Reinventing the wheel: How to spend billion rubles on analogue of Yandex-Traffic Jams 

Reinventing the wheel: How to spend billion rubles on analogue of Yandex-Traffic Jams

A spare billion of rubles has been found in the Sverdlovsk regional budget. It will be spent on creation of analogues of Yandex-Traffic Jams, Yandex-Maps, and other critically-needed things.

The Sverdlovsk region is preparing for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. While Dmitry Pumpyansky is finishing the construction of a multibillion Central Stadium in Ekaterinburg, regional officials have decided to make their own – a pretty generous – contribution to this event. The Ministry of Transportation and Communication of the Sverdlovsk Region has suddenly remembered that the Candidature File of the Russian Federation for the 2018 FIFA World Cup included a chapter dedicated to the championship transportation infrastructure.  

Yandex a la Sverdlovsk

One of the two major issues of Russia is to be resolved in Ekaterinburg on an unprecedented scale: a municipal center for passenger transportation management will be created. By the way, the FIFA never requested anything like this, but the Ministry of Transportation and Communication of the Sverdlovsk Region is already on the way and can not be stopped. For such an occasion, it has even ignored the Federal Law “On Local Self-Government in the Russian Federation”, according to which, matters related to road construction and transportation infrastructure shall be handled by municipal authorities. So, what is the Regional Ministry’s project about?

The municipal center for passenger transportation management will become a global system for electronic control of the whole city transportation network. However, many innovations planned by the Regional Ministry of Transportation and Communication already exist and run successfully. It looks like the officials decided to copy all Yandex services – with a few slight improvements.

The Annex to the Terms of Reference includes a list of functions for the future street and road network monitoring system – which, in fact, is a sophisticated version of Yandex-Maps with panoramic views. The last function of this smar’ system is especially interesting: transferring all information to the existing Street and Road Network Automated Information System. In other words, everything could be left ‘as is’ but in anticipation of the championship, the Government of the Sverdlovsk Region decided to throw a feast.

 Фрагмент-ТЗ-1

On the photo: Screenshot from the Terms of Reference showing functions of the system 

The Street and Road Network Monitoring System (SRNMS) must fulfil the following functions:

- collect the following information on the condition of geometrical parameters of the roads and roadside objects:

- length of the median strip;

- position of the road on a plane;

- radiuses of curves and turning angles on the plan;

- longitude inclinations and radiuses of overt and inverted curves;

- transverse slopes;

- line-of-sight distances;

- wheel tracking and transverse evenness of the traffic way;

- roadbed transverse section;

- longitude evenness according to the profile leveling method (Governmental Standard 30412-96) or according to the International Roughness Index (IRI);

- absolute coordinates of roadside objects;

- information on condition of road facilities;

- 3D digital model of the road surface and roadside;

- transfer the information to the System Information for Windows (SIW) in the format and contents suitable for its use by other Information Transportation System (ITS) elements and the existing Street and Road Network Automated Information System of Ekaterinburg.

SRNMS must interact with other ITS elements in accordance with the description below:

- SRNMS interacts with SIW while performing its functions. The interaction is performed by the data import and export transfer system.

- The interaction is based on information transfer channels of the Station for Information Receipt and Processing (SIRP) between SIW and SRNMS server systems (data import and export transfer system).

- In the interaction between the data export transfer system and the data import module, SIW must be the SIW initiator for the interaction. 

Furthermore, one of the global monitoring modules will collect information on traffic jams, congestions, and accidents and transfer it to the web-site and mobile application of the system. Seems familiar? Isn’t it a clone of Yandex-Traffic Jams? The same module will send information on emergencies. Apparently, up until now officers of the Ministry of the Russian Federation for Civil Defence, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters had to type text messages manually...

