construction of the Central Ring Road in Moscow Region is being implemented.
Origin source
Chairman of the board of the state company Avtodor Sergey Kelbakh will retire, told RBC a source close to the state-owned company, and a source among its partners.

Both sources said that a decision could be made after a holiday, in which the top manager stays until the end of February.

A source familiar with the management involved in the design, construction and maintenance of Avtodor's tracks, says that Kelbakh will resign "just about", and his first deputy Vyacheslav Petushenko will be appointed in his place. The possible appointment of the first deputy to the Kelbach site is confirmed by the source among the partners. A top manager of one of the state-owned companies, which cooperates with Avtodor, adds that Kelbakh will “almost certainly” leave his post, and Petushenko will fulfill his duties.

Petushenko has been working in the road industry since 1977, started in Mostotryad, from 1990 to 2006, worked at Lendorstroi, and then moved to the structures of the federal agency Rosavtodor. Under his leadership, a large part of the Petersburg ring road was built and reconstructed, and also the “departure” highways (leading from the city center beyond its borders) from Moscow were reconstructed.

A source familiar with the management of Avtodor says that Kelbakh could resign even in the summer of 2018, but kept the post under a commitment to speed up the construction of the Central Ring Road and change the team. “He really changed the team, but failed to rectify the situation with the Central Ring Road,” adds the interlocutor of RBC.

RBC sent a request to Avtodor.

What is Sergey Kelbakh known for?

Kelbach headed Avtodor in 2011. Previously, he worked in St. Petersburg as Deputy Chairman of the Committee on the Improvement and Road Management of the City Government, then moved to Moscow and became General Director of PKU Roads of Russia, where he was involved in road management from 2008 to 2009. During this period, there is practically no information about the results of his work in the media.

In 2009, Kelbach joined Avtodor as the first deputy chairman of the board; the company was then run by Sergey Kostin. In December 2011, the then head of government, Vladimir Putin, fired Kostin, and a week later, Kelbach was appointed as the new head.

Under his leadership, Avtodor carried out the reconstruction and construction of such federal highways as M4 Don, M3 Ukraine, and others. Under Kelbach, construction of the Central Ring Road (CKAD) in the Moscow Region also began, which should relieve the federal highways leading to the capital. Avtodor acted as the customer of the project with a volume of more than 300 billion rubles implemented on the basis of a public-private partnership. As follows from the project’s passport, the planned construction time for the Ring Road in excess of 500 km (including the site preparation) is 2014–2018. But in 2014, only the first lots out of five lots were played - the first and fifth lots. In 2016, a contractor was found for the third site, and in 2018, for the fourth.

Deadlines for the Central Ring Road have been repeatedly shifted, the cost of the project has grown. In the autumn of 2018, the president turned his attention to the situation and instructed the Chamber of Accounts, the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Investigative Committee to check the reasons for the rise in prices for the Central Ring Road and the fulfillment of government contracts. As a result, the Accounts Chamber revealed the poor quality of design, the ineffective work of the customer, the state company Avtodor, and the failure of investors to fulfill their obligations. To hand over the Central Ring Road will turn out not earlier than the end of 2021, auditors recognized.

Another major project “Avtodor”, which was not managed to pass in time, is the M11 highway “Moscow-Saint-Petersburg”. This road, with a total length of more than 600 km, has been built since 2010. The project is divided into eight sites, each of which is supervised by a separate contractor. The total cost of the project is about 450 billion rubles. Initially, the road was going to run for the 2018 World Cup, but the dates were shifted to the end of the year. In early September, Transport Minister Yevgeny Dietrich announced the postponement of the delivery of the project to 2019. In October, Avtodor confirmed that M11 will be opened in 2019, explaining the shift in dates to the discovery of archaeological finds at the road construction site.

Who builds the Ring Road

The first section of the Central Ring Road is built by Crocus International (Crocus Group’s subsidiary Araz Agalarov), the fifth is the Ring Highway (part of the ARKS group), and the third and fourth are by the Autobahn Group of Companies. At various times, they tried to attract foreigners to the construction of the Ring Road. But in 2016, after several months of meditation, Spanish Sacr refused to participate in the third polling station. The fourth section was intended to build Turkish Makyol, but eventually refused. In July 2018, it became known that the Italian Anas and the Turkish-Italian ICA could join the project. But the ICA refused to participate, and the closing of the deal with Anas was postponed to 2019.

What will change in Avtodor with the new leadership

Darya Godunova, Managing Partner of the Pioneers of PPP Company, notes that initially the creation of a state-owned company, which would deal exclusively with toll roads, was a good idea, a professional team came up - managers had sufficient expertise in the road and financial sectors. “But the ensuing crisis, the reduction of high-quality contractors, the lack of investors could not but affect the work of Avtodor.” The problems that we see now are not the result of the work of the Avtodor management alone. It is no secret that the delay in the construction of some objects was partially due to the problems of preparing the territory, ”says Godunova.

Kelbach is a landmark figure for the industry, but this does not mean that his resignation could significantly affect the market or the work of Avtodor, Ilya Zharsky, managing partner of the Veta expert group, said. According to him, the scale of the state-owned company is too large to lay responsibility for the deadlines on one person.

In order to reduce the backlog in the construction of the Ring Road, Kelbakh changed the team, adds Alexey Antonov, analyst at the ALOR group of companies. But given the fact that there were no visible results, it is likely that the new leader will first need to conduct a complete review of the roadmaps and identify the most problematic aspects of project implementation, Antonov points out.

“Most likely, nothing will change significantly with his departure - Avtodor will continue to implement its projects, including the Central Ring Road, because, unlike contractors, there is no one to replace it,” Zharsky suggests. In his opinion, significant changes in the company's management can go even to the detriment of the implementation of current projects, since the new top management will need time to transfer cases and reorganize internal processes. But Antonov from ALOR is sure that the first deputy of Kelbakh, Vyacheslav Petushenko, who came to Avtodor Group of Companies in August 2018, will be able to organize the work of the company, since he has already managed to get in the way.