Moscow Metro

Discussion in 'International Transport' started by Springs Branch, 10 Aug 2015.

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  1. Springs Branch

    Springs Branch Member

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    Over the weekend I saw a TV documentary on "Stalin's Underground Moscow". This included a few sections on the Moscow Metro (including the rumoured Metro 2 which allegedly shadows some of the regular Metro lines).

    Given the Moscow Metro is one of the largest, busiest systems in the world & has a reasonably long history covering several different eras, does anyone know how it stacks up against others like New York, London & Paris? What I mean is, are there any particular quirky, varied, unique or interesting features of its operations which would appeal to an enthusiast?

    A quick trawl of articles by on Tripadvisor seems to say the stations are impressive and it's cheap and extensive, but the trains can be heavily overcrowded, old, dirty, Soviet-era construction and the system is hard to navigate without knowing the Russian alphabet. But these may be the views of western (= American) tourists who aren't used to big city subways in any country.

    Does anyone have experience the nitty-gritty of the Moscow Metro (apart from the famous marble-lined stations, chandeliers & statues) and how it compares to other large-scale city subways?
     
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  3. gordonthemoron

    gordonthemoron Established Member

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    it's very good, nice stations etc, but if you don't know cyrillic you need to count stations
     
  4. jamesontheroad

    jamesontheroad Established Member

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    Metro-2 is an enigmatic facility, the information about which is perhaps now muddied by a lot of conspiracy theorists posting things online. However there have been a few tantalising snapshots (seemingly taken from video film) of battery powered metro cars produced in the nineteen-seventies and eighties but never again seen in circulation (there's one such grab on this supposed map).

    Given the huge expenditure on defence by all major nations during the Cold War, I'd be very surprised if Metro 2 didn't exist, but I think it's a much smaller system than once claimed, perhaps just one line from the Kremlin out to Vnukovo and one of the peripheral nuclear bunkers - and in all likelihood is now mothballed.

    The metro itself is very impressive, built on a much larger scale than anything in Europe. Stations are bigger, grander and escalators move noticeably faster up steeper inclines than in the west. Remember that until the collapse of Communism few people owned or had access to cars, so public transport had a much greater role to play in Russian cities.

    I don't think there is any issue with older metro cars; there are a few new fleets in operation but it is well maintained and very reliable.

    http://metro.ru/ is worth exploring, use Google Chrome for immediate translation which is mostly accurate. There is also some info on Metro 2.

    Edit... one personal anecdote. I've only been to Russia once, in the winter of 1998/99, just as Yeltsin was appearing to teeter. We stayed in the Hotel Cosmos by VDNKh metro on line 6. (A horrible modernist semi-circular tower that hadn't been updated much. We used to get nightly knocks on the door from the house prostitutes who went from door to door offering their services). We would use the metro every evening to explore the city once our dumpy and monosyllabic Intourist guide had clocked off for the night. The most memorable discovery about the metro back then was (and I don't know if this is still the case) that for efficiency and speed of entry/exit, all the ticket barriers were open by default. You would deposit a small plastic token and walk through, and everything was fine. If, however, you were foolish enough to enter without a token, the gates SLAMMED shut on your knees.

    This was a helpful analogy for me, explaining a little about the difference between Russian and Western mentalities. In the west, your ticket opens the door. In Communist Russia, the door is open until you don't have a ticket. And then they break your knees :)
     
    Last edited: 10 Aug 2015
  5. gordonthemoron

    gordonthemoron Established Member

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    presumably, the reason why the metro platforms are so far underground is that the entire system is a nuclear bunker? Like Prague, Budapest, Kiev & Erevan
     
  6. ianhr

    ianhr Member

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    It is very impressive and well worth a visit. It is very extensive, very cheap and very fast.

    American and British engineers were consulted and employed during the earlier phases of it's construction and so it is interesting to look for the evidence of their influence. Some of the wooden panelled escalators, and the use of indirect lighting, are reminiscent of London Transport from the period between ~1930-1960. The trains and the track, and the high speeds are more typically American.

    If you go there do not miss Mayakovskaya station. As someone else has pointed out make sure that you at least teach yourself to read the cyrillic alphabet, it is not really difficult and only takes an hour or two + some practise. Learn a few words of Russian too, it is far easier than French!
     
  7. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Japanese ticket barriers are like that as well, though the closing there is more of an "oi, you know you shouldn't be doing that, right, sir?" than a kneecapping.
     
  8. subria

    subria Member

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    Was in Moscow and St Petersburg there in May this year, and would concur about learning the cyrillic alphabet. There's a few apps out there, and just being able to recognise the characters will aid immensely in determining the direction/destination of the train, especially in Moscow. And once you can recognise the characters, the words can in some cases be very similar in pronunciation to English. And numbers are the same numbers, just pronounced differently.

