Where does this road lead?
How to make our ‘crossroads of Europe’ comfortable, safe and enduring
By Egor Pimenov
“The quality of Belarusian roads is above all praise, being flat, with lanes clearly indicated, as if travelling on a lawn. You can hold your steering-wheel with two fingers,” asserts Igor Lebedev, a deputy of the Russian State Duma, writing online. Belarusian drivers have an ambiguous attitude towards our roads however; according to opinion polls, only just over half are content with the state of our domestic roads, showing that some probably still require improvement. Of course, self-criticism is not our worst national feature.
According to Western researchers, Belarus is in 68th place for quality of highways, among 148 countries. Among former Soviet states, Belarusian roads are inferior only to those in Georgia, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. At the same time, we have notably superior roads to our Customs Union partners and to neighbouring Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine.
It’s obvious that a road can lead anywhere but its quality relies on money. “Certainly, all Belarusian roads could rival those of Germany in quality,” emphasises the Deputy Chairman of the Presidium of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, Sergey Chizhik. “However, do you know how much money would be needed? Each kilometre of road costs about three million Dollars in Belarus!” In Germany, the figure is at least three times more. According to Belstroycentre, there are over 86,000km of roads in use across the nation, including about 15,500km of main roads, used by most lorries and passenger cars. ‘German modernisation’ of even just our main roads would cost at least US$140 billion — a tenth of the annual budget of the country.
In the West, the frequency of harsher winters has influenced the quality of local roads. In the small town of Niederzimmern, volunteers are being sought to sponsor road repairs. For 50 Euros you can have a pot-hole repaired, with your name placed nearby! Even Germany is feeling a tightening of the purse strings. “Our roads are bad not just because of a shortage of funds — as every country lacks enough money for such work. The question is how to spend funds rationally,” stressed President Alexander Lukashenko in April, addressing the Belarusian people and the National Assembly. “The main cause of poor quality roads is slovenliness! This year, we’ll put an end to it.” Clearly, the road repair branch needs overhauling, using the latest technologies and innovative methods to ensure that repairs go the distance.