Staunton, August 5 – Given the lack of highways and railways in much of Russia, air links are more critical there than in almost any other country. But as the number of Russian airports has collapsed from 1450 in 1991 to only 228 -- fewer than half as many as in Papua New Guinea (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/06/putins-renaming-airports-attracts.html) -- maintenance of the remaining ones even more important.
Unfortunately, as Kommersant’s 0lga Nikitina and Anastasiya Vedeneyeva report, the Kremlin’s much-ballyhooed plan to modernize the remaining regional airports is in trouble, the victim of budget cutbacks and the failure of the center to get the money to the airports when construction work is possible (kommersant.ru/doc/4053019).
Moscow had announced that it would be modernizing 45 regional airports in 2019, but it has signed contracts for only four. According to Rosaviatsiya, one of the others – in Kamchatka – has already been officially postponed to next year; and almost certainly most of the others will have to be as well.
Many of the planned improvements were at airports in the Russian Far East and Far North, but Moscow again has failed to recognize that because of climatic conditions in these regions, actual construction work is possible only a few months of the year – and has not transferred funds so that materials can be brought in and work carried out.
Oleg Panteleyev, executive director of the Aviaport association, says that such problems are hardly rare in the sector and that the center needs to revise its budgetary process to take climatic conditions into account. But this task, he says, is “much bigger than the resolution of the problems of several regional airports.”
Panteleyev’s comments are especially important not only for an evaluation of what is going on in the air transportation sector but also in considering Moscow’s plans to develop the shore facilities for the Northern Sea Route. If the center can’t schedule funding to fit in with the climate there, it is very unlikely to meet the ambitious targets Vladimir Putin has set.