Question: The Russian capital has not seen such a massive renovation programme for almost 50 years. But I’m afraid you’ve faced some popular anger all summer. What can you tell those people who criticised you?
Sergei Sobyanin: Indeed, we have inconvenienced city residents a great deal. Drivers suffered from traffic congestion due to narrower roads, and pedestrians had to grope their way past construction equipment. But I hope that we’ll forget about this a month or a year from now, and that this new, beautiful and modern city will remain with us.
Question: To what extent will central Moscow be transformed?
Sergei Sobyanin: We have basically finished renovating the centre; most of the streets have been upgraded, and new squares have been created. In the past, these areas were only called squares but did not look like squares. For example, did you ever think that Novaya Square was a real square?
Question: No, it never looked like a square.
Sergei Sobyanin: These pavements, as well as Slavyanskaya Square, were cluttered with cars. Tverskaya Zastava Square was even worse, like a huge dump. The wonderful and unique new Zaryadye Park will open in central Moscow soon. In the past few decades, no parks have been created in the central districts, and the city has never seen such parks.
Question: Why didn’t the city implement this programme ten years ago?
Sergei Sobyanin: We have seen serious obstacles at every step of this programme. For example, it would be pointless to launch the programme without streamlined parking because all these lawns and pavements would just be filled with cars, not pedestrians. To better control the parking, we had to go a long way, and we deliberately triggered a major conflict. But in the long run, things improved for both pedestrians and drivers.
In an effort to rid the city of advertisements, we staged a real revolution by eliminating illegal businesses that had existed for 15 years and that were taking huge illegal profits. It was hard to achieve this goal. We have faced these kinds of problems in every part of this programme.
Question: Drivers say the programme is working against them.
Sergei Sobyanin: If you recall 2011-2012, you will remember that it was pretty difficult to enter central Moscow by car. Even the luckier ones wasted hours because of traffic congestion. We are focusing on the creation of new city streets and roads, including new overpasses, underpasses, interchanges, street upgrades, etc. The city has never seen such an ambitious road upgrade programme to improve traffic.
Question: What other renovation projects, in addition to this programme, are you working on?
Sergei Sobyanin: For example, we have been working on individual courtyards, and have upgrade about 3,000 courtyards annually. Add to this new parks with further improvements, including parks in the central and outlying districts. We need to upgrade the huge Moscow Central Circle (MCC) territory, and this will be ongoing throughout 2017. As I see it, every administrative area must have a central section, main points of attraction and popular public spaces. This is absolutely the right direction: the central districts and the entire city must develop.
Question: I agree with you. Thank you very much, Mr Sobyanin.
Sergei Sobyanin: Thank you, and I wish you the best.