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BAM gives demography lessons

EastRussia dealt with the paradox of growth in cargo traffic and population decline

The demographic situation in the area of ​​the Baikal-Amur Mainline continues to deteriorate, although the state is still ready to invest heavily in increasing the capacity of the road - this is one of the main ways to export high-yield goods through the Far East for export. How many thousands of people lost the BAM zone during the post-perestroika years, and EastRussia could understand what might have kept the remaining ones.

BAM gives demography lessons
Photo: TASS
According to the draft program for the development of the Eastern Range of Railways, by 2025 the annual throughput of the Trans-Siberian and Baikal-Amur Mainlines will exceed 200 million tons (now about 100 million tons of cargo arrive at the Far Eastern ports by rail). The state is investing huge sums of money in the modernization of infrastructure, but at least in the case of the BAM, it risks facing a big problem: there will be no one to serve the growing freight traffic. According to the Russian Railways commission, which examined the BAM zone, over the past few years, about 8,5 people have left the areas where the highway passes. People are leaving because of high consumer prices and utility tariffs, weak social infrastructure. 

BAM connects Transsib with ports of Vanino and Sovetskaya Gavan (Khabarovsk Territory). From Tayshet (Irkutsk Region), the trunk line goes through Bratsk, Ust-Kut, Severobaikalsk (Buryatia), Tynda (Amur Region) and Komsomolsk-on-Amur. In total, in the zone of the mainline there are more than 200 stations and sidings, it passes through 60 settlements, being for many of them the only means of communication. Now the main cargo traffic in BAM is coal, which is exported through the ports of the south of the Far East. 

The BAM zone has been losing population since 90-ies - just like the whole of the Far East. In the main Bamovka settlement of Tynda, for example, in 1991, according to Rosstat, there were 65 thousand people, and on 1 January 2018, there were a total of 33 thousand people. Severobaikalsk for the same period reduced the population from 30 thousand to 23,6 thousand people, Ust-Kut from 62 thousand to 42 thousand people, Taishet from 43 thousand to 33 thousand people, Bratsk from 289 thousand. to 231 thousand people. Komsomolsk-on-Amur in the post-perestroika years lost 71 thousand people, Sovetskaya Gavan - 11 thousand people, Vanino - 6,5 thousand people.

"We looked at the statistics. There was no population growth in any of these settlements over the past five years," said the head of the Amur Region, Vasily Orlov, this summer. "People are gradually leaving, this is an inevitable process, it is extremely difficult to stop it. Only investment projects that will create jobs. A very difficult topic. "

According to railway workers, the share of employees of northern enterprises under the age of 30 decreases every year, that is, there is essentially no influx of young people to BAM. Another age group of workers from 31 to 45 years is fairly stable. But in the next category of personnel, there is an outflow again: after 45, having accumulated funds, many people leave BAM. While they work there, they acquire housing in large settlements. Already, in a number of linear enterprises, there is a shortage of personnel in such large-scale professions as a roadman, electrical signaling and control systems, a mechanic for repairing rolling stock. Moreover, unemployment in the BAM zone is quite low - the population in the near-ground settlements is becoming less.

The occupancy of general educational institutions is reduced, which also poses a big problem. “Dipkun is a small Bamovsky village. The school is not complete, there are only four students in the class where my child studies,” says Natalya Baranova, technician at the Dipkun distance section of the path. “There are no teachers in some subjects. The problem is with additional education. because the future of their child is not indifferent. "

Railway workers are trying to retain staff through higher wages - zonal salary increments and other payments, for example, for professional skills. To provide living space at some BAM stations, technological housing is being built, and at those distances where there is a shortage of personnel, a shift method of work is being developed using the resources of the so-called donor enterprises. But with further growth in traffic, the highway may face more challenges. "Today, the road to all targets for staffing fulfills, overlapping somewhere due to the redeployment of labor resources. But the further the traffic will grow, the number of trains, problem areas will begin to worsen and, unfortunately, we will not be able to cope with the growth of volumes without human hands ", - say in the Far Eastern Railway.

But the key problem of the BAM settlements is the expensive housing and utilities infrastructure: initially, many villages were designed for a much larger population than they are left now, hence the scale of utility facilities and the need to "scatter" the costs of their operation for all remaining residents. The operation of the boiler houses is subsidized by regional authorities, for example, the Amur region spends 400 million rubles annually. on compensation "BAM Utilities". 

Obviously, the consolidation of the population in the zone of the Baikal-Amur Mainline is a joint task of the business and the leadership of the territories: what salary or pay if there is no developed social infrastructure (kindergartens, schools, shops, cultural and sports facilities), people will tend to leave. 

In the meantime, the BAM zone, which is a transit area, has not been greatly favored by the attention of investors and budgets of various levels. So far, the Selemdzhinsky region has the greatest prospects, where in the coming years the Ogodzhinsky coal deposit (up to 10 million tons of coal per year) and gold mining facilities can be developed. In total, new enterprises can give plus 11 thousand jobs - this is more than the entire current population of the region, slightly exceeding 10 thousand people. The Rostec subsidiary developing Ogodja has already promised to build 130 km of roads and railways in the region, which will connect the field and Fevralsk. But such projects in the BAM zone are, unfortunately, isolated, and the state is committed to the development of social infrastructure in the Far East through budgetary investments, primarily in large settlements - centers of socio-economic growth. 
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