Due to the size of our country and the distances, which are characteristic for both passenger and freight movements, transport and logistics in Russia have always been one of the priorities of the national economy, because public transport and the a single economic space should and must be developed.

To date, the transport system of Russia includes as follows:

  • more than 87 thousand km of railways;
  • more than 750 thousand km of paved roads;
  • more than 600 thousand km of air traffic routes;
  • more than 115 thousand km of navigable waters.

In total, if we take into account pipeline transport, the industry employs more than three million people, i.e. approximately 4.5% of the working population. Vast distances and harsh climate means that the main burden falls on transport links such as railways, which account for nearly 80% of freight turnover and 45% of passenger traffic. Road transport accounts for about 35% of passenger traffic and only 1.5% of freight turnover. River transport ensures about 5% of freight shipping and 15% of passenger traffic. Almost 20 % of passenger traffic is provided by air transport, whereas the latter is insignificant for freight shipments.

Nevertheless, the prospects for the development of the transport system are encouraging because freight logistics are becoming more and more complicated, which requires the expansion and improvement of the transport network, while population mobility in Russia (6,300 km per person in 2010) is several times lower than in Europe and the U.S. (15-30 thousand km per year).

Historical Background

A transport system appeared shortly after the creation of a centralized state in Russia. In the 11th century, foreign travelers had already noted an organized road system in Kievan Rus. However, if we talk about a transport system, we should refer to the 13th century when a network of postal stations was created, thus providing for passenger movement (albeit in very limited numbers) and mail throughout the country. However, the delivery of goods, especially to remote areas, continued to be quite a long and complicated process, as sea transport was not actually available (delivering cargo from St. Petersburg to the Far East meant traveling around all of Europe, Africa and Asia, and then returning), while overland journeys to eastern lands were rarely completed in a single season due to huge distances (and hence travelers needed to stay somewhere for the winter).

In the 19th century, the situation improved slightly thanks to the development of road construction, which greatly simplified the delivery of goods and passenger traffic from the central part of the country to Siberia. Nevertheless, the Far East remained underdeveloped due to difficult transport communications. Everything changed in the second half of the 19th century when the construction of railways was launched. The first line, running from Moscow to St. Petersburg, was opened in 1837, and by 1893, the Russian Empire had a railway network stretching over 32 thousand km, accounting for 5% of the global railway network. In 1891, construction began on the world’s longest railway route — the Trans-Siberian Railway (the Trans-Siberian), and in 1897, it was joined to Chinese Eastern Railway. In 1901, the Trans-Siberian inaugurated regular railway services from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok, and to Manchuria and Port Arthur in 1903. In 1904, the Trans-Siberian Railway operated a continuous route through the Circum-Baikal Railway, where unique engineering solutions were used; it suffices to say that the entire 89 km stretching along the shores of Lake Baikal necessitated the construction of 38 tunnels with a total length of 7.2 km, six major bridges, 16 freestanding galleries and about 280 retaining walls with a total length of about 29 km.

After the Russian Revolution and civil war, the transport system collapsed and active work had to be carried out to restore it during the first years of Soviet rule. This activity basically ended only in the late 1920s, and then the actual transport system started being developed. Railway branch lines and paved roads were extended towards new economic centers, industries and mining areas. For example, the Turkestan-Siberian railway line, running almost 1.5 thousand km, was inaugurated in 1930. Air transport was also developed: the first regular airline route from Moscow to Nizhny Novgorod was launched in 1923, but the most active air traffic began developing in the 1930s; the all-Union air traffic network totaled 15,426 km in 1929, 26,310 km in 1930, 27,716 km in 1931 and 31,934 km in 1932.

After World War II, the transport system needed to be renewed again; work was completed by the beginning of the 1950s. Subsequently, the transport system grew and developed at a reasonable pace — roads and railways were extended, and the number of airports and passengers increased. There were bursts of activity, the main one being the construction of the Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM). Strictly speaking, the idea of this route had already come up in the late 19th century; the construction of its first section was carried out from 1938 to 1951, but the construction of the line running from Ust-Kut to Komsomolsk-on-Amur (3,145 km long), which was started in 1974, became the most well known. Construction was extremely difficult and incredibly expensive. The main section was completed by 1984, but the last important part was put into operation only in 2003, when construction of the North Muysk Tunnel (15.3 km long), which had been started 25 years before, was finally completed.


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