Фрагмент ТЗ 2

On the photo: Screenshot from the Terms of Reference showing functions of the system 

The Information System must ensure:

- Availability of ITS information about schedules, routes, loads, estimated times of public transit arrival to the stops, disruptions of traffic, and detours of public transit – through information displays on public transit stops, Internet web-site, and through API interface for Internet (mobile) apps;

- About addresses of parking lots equipped with SU PP and availability of vacant spots – through the Internet web-site and through API interface for Internet (mobile) apps;

- About the transport situation in the SRN (traffic jams, accidents, closures, congestions) and recommended routes – through the Internet web-site, through API interface for Internet (mobile) apps, and on information displays at route selection interchanges;

- About the transport situation in the SRN (traffic jams, accidents, closures, congestions) and recommended routes – through RDS-TMC voice notifications broadcast by an FM radio station in Ekaterinburg;

- Transmission of emergency alerts by all information channels

The same application of the municipal center for passenger transportation management will offer Ekaterinburg residents information about available parking spots (best regards to ‘Parking in Ekaterinburg’), public transit schedules, and weather forecast. Taking that the regional debt to the federal budget is 60 billion rubles, the last two modules seem especially relevant and necessary. The total cost of the municipal center for passenger transportation management is already estimated at 1 billion rubles. 

So, what is the purpose of this regional-scale plagiarism? Apparently, to make a good use of as much budget funds as possible. Reinventing the wheel is a pretty costly undertaking. For example, only the schematic design of the center for passenger transportation would cost 24 million rubles. It might seem that the Terms of Reference and its Annexes provide all the required details, and now it is up to programmers to complete the job – but this is not true. The Ministry of Transportation and Communication of the Sverdlovsk Region has decided that visualization is important as well. Therefore, 24 millions will be spent to produce a spectacular presentation with cars, parking lots, and happy commuters on public transit stops.

All roads lead to... Rostelecom

The sketches must not disappoint – neither the government, nor FIFA (who, basically, has no need in this large-scale project). Such a responsible task was assigned to Rostelecom Public Joint-Stock Company. As many as eleven companies participated in the tender, but the client, Electronic Government Operator State Budgetary Institution, has made every effort to ensure the victory of Rostelecom. To achieve this, the bidders were assessed using an innovative valuation system. Every proposal was evaluated against two criteria: cost of works and personnel qualification – and the pricing factor provided only 30% to the final score. We are not rich enough to sign cheap contracts. As a result, Dialog-Ekaterinburg Limited Liability Company – the bidder offering the lowest price of 15 million rubles – received a very low final score.

Участники закупки

Document: Bidders participating in the tender 

The personnel qualification criterion was assessed using a sophisticated valuation system as well. The score was determined by the industry-specific education and relevant experience (provided only 5%). In other words, the main factor was a higher education diploma, not practical skills. As a result, 2495 Rostelecom employees – even having no experience in transportation projects – have outweighed all advantages of their competitors. 

A love affair between the Ministry of Transportation and Communication of the Sverdlovsk Region and Rostelecom began after Sergey Frolov, the former Director of the Ural Macroregional Branch of Rostelecom Open Joint-Stock Company, has started employment with the Ministry. Frolov was responsible for digital TV development, the Multifunctional Center of Governmental Services, and introduction of the almost forgotten Universal Electronic Card. Rostelecom had actively participated in all these projects. The Ministry was awarding governmental contracts to two branches of the company. It is necessary to note that most works under these contracts had been delegated to subcontractors.

For example, one of the most expensive Ministerial contracts – over 58 million rubles – in the framework of the Electronic Government creation was subcontracted to Advanced Transformation Consulting. Rostelecom has charged 14 million rubles for its intermediary services. Then Rostelecom has won another – traditional for IT acquisitions – tender for the information systems refinement with the cost of 31.3 million rubles. The same company was again retained as a subcontractor by Rostelecom – simultaneously acting as its fictional competitor in the governmental tenders. Apparently, Sergey Frolov was directly related to the wins of these two companies in the tenders conducted by the Ministry of Transportation and Communication of the Sverdlovsk Region. Last year Frolov has resigned from the Ministry at his own will – although there were more than enough reasons for his dismissal.

Sill, the cooperation between the Ministry of Transportation and Communication and Rostelecom continues smoothly. Most probably, production of the schematic design for the center for passenger transportation would be delegated to a subcontractor as early as this fall. It is easy to predict what company will be retained. Winners of the governmental tenders are adamant in their intention to reinvent services already provided by the popular search engine; their slogan is: “We will spend it all. Over time”.

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