MOSCOW, December 2 (RIA Novosti) – A gigantic traffic jam on the snowbound main highway linking Moscow and St. Petersburg that began on Friday was still 34 miles long early in the evening on Sunday, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry’s State Automobile Inspectorate said.
Highway M-10 was hit with three feet of snow late last week causing massive jams in both directions.
Earlier media reports estimated that the traffic jams, centered about 30 miles northwest of the city of Tver, were still about 125 miles long on Sunday afternoon.
However, the State Automobile Inspectorate spokesman said the length of the jams was decreasing at a rate of three-four miles every hour.
But that fell far short of the “normalization” in travel on the M-10 that the Emergencies Ministry had said would take hold by 6:00 p.m.
“Travel remains stop-and-go for a stretch of between 135 and 190 kilometers (84-118 miles) on M-10 in Tver Region. One lane in each direction is clear of snow. Trucks are moving at roughly 5-10 kilometers per hour (3-6 mph),” the spokesman said, implying that trucks face a travel time of at least 13.5 hours to pass through the jam.
Truckers and motorists stuck in the jams – some for a third day – complain of price gouging by roadside cafes, filling stations that are running out of gasoline and a lack of assistance from the authorities, according to user comments on the Tvernews website and the social networking site Vkontakte.
The Emergencies Ministry has taken note: along with warming stations and hot food distribution, it has set up a psychological support hotline for stranded motorists who are having trouble coping with the situation.
Earlier in the day, Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov toured the hard-hit areas – Tver, Novgorod and Leningrad regions – by helicopter.
“(Puchkov) is making sure that all necessary measures are being taken and that all vital personnel in afflicted regions have everything they need, particularly for the warming stations and hot food distribution along the highway,” a ministry spokesman said.
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin got into the act on Sunday afternoon with a request for information about the situation.
“Send me fresh information about the problems on the M-10 and other roads too. I expect a consolidated report from the Emergencies Ministry tomorrow morning, but I want to double-check everything,” Rogozin said on his Twitter account on Sunday.
Later on Sunday the Emergencies Ministry said: “The entire length of the M-10 highway is open to car and bus traffic.” The report also noted that travel was “impeded” along two segments of the highway in Tver region totaling about 40 miles.