Vladimir Putin questioned the benefits of the superhigh-speed railways

Railways will have to re-prove the feasibility of the megaproject.
Russian President Vladimir Putin doubts the need to build Russia's first high-speed highway (VSM) - its initial part was to connect Moscow with Nizhny Novgorod. As a participant of government meetings, a federal official, a person close to the Ministry of Transport, told Vedomosti, the question of the expediency of the SCM was raised at a meeting with the president.

The President expressed these doubts on October 11, on that day the plan for the development of backbone infrastructure was discussed and approved, said a participant in government meetings and another official. The president’s order to discuss the SCM project once again in the government is there, the federal official knows, the document says that the planned operational break-even as a condition for receiving money from the federal budget (the Vedomosti instruction was reviewed, the official confirmed the correctness of information). They need 200 billion rubles for the construction of high-speed rail lines, the entire road to the Lower is estimated at 621 billion rubles, the plan says. A spokesman for the president did not answer the question "Vedomosti".

“The fork is more global than the operational payback, [there are doubts] whether a high-speed rail line is needed at all for such money,” says a person close to Russian Railways. The area to Nizhny Novgorod - the pilot part of the area to Kazan, the cost of which the first deputy general director of Russian Railways Alexander Misharin estimated at 1.7 trillion rubles, but, as the representative of the Russian Railways subsidiary, High-Speed ​​Highways says ( managed to reduce to 1.5 trillion rubles.

In terms of the development of backbone infrastructure, there are three projects of communication with Nizhny Novgorod: a toll road, free of charge, and a high-speed railway line, a federal official points out. “The President instructed to once again assess the economy and the validity of the High-speed Railway Council Moscow-Nizhny Novgorod. Because in the coming years, it is planned to allocate money not only for this project, but also for the reconstruction of the M7 highway, and for the toll road, which will become part of the transport corridor Europe - Western China. It is necessary to look at the plans for passenger traffic and cargo flow, whether these three projects do not coincide. The decision will be made before the end of the year and even earlier. The attitude to the SCM is positive, but projects cannot be duplicated, ”the presidential administration officer said.

Only the Moscow-Nizhny Novgorod-Kazan highway will cost 540–550 billion rubles, up to 70% will be required from the state, said First Deputy Transport Minister Innokenty Alafinov. Questions arose primarily to the financial model of the high-speed rail project, a person close to the Ministry of Transport notes.

At a meeting with Oleg Belozerov, Director General of Russian Railways, on October 31, the High-Council Council discussed the situation in Nizhny Novgorod and he said that it would be built, arranged for the staff for the work done in recent years, says a person close to Russian Railways.

RZD, he continues, plans to remake a private concession initiative, that is, the main project documents that must be signed by investors and the state, and now attracting investors will not be “Highways” but personally Belozerov and his first deputy Vadim Mikhailov.

Until now, the SCM has not found any serious interested parties, two people are familiar with the discussion of the project. Potential general contractors refuse to participate because of the risks associated with the use of Chinese technology, explains one of the builders.

The financial model of the project assumes a planned break-even operation, said a representative of Russian Railways. If there are less passengers than in the model, the state will pay the investor extra, the two participants in the meetings say. The representative of the Ministry of Transport did not respond to the request.

The selection of projects for funding from the federal budget should be carried out by a government commission on transport, the official said. The project of the Russian Railways investment program assumes 200 billion rubles. on high speed rail, about 400 billion more need to be found somewhere. True, 200 billion are envisaged in the plan for developing the backbone infrastructure, but the Supreme Council of Ministers can easily fall out of it, a participant in government meetings is worried.

There is an instruction to work out the issue so that the net profit of Russian Railways is directed to projects included in the development plan for the trunk infrastructure, said a spokeswoman for Deputy Prime Minister Maxim Akimov. Does this mean that the SCM will be denied budget funding, she did not say.

HSR Moscow - Nizhny Novgorod will use the current railway, new construction is envisaged at the Zheleznodorozhny - Gorokhovets section. In the end, this highway should become part of the Eurasia Supreme Council, which will connect Berlin with Beijing.

It’s hard to give up the project: all the time there is an illusion that we will go from Gorokhovets to China, says a person close to the government’s transport commission. Another Eurasia site, from Yekaterinburg to Chelyabinsk, was in the first version of the main infrastructure plan, but did not get into the final plan.

It happens that high-speed railways and high-speed railways lay in one corridor, says Vladimir Kosoy, president of the Center for the Economy of Infrastructure Infrastructure: the passenger traffic of the high-speed rail line may drop slightly, only by 10%. If you do not start building high-speed rail, the Russian Railways risks hopelessly falling behind technologically, he said.

It is difficult to doubt the operational efficiency of the project, there is a very large supply of calculations for passenger traffic to Kazan, it also exists to Nizhny Novgorod, says PwC partner Mikhail Bazhenov. Roads can provide door-to-door freight transportation, and passengers need predictable high speed railways, he is sure that the main problem is huge investments, but this money will go into the economy, will allow developing industries with high added value - engineering and metallurgy.

The representative of “High-Speed ​​Railways” expects that in the third year of operation the passenger traffic of the high-speed rail will exceed 15 million trips per year, the demand will be used by the road for new passengers, those who have not traveled to Moscow before.

HSR is built on the perspective of 25–40 years, the main question is how to calculate the passenger traffic on such a horizon, and not on the horizon of 3-5 years, says KPMG partner Alexey Romanenko. The infrastructure is built under the person’s habits, he is sure: work in large cities, sea holidays in summer and in the mountains in winter. It is necessary to answer the question why a person will use the high-speed railway, if there are other ways to get to Nizhny Novgorod, Romanenko sums up.