Authorities investigate traffic jams at Moscow airport

09:50, July 02, 2010      

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Road congestion on the highways connecting Moscow to Sheremetyevo International Airport have come under federal scrutiny after three consecutive days of 24-hour traffic jams, local media reported Thursday.

The Leningradskoye highway that also connects Moscow with the country's second largest city of St. Petersburg became critically clogged after road blocks were laid just outside Moscow's ring road Monday allegedly for surface repair. Only one lane of the highway remained operational.

Sheremetyevo airport CEO Mikhail Vasilenko accused Moscow authorities of "deliberate sabotage" aimed at disrupting the privately owned airport's operations in order to re-direct passenger traffic to a new terminal in the Vnukovo airport.

The new terminal was opened this week and is run by companies affiliated with Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov.

Russian flagship air carrier Aeroflot joined the enraged chorus on Thursday. Aeroflot deputy CEO Andrei Kalmykov said his company was losing 400 million euros daily because of the Sheremetyevo-bound traffic collapse. The airline had its base at the airport.

According to Kalmykov, 1,300 passengers missed their flights this week due to traffic jams.

The dismal situation caused federal authorities, including officials from the Prosecutor General's office and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, to become involved.

"The situation is inadequate and those responsible should be punished," Andrei Golomolzin, the deputy head of the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service, said Thursday.

The FAS was to investigate the possible conflict of business interests between the management of Sheremetyevo and Vnukovo airports, he said.

"If passengers can't fly from Sheremetyevo there'll be a problem. Please, sit down with the Moscow authorities and together take the action that is needed to improve the situation," Putin told his deputy Sergei Ivanov during a meeting Thursday.

"Some solutions should be found. People are standing in traffic jams for a long time," Putin said.

Moscow city hall plans to complete road works no sooner than October. Until then, the 30-km trip by car from downtown Moscow to Sheremetyevo could take up to five hours around the clock, city authorities warned.

Sheremetyevo, built to serve the 1980 Olympics, is one of three Moscow airports and is the closest to the downtown area. It was only recently connected to the city center by Aeroexpress rapid rail link, so many people have been unaware of the existence of the link and are still trying to get to Sheremetyevo by car.

Source: Xinhua


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