    Some of the major metro stations now have some English signage, particularly for transfers to the Airport Express main line trains, but these are usually on the floor and might be missed if at rush hour due to crowds. It took a bit longer to navigate, but there are some excellent new maps done by the Lebedev studio, which usefully contain both English and Cyrillic station names, which are very helpful if needing to ask a local (most won't be able to read English) and you can work it out by pointing. :)
    http://www.artlebedev.com/everything/metro/map2/

    The only issue we had was with transfers to other lines in Moscow, to us it wasn't very clear sometimes where the transfer on the platform was at the ends of the platforms, or sometimes neatly hidden away in the middle. Escalators often lead straight out to the exit, so that's another fare to be paid if you have to exit and come back in - fortunately, it's pretty cheap. Other transfers betweens can only occur when using a third line, or you can transfer between first and third lines, but not the second.

    It's really the grandeur of the stations themselves that is the attraction. Free wifi (even for non locals) and mobile reception as well. Not much of an issue with loud phone calls, as the the metro noise is even louder! Everything is barriered on entry, usually not required for exit, and you can use a smart card type ticket, the gate will tell you how many rides you have next.

    St Petersburg has by far the deeper metros of the two, due to geography. Admiralteyskaya is 86m underground (never got there unfortunately), but most of the other stations are at least 50m in most cases. Makes for quite a long escalator ride! English signage is much more prevalent in St Petersburg, and you can get away with out needing to read Cyrillic.
     
  9. ianhr

    ianhr Member

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    Yes, a characteristic of many Soviet period metros in a number of cities is that transfer stations may have different names on each line but the interconnecting subways are generally clearly marked on maps and do not have barriers.

    Incidentally, the word Metro in Russian is pronounced with the stress on the final 'o' and not on the 'e' as in English. Although Russian is spelt phonetically, knowing were to put the stress is one of it's more difficult characteristics as it is rather unpredictable and not usually indicated by stress marks, as in Spanish.

    There is an interesting chapter on the Metro in a new book called "Landscapes of Communism" by Owen Hatherley. Worth reading before, during or after any visit to the former Eastern Bloc, it unusually treats 'Soviet' architecture critically but with some sympathy and understanding for the context in which it evolved.
     
    Last edited: 10 Aug 2015
  10. W-on-Sea

    W-on-Sea Member

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    It is impressive. And by far the most impressive of the five post-Soviet Metros I've travelled on (It should be said that some of the most recent Moscow stations - those built in the last 10 years or so - are possibly the most impressive since the earliest ones)

    - St Petersburg: has artistic highlights in the manner of its Muscovite brother, but a much smaller network, and a lot of it is more modern and done on the cheap.

    - Kiev : very deep, and in places pretty, but much more functional than Moscow or St Petersburg

    - Tbilisi: mostly poky and a bit run-down, although the mural recalling "the Rose Revolution" (presuming it's still there, now that its leader is effectively in exile in Ukraine) at the station the English language announcements call "Liberty Skvare" is worth seeing

    - Yerevan: a small and mostly functional network. Works well but nothing much to see of note!

    I'm glad the old ticket barriers (I'm guessing from the mid-70s-early 80s) have been got rid of - they were open, with an infra-red ray checking anyone walking through them. If you walked through, and didn't put the token in the slot, two prongs of metal would come out and trap you, one at ankle level, one at knee level. This did at least give an accurate impression of Soviet customer service principals!
     
  11. TCDD

    TCDD Member

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    I don't often post on here, but I very much appreciate advice gained here - thank you everyone!
    Having just been on a trip to some those former 'Soviet' cities, I can echo what W-on-Sea observes. The Yerevan Metro is particularly interesting as it was only built in the 80s and has relatively low passenger numbers compared to what it was clearly built to carry. Trains are generally formed of just two cars and run at 5 - 10 min intervals. Some of the cars have been refurbished, but not all. The line also has some above-ground sections, and a short branch, operated by a shuttle.
    Six years ago I also visited Baku. This is very similar to the Tbilisi system, but more money has been spent on the stations, which look a little grander.
    Two interesting things about the 'Soviet' metros are the station design (a large central cavern with platform tunnels to the side) and the 'time since the last train' indicators. Tbilisi also has a countdown to the next train, but this is unusual.
    Outside the former USSR, the Budapest and Praque metros, although in some cases modernised, seem to be of the Soviet type. Stations designs are different and the trains are newer (except on one line in Budapest which has unrefurbished Soviet era cars - I can't recall the line number), but there are a lot of similarities.
    Incidentally, those 'always open' gates are still at large in Yerevan and Kiev and even at some stations in Moscow.
     
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