Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Transport Ministry: System Is Collapsing

The Transportation Ministry warned Friday that the nation's public transportation system is on the verge of collapse because there are too many social welfare recipients who don't have to pay to ride.

Transportation Ministry department head Anatoly Pinson said there are too many categories of privileged passengers -- such as veterans, the elderly and the handicapped -- that rob transportation companies of revenue badly needed for investment.

"There is no economic foundation for the further functioning of public transport," Pinson told reporters.

There are 64 categories of privileged passengers -- the largest groups being pensioners, invalids, veterans and employees of the Defense and Interior ministries and the State Customs Committee.

The privileged groups account for 60 percent of all passengers nationwide and more than 75 percent in Moscow.

"The number of such passengers exceeds all reasonable levels," Pinson said. "In Spain, for example, there are only four categories of privileged passengers."

In the last decade, the share of paying passengers has fallen from 80 percent to 40 percent, and if new-vehicle purchases remain at current levels, there will be a massive transportation breakdown soon, he warned.

"The number of vehicles is falling dramatically -- and the buses, trams and trolleybuses in operation are becoming obsolete. ... Transport companies, however, cannot afford to buy new vehicles as expenses from carrying privileged passengers are not compensated," he said.

Public transport companies last year spent 52.9 billion rubles ($1.68 billion) servicing privileged passengers but received only 34 billion rubles from local and federal budgets, according to government figures.

Since 1990, the number of public-transport vehicles has fallen more than 40 percent, with public transport operating at only 60 percent capacity and fewer areas are being serviced. Of the vehicles currently in service, half should have been already decommissioned, making transportation not only uncomfortable but unsafe, Pinson said.

Some 4 billion rubles were allocated from the state budget to purchase 4,800 new buses, 686 trolleybuses and 83 trams, while the minimal need is 13,500 buses, 1,200 trolleybuses and 600 new trams per year.

Not only the transportation companies suffer. Pinson said nonprivileged passengers have to pay 20 percent more to help offset the cost of servicing privileged passengers.

"When the corresponding legislation was formed in the mid-'90s, the government took into account the interests of social groups and forgot about the transportation companies," Pinson said.

"The budget funds are limited, but public transport companies don't have a mechanism for independent financial activity."

Pinson said the Labor and Social Development, Transportation and Railways ministries are working on a federal law to address compensation for transporting privileged passengers -- a law that must lead to full compensation for transport companies while at the same time providing privileges to all those who truly need them.