Russia's vast size and the great distances that often separate sources of raw materials and foodstuff's from consuming areas place a heavy burden on the transport system. One result has been the continuing dominance of the railways, which account for about 90 percent of the country's freight turnover (60 percent if pipelines are included) and half of all passenger movement. Nevertheless, the rail network is a very open one, and its density varies regionally: highest in the Northwest, Central, and Central Black Earth regions; lowest in Siberia and the Far East. Indeed, east of the Urals the term "network" is a misnomer, since the system consists of only a few major trunk routes (e.g.. the Trans-Siberian Railroad and Baikal-Amur Mainline) with feeder branches to sites of economic importance. Russian railways are among the world's leading freight carriers, the line from the Kuznetsk to the Urals being especially prominent.
Apart from highways linking the major cities of European Russia, the road system is underdeveloped and carries only a tiny fraction of the freight. A much greater volume, in fact, is carried by inland waterways. Although the greatest volume is carried on the Volga system, river transport is most vital in areas devoid of railways.
In addition to its vital role in foreign trade, maritime transport also has some importance in linking the various regions of Russia, particularly those that face the Arctic seaboard. Traffic on the Arctic Ocean route is seasonal.
Air transport plays an increasingly important role. Russian airlines carry only a minute fraction of all freight, chiefly high-value items to and from the remote parts of Siberia, where aircraft are sometimes the only means of transport. Airlines are responsible for nearly one-fifth of all passenger movement. Aeroflot, the largest airline in the world, formerly the state airline of the Soviet Union, carries more than 80 million passengers a year. Rail.Russia is heavily dependent for freight transport on its railways. The hub of this network is the capital. Trunk lines radiate out from the city in all directions. The first in operation was the St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) line, opened in 1851. Others include the Savyolovo line, running north to the Volga and on as a secondary route to St. Petersburg; the Yaroslav line, which is connected by way of the Trans-Siberian route to Vladivostok; the Nizhny Novgorod line, linked to Kirov; the Kazan line, the most direct route to the Urals and Siberia; the Ryazan line, leading to Central Asia and the Caucasus; he Pavelets line, a secondary route to the European south and the Caucasus; the Kursk line, the main route south to the Crimea; the Kiev line to the southwest; the Smolensk line to Minsk, Warsaw, and Berlin; and the Riga line to the Baltic. The most heavily used of these lines are now electrified—notably those to St. Petersburg, Kiev, the Donbass, and the Trans-Siberian—as are all suburban-; lines, which carry the heavy commuter traffic. To link the radial lines the Moscow Little Ring Railway was built in 1908 within the city; this has been supplemented by the Greater Moscow Ring Railway at a distance of some 25 to 40 miles from the city.
Waterways.Moscow is also a major river port. The canalised Moskva can take only smaller craft, but the Moscow Canal, built in 1932-37, can take ships of seagoing size. The canal runs from the Moskva, upstream of the city, northward to the Khimki and Ucha reservoirs and, continuing northward, through the Klin-Dmitrov Ridge to the Volga at Ivankovo. The Volga's various canal links open up Moscow to all the seas bordering European Russia. The capital has three large river ports mainly for freight and two terminals for passengers that are part of the urban transit system.
Air.Moscow is similarly the hub of the Russian airline network, and the number of passengers rises steadily each year. Four airports operate in the Moscow area. Sheremetyevo-2 to the north is the main airport for international flights, with direct links to most European capitals and to Havana, New York City, Montreal, Tokyo, and other foreign cities. Sheremetyevo-1 handles mostly domestic flights, as does Vnukovo, 15 miles to the Southwest. Other domestic airports are Bykovo, 20 miles to the Southeast and Domodedovo, 28 miles to the south.