Mikhail Zelensky: Mr Sobyanin, how is this year’s Journey to Christmas different from the one last year?
Sergei Sobyanin: We try to make every Christmas fair and every festival more beautiful and more interesting for Muscovites. We are using new illumination concepts, and have installed new types of market stalls. They are more like enclosed booths where visitors can hide from bad weather. The fair will be open until three in the morning every day and run for almost a month.
Mikhail Zelensky: One day less than a month.
Sergei Sobyanin: Yes, one day less than a month. We have received requests from a great number of people to extend the festival a little bit. For the first time in Moscow’s history, both the Moscow Central Ring railway and the metro will be open 24 hours without breaks on New Year’s Eve. People like walking until dawn and it wouldn’t be as easy without public transit.
Mikhail Zelensky: But the Journey to Christmas is only one festival of many.
Sergei Sobyanin: For the first time, we have tried holding festivals not only on certain occasions but every season. We compiled a special calendar for winter, spring, summer and autumn. I have to say that even travellers book hotels for dates coinciding with our festivals. For example, most hotels are booked up during the Christmas festival.
Mikhail Zelensky: When it comes to tourists, their interest is obvious. What about investors? How do they respond?
Sergei Sobyanin: All this is pretty powerful for investors. They come to Moscow expecting to find the country in a severe crisis; thinking that it’s dark here and covered with snow and that grim people run down unlit streets. But instead, they see a festive and lit-up city, smiles – and it is a completely different feeling. Many investors start sponsoring even more and contribute to the travel and hospitality businesses, trade and restaurants.
Mikhail Zelensky: Festivals are a new tradition, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, an attempt to restore an old and forgotten tradition. People have started going out in the centre again just for leisure.
Sergei Sobyanin: Mikhail, this is the main purpose of these festivals and the entire work to reform city life here. I believe that a comfortable urban environment is a guarantee that the city will live and develop, and that people will stay here as will businesses. Young people who maybe earlier leaned towards London or Paris now come to Moscow and say, “Moscow is just as good. Maybe, we should stay and do business here.”
So we’re not just pursuing cultural and educational goals. This initiatives helps the city compete with other world capitals in all aspects, including culture, public spaces, comfortable living and of course, business.
Mikhail Zelensky: Will the city’s urban space change further?
Sergei Sobyanin: First of all, we must finish Tverskaya Street, up to Belorussky Railway Station. The Garden Ring is only one-third complete and we still have to work on the rest. Another project is the area around the Kremlin. Next year, we are opening Zaryadye Park and the surrounding area also needs to be improved. Moscow embankments need special attention and work.
Mikhail Zelensky: Summarising 2016, what has it been like for Moscow and its Mayor?
Sergei Sobyanin: I think that, despite excessively grim forecasts, this year has been quite successful for Moscow. We have carried out a number of very interesting projects like, for example, the Moscow Central Ring, a strategic project for the city and a unique project of world-class significance. It is the first time we have launched such an extensive infrastructure facility in Moscow. This is basically 30 stations of surface metro. Some 300,000 passengers use the railway every day. We will be further improving the railway and integrate it with the suburbs and the metro. I think we can reach a capacity of 400,000 passengers a day within the next few years.
We have achieved a lot in education, too. The hundred best Moscow schools, or 27 percent of all schoolchildren, win the competitions, in comparison to any other country. It is a great success. I believe the next year will bring more achievements.
Mikhail Zelensky: Thank you very much, Mr Sobyanin.
Sergei Sobyanin: Thank you.
Mikhail Zelensky: Happy New Year!