Putin views railroads as key to Common Economic Space

(RIA Novosti / Sergey Eschenko)
Modernization of railroad infrastructure in Russia will be bound to integration within the Customs Union and Common Economic Space of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has stated.

­“Russia intends to link modernization of railroad infrastructure to integration processes such as the Customs Union and Common Economic Space,” Putin said on Friday speaking at the International Railroad Forum in Sochi.

The Customs Union was formally set up in October 2007, but it was not until 2009 that a series of agreements providing for a legal framework for some practical issues of co-operation were signed. In July 2010 the new Customs Code canceling mutual clearance control on the borders took effect. In December 2010, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan signed a package of documents for the creation of the Common Economic Space (CES). Neither union is a closed entity, with both open to other countries, including the EU and the CIS, which brings together former Soviet republics.

The ultimate goal of the CES is the stable and efficient economic development of member states and the improvement of their living standards. The main principles are similar to those of the European Union, that is, free circulations of goods, services, capital and labor.

Prime Minister Putin noted that railways should become a powerful tool for the integration of Euro-Asian market. He said the coming years will see a fundamental modernization of Russia’s railroads, adding that this program will take into account the increasing consumer demand traffic flow and economic growth. He noted that the government has been proving considerable financial support to the railroad industry and, in just the last three years, it has amounted to 330 billion rubles (around US$12 billion).

In practical terms, the renewal of the railroad will mean modernization of key arteries linking the European part of Russia with the east, such as the BAM and Trans-Siberian.

“We plan to use Russia’s transit potential to the fullest,”
the premier promised, “so that transit routes through our territory become comfortable and commercially attractive.” He added that creating favorable conditions for private investment is also a major task.