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Moscow Is About to Open an Enormous New Top-Notch Commuter Line

By revamping an old city rail line used for moving cargo, Moscow is about to take public transportation to the next level

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

The idea of building a ring railroad in Moscow is not new.

The first to suggest it was Sergei Witte, Finance Minister of the Russian Empire, more than a hundred years ago. On November 7, 1897, Tsar Nicholas II ordered the construction of the Small Ring Railroad. In 1903, building started. The stations were planned in modernist style. The roof tiles were purchased in Warsaw; the clocks from the the famous Swiss company Pavel Bure. The buildings were furnished with electricity. Inside, Dutch and Russian heaters were installed. 

Yet contrary to all expectations, the public did not take to the new mode of transport. The high price of tickets scared away potential passengers. After the prices were adjusted, the Ring Railroad received more workers and employees. But once Moscow's districts obtained streetcar and bus routes in the 1920s, the passenger traffic on the Ring was stopped. It then served only to transport goods. 

Workers of the Russian railroad, 1939

The resumption of passenger traffic was a frequent topic during the Soviet period. But on account of the high volume of cargo traffic and the construction requirements, making the line usable for riders again was not so easy. It wasn't until 2011 that the city authorities once again took up the task of integrating the Ring Railroad with the Moscow's transportation network.

And now it's finally here: on the 10th of September, the new Ring will open. The Ring Line will serve as Moscow's counterpart to the London Overground, the German S-Bahn, the Austrian Stadtbahn, the French RER, the Italian Passante and the Hungarian HEV. 

Riders on the new line will travel in style and comfort

German Technology and High Comfort

As rolling stock, the Ring Line will make use of the "Lastochka" (Trans. Swallow) cars developed by the German company Siemens for the Russian Railways. They were used during the Olympic Games in Sochi, and are already in use in the oblasts of Moscow and Leningrad. 130 Lastochka train pairs will be in use daily. 

The cars are bigger than those of the Moscow Metro, and they are wider and there are fewer seats. They are equipped with toilets, air conditioning, TV screens and places for strollers and bicycles. The trains are also equipped with electrical sockets for charging mobile phones and their own WLAN network. Every train will consist of 5 cars, and will be capable of accepting up to 1,250 passengers. Payment will be handled using the same rider cards used for the Metro. The reloadable "Troika" card can also be used. 

A plan of the new Moscow Ring Line

The Ring Line will serve a total of 31 stations. Each one has direct access to bus or train stations, while 17 have access to Metro stations. 11 stations are integrated with the Metro - what Metro engineers call "keeping dry feet." 10 stations will offer a connection to electric suburban trains. According to the city authorities, a transfer should not take more than 8 minutes. The trains will run on an interval of 5 to 6 minutes during periods of heavy traffic, and 10 to 15 minutes at other times. Like the Metro, the Ring will be open from 0600 to 0100 daily.

According to estimates, the ring line of the Metro (not to be confused with the new above ground Ring line) is expected to be relieved of 15 percent of its traffic, and the train stations about 40 percent. For the residents of the Moscow area, the advantage is that they will no longer need to drive to train stations, in order to access the Metro. They can take the new Ring line. Experts expect this to cut the average journey by 20 minutes.

Millions of Muscovites are expected to use the new line in the future, with up to 400,000 riders each day. In total, the Central Ring should carry up to 300 million passengers a year. 

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