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New toll road cuts Moscow-Saint Petersburg drive in half

By AFP - Nov 27,2019 - Last updated at Nov 27,2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) meets construction workers during the inauguration ceremony of the Moscow’s Saint Petersburg motorway on Wednesday (AFP photo)

SAINT PETERSBURG — President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday opened what has been billed as Russia’s first modern motorway, almost halving the driving time between the two biggest cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

The “Neva” toll road, running 669 kilometres and named after Saint Petersburg’s main river, is Russia’s first long-distance toll road.

It boasts no traffic lights and a higher maximum speed limit of 130 kilometres per hour versus 110kph on other roads.

“We’ve never had anything like this in our country’s history, in the history of road construction,” said Putin, who grew up in Saint Petersburg. “Now we do.”

National media reported that the five-and-a-half to six-hour drive will beat most commuter trains for the first time.

“I used to take the old road, the M10, it took 10 hours,” Putin said. Transport Minister Yevgeny Ditrikh added: “And that was the best case scenario”.

“You can really drive it in six hours,” said state-owned daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta after a test drive.

Putin, nevertheless, flew to the city, local media noted.

High-speed trains between the cities are still quicker, at around four hours but are relatively expensive.

The new motorway toll costs up to 2,020 rubles ($32) per car.

First mooted in 2006, construction reportedly cost 495 billion rubles ($7.7 billion), including private investment.

French group Vinci took part in the project in a consortium with Russia’s VTB Bank.

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