Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Roads of Russia

"Russia must realise its full potential in high-tech sectors such as modern energy technology, transport and communications, space and aircraft building".

Vladimir Putin, Annual Address to the Federal Assembly, May 10, 2006

This year Russia is expected to top Germany as Europe´s largest car market. But Putin´s empire is light years behind Germany when it comes to the quality of roads:

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, Russia ranks number 125 out of 139 countries on the quality of its highway infrastructure. According to another report, this one by Renaissance Asset Management, barely half of Russia’s road networks meet minimum riding quality and strength measurements.
All this leads to a highway fatality rate in Russia that is higher than in Brazil, China and India

But I don’t need reports to tell me this the morning after I made a hair raising 250 kilometer drive from Moscow to Yaroslavl. And then back again.
In a 20-kilometer bypass of the M8, the drivers of 18-wheel trucks zig-zagged around huge potholes eased their rigs slooowly over deepening trenches gouged in crumbling asphalt, or tried their luck in the spring chocolate sauce of deep mud that bounded that two lane “highway.” All the while, drivers of private cars wrestled to find their space in this obstacle course.
I felt a pang of nostalgia. I felt I was back in Brazil in the 1970s, trying to move along the fringe of Amazon rainforest.
But this was “European Russia” and my destination was Yaroslavl, an ancient city founded in 1010.
After 1,000 years, the Russian state still has not learned how to build safe and solid roads.
Judge a nation’s economy by its car fleet.
Judge its government by its roads.

Roads reflect a government’s ability to project power and to harness bureaucracy for the common good.

In Russia today, the “highway” between Moscow and St. Petersburg is such a death trap that I spent $1,200 on train tickets last December for myself and my three sons. Driving to St. Petersburg and back would have seriously risked cutting one branch from the Brooke family tree.
While China builds an interstate highway system that connects cities you have never heard of, Russia still cannot link its two largest cities with a safe, eight-lane divided highway.
The traditional Russian response is to quote Nikolai Gogol. This satirist once wrote that Russia’s two problems are – duraki i dorogi – fools and roads. But Gogol wrote that almost two centuries ago.

Read the entire article here

No wonder that Russians have to buy a lot of new cars!


Lately things have been improving a little bit, though. At least one road has been repaired:

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