The government supported the introduction of cashback for travel on toll roads in the summer

The Ministry of Transport supported the proposal of State Duma deputies to introduce a cashback program for travel on toll roads in the summer. This is stated in the department’s response to the letter of State Duma vice-speakers Sergei Neverov, Sholban Karaool (both from “United Russia”) and Vladislav Davankov (“New People”) to Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. “Vedomosti” got acquainted with the document.

In early June, the deputies sent a letter to Mishustin, in which they proposed to renew the 20% cashback program and introduce 100% compensation for travel on toll roads for pensioners, large families and other vulnerable categories of citizens. They justified the need for such measures by restrictions on air traffic, the increase in ticket prices and the increase in travel time to the south. On the day of the start of a special military operation in Ukraine, for security reasons, the Russian Air Force limited flights to 11 airports in the south of Russia. Among them are Anapa, Belgorod, Bryansk, Voronezh, Gelendzhik, Krasnodar, Kursk, Lipetsk, Rostov-on-Don, Simferopol and Elista. The limitation period has already been extended 21 times. The last one expires on July 6. This led to an increase in demand for railway transportation. In particular, as “Vedomosti” wrote on June 1, the demand for train tickets to the Crimea led to their shortage, it was possible to buy them for dates no earlier than mid-August.

The cashback program for tolls on expressways was already in effect in Russia in the summer and fall of 2020. At that time, toll road users received 20% back for tolls paid with the “Mir” card or for topping up the transponder with it. The action ran from June 15 to October 15, and about 100,000 people took part in it. During this time, the turnover of “Mir” cards amounted to more than 950 million rubles.

According to the letter, the Ministry of Transport and the state-owned company “Avtodor”, which manages the majority of toll roads in Russia, supported the possibility of introducing cashback. In terms of compensating the cost of travel for socially vulnerable categories of citizens, the department spoke more cautiously and offered to consider the possibility of subsequent compensation for the payment of such travel.

There are 4,043 km of highways under the management of Avtodor, of which 1,905 km are toll roads. The main ones are the M4 “Don” highway through Voronezh, Rostov-on-Don and Krasnodar leading to the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus, the M11 “Neva” highway to St. Petersburg, the Central Ring Road in the suburbs of Moscow, sections of the M1 “Belarus” and M3 highways “Ukraine”, as well as the M12 highway under construction to Kazan with an extension to Yekaterinburg.

The toll bypass of Odintsovo in the Moscow region and the 15-58th km section of the M11 are managed by private operators. Benefits for travel on toll roads in Russia are only available for regular buses and cars with special signals when they are on official duty.

The Ministry of Transport notes in the letter that the main flow of tourists travels in private cars from June to August, and during these months the Rosturizma tourist cashback program does not work. Thus, reimbursement of part of the cost of a trip by car will be an additional incentive for tourists in the summer period, according to the department. “Vedomosti” sent questions to the Ministry and the operator of Mir cards – the National System of Payment Cards.

A representative of “Avtodor” told “Vedomosti” that the state company supports the return of cashback for travel on toll roads. “Similar programs have a positive impact on the development of domestic automobile tourism in Russia and on the gradual transition of citizens to the use of the Mir payment system,” he noted. At the same time, when in the summer of 2020, at the height of the pandemic, the cashback program was active and the maximum number of cars drove along the M4 for the entire time, no traffic problems were observed, the interlocutor points out. “Thus, it can be said that the roads are ready for a similar scenario in the summer of 2022”, – believes the representative of “Avtodor”.

In a conversation with “Vedomosti” Neverov admitted that the mechanism of compensation for the expenses incurred for socially vulnerable categories of citizens can be applied. It should not be bureaucratized – the benefit should be provided promptly, possibly using the “Gosuslugi” portal, the vice-speaker believes.

Director of the Institute of Transport Economics of HSE National University Mikhail Blinkin considers the return of the cashback program to be “absolute nonsense”. According to him, traffic on the M4 will be at its peak this summer anyway. In 2020, the Mir card cashback program was needed, among other things, to promote the Russian payment card system, but now everyone already has this card, the expert notes.

Social benefits may have some meaning, but in the reality of toll roads it is so difficult and expensive to administer that the initiative will lose all meaning, says Blinkin. In addition, those who retire at the age of 65 and own a car are unlikely to belong to the priority category of recipients of social support, the expert believes. “My answer is no in both positions,” he summarized.

In the conditions when people have practically no alternatives in terms of how to get to the south, it is necessary to introduce benefits, says the vice-president of the National Automobile Union, Anton Shaparin. The prices for travel on toll highways are biting, and when calculating the cost of a trip for two to Sochi by car, it is impossible to save money compared to a flight, he complains. Many of the socially vulnerable groups of the population need a trip to the sanatorium-resort treatment in the south, and they don’t always have good money, says Shaparin. He considers it possible to fix the benefit on a permanent basis through the Social Insurance Fund.

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