The Russian government on Monday admitted it had to improve road services after a 190-kilometre traffic jam involving more than 4000 trucks paralysed circulation on a key highway over the weekend.
According to Russian media, some drivers were stuck motionless in a remote part of the M-10 motorway surrounded by forest for up to 44 hours after heavy snow caused the traffic to build up.
Officials said that traffic on the M-10 motorway north of Moscow had been moving normally again since the early hours of Monday but acknowledged more needed to be done to prevent a repeat of the problems.
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, the government pointman on transport issues, said it was clear road services had not worked effectively after traffic built up for 190 kilometres.
"At the start of the snowfall, not even a half of the available technical hardware was used," he told Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
"Many drivers were stuck without provisions and fuel in the middle of a forest. This is not a European road but a Russian one, a forest road," he said.
Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov described the problems as "a good lesson for all the services".
"They need to work on the roads and not in their warm offices," he warned.
Thousands of drivers waited for hours without moving in their lorry cabs Sunday in temperatures of minus five degrees Celsius.
Officials claimed that they had been given enough provisions but Puchkov admitted this had not always been the case.
"We had problems from the point of view of the highway services and ensuring that drivers had food, water and medication," he said.
Puchkov added: "Systems of keeping the drivers informed were not ready."
The traffic jam was caused by a heavy snowfall — unusually severe for early winter — late on Friday and was further complicated when the authorities manoeuvred a snow plough through the vehicles to clear the road.
According to the interior ministry, the traffic jam extended to 190 kilometres and involved more than 4000 trucks.
Medvedev said that the road services needed to work efficiently and prevent such incidents from happening.
But the prime minister appeared to admit that such problems were inevitable given Russia's harsh climatic conditions.
"Drivers need to be prepared for the fact that the weather in our country is very, very complicated and there is always going to be snow," Medvedev said on television.
Traffic police said Monday that average speeds had by late morning returned to the normal 80 kilometres an hour after the vehicles started moving at 2:30am (1030 GMT Sunday).
The M-10 motorway — known as the "Russia" highway — connects Moscow and Saint Petersburg and is one of the busiest in the country. It goes through the Tver region 160 kilometres north of Moscow where the traffic jam was at its worst.
The state RIA Novosti news agency said that by the afternoon a new traffic jam was starting to form on the highway just outside the city of Tver as weather forecasters warned of a heavy evening snowfall.