How Moscow’s new light rail system will make life easier for passengers

The Lastochka electric train takes a test run on Moscow Belt Railway. The Lastochka is a rapid electric train designed for Russian railways on the Siemens Desiro platform.

The Lastochka electric train takes a test run on Moscow Belt Railway. The Lastochka is a rapid electric train designed for Russian railways on the Siemens Desiro platform.

Maxim Blinov / RIA Novosti
Around 100 years since the idea of building a ring railway in Moscow was first proposed, it has finally become a reality. The Russian capital’s new transport network, the Moscow Central Ring, will reduce commuter loads on rail hubs and metro stations around the city.

Moscow is about to take another large step in its never-ending battle to keep up with the demand for transport infrastructure as the city continues to expand. A new light overland railway system will allow commuters to be able to change onto city transport without traveling into the center of Moscow.

The Moscow Central Ring (MTsK), an equivalent of Germany’s S-Bahn and the London Overground, will open in the Russian capital on Sept. 10. New carriages, equipped with free Wi-Fi, will be able to transport up to 400,000 passengers daily, which will make it possible to reduce the load on the Moscow subway network – the Moscow metro – by 15 percent and cut an average journey by 20 minutes.

"We need to break in this system, see how convenient it is for passengers, what problems there are. It’s an enormous infrastructure. We hope it will occupy a worthy place [in the city’s transport network], if not immediately, then in a couple of years,” said Moscow mayor Sobyanin in an interview with the TV channel NTV.

The Lastochka electric train takes a test run on the Moscow Central Ring. The Lastochka is a rapid electric train designed for Russian railways on the Siemens Desiro platform. Source: Maxim Blinov/RIA NovostiThe Lastochka electric train takes a test run on the Moscow Central Ring. The Lastochka is a rapid electric train designed for Russian railways on the Siemens Desiro platform. Source: Maxim Blinov/RIA Novosti

The MTsK will use Lastochka carriages made by the Siemens corporation especially for Russian Railways. They were used during the Sochi Olympics and are currently employed on commuter services from Moscow’s Leningradsky and several other stations. The MTsK will use 130 pairs of the cars daily.

The Lastochka carriages are bigger than those used on the Moscow metro: They are wider and have fewer seats, but they also have toilets, climate control, screen monitors, and additional space for prams and bicycles, as well as Wi-Fi and power points for gadget chargers. Each train will have five of the carriages and will be able to accommodate 1,250 passengers.

The MTsK will use the same tickets as the Moscow Metro and other means of public transport in the city, including the Troika travel card, though Sobyanin announced (in Russian) on his Twitter account on Aug. 30 that travel on the new network will be free for the first month after its launch.

Visitors outside the Moscow Central Ring mount at the Moscow Urban Forum in the Manege exhibition hall, Moscow. Source: Evgeny Biyatov/RIA NovostiVisitors outside the Moscow Central Ring mount at the Moscow Urban Forum in the Manege exhibition hall, Moscow. Source: Evgeny Biyatov/RIA Novosti

What should Moscow residents expect?

The Moscow Central Ring will consist of 31 transit hubs, each of which will be linked up to public transport stops and 17 to stations on the Moscow metro. Eleven of these stops will have covered galleries for changing to Metro lines: Engineers call this the “dry feet” principle. Ten MTsK stops will be connected to commuter train services. The city authorities promise that an average change between stops will take not more than eight minutes.

Trains will run at an interval of five-six minutes at peak times and 10-15 minutes the rest of the day. MTsK working hours will be the same as for Moscow Metro: from 6:00 a.m. until 1 a.m.

The Moscow Central Ring opens in September. Source: Sergei Savostyanov/TASSThe Moscow Central Ring opens in September. Source: Sergei Savostyanov/TASS

The MTsK is expected to ease the load on the circle line of the Moscow metro by 15 percent and on Moscow railway terminals by 40 percent, since commuters will no longer have to reach them in order to change for the metro as they will now be able to use the MTsK instead. The designers behind the project estimate that with the MTsK, the average journey in greater Moscow will become 20 minutes shorter.

Since for several million Muscovites, the MTsK will become their nearest public transport stop, by the end of this year Moscow commuter trains will be able to receive up to 400,000 passengers a day. Overall, the MTsK is expected to have an annual passenger flow of up to 300 million people. 

A 100-year-old idea

The idea to build a ring railway in the city is not new. It was first broached by the Russian imperial finance minister, Sergei Witte, more than 100 years ago. On Nov. 7, 1897, Tsar Nicholas II ordered the creation of a Small Ring Railway, construction of which began in 1903. Roof tiles for its Art Nouveau station pavilions were brought from Warsaw and clocks purchased from the renowned Swiss maker Paul Buhre. The stations had electricity and were fitted with stoves.

However, contrary to expectations, the railway was not an instant success. High ticket prices put many passengers off. The pricing policy was revised and up till 1917, the Small Ring Railway served the needs of numerous Moscow workers and civil servants.

Stalin railway shop of the October railroad in Moscow, 1939. Source: Anatoliy Garanin/RIA NovostiStalin railway shop of the October railroad in Moscow, 1939. Source: Anatoliy Garanin/RIA Novosti

Yet, after the 1920s, when the districts covered by the ring railway were connected to tram and bus services, the railway was no longer used to transport passengers and served only for cargos.

In Soviet times, there was much talk of reviving the MTsK as a means of public transport. However, its heavy use in cargo transportation and some of its construction features did not make it possible to easily and quickly convert the line for passenger carriages.

Red Army reserve soldiers moving to the front from the Moscow region, USSR, in 1941. Source: Arkady Shaikhet (Reproduction)Red Army reserve soldiers moving to the front from the Moscow region, USSR, in 1941. Source: Arkady Shaikhet (Reproduction)

It was only in 2011 that the city authorities approved the integration of the ring railway into the Moscow public transport system. Once the project is fully implemented, the MTsK will become a fully-fledged equivalent of the London Overground, Germany’s S-bahn, Austria’s Stadtbahn, France’s RER, Italy’s Passante, and Hungary’s HEV.

Read more: Moscow Metro launches Soyuzmultfilm train>>>

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