Paul Goncharoff

Russia is well on its way to becoming the nation of myth! The cast of characters from Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series seem to beckon and welcome to their ranks the various trolls and the like which are popularly (in the west) linked to the Kremlin keep. 

I’ve never met or seen such trolls, but I can definitely confirm that hordes of elves deep in the Moscow underground have been busily tinkering, building and tunneling away. I imagine that Santa, or Father Frost as he is known in these parts must have whispered the secret magic word to them which only a select few can truly understand… that magic power word is ‘infrastructure!’.

While around the world, there are places and areas that take their infrastructure like bridges, roads, ports, railways and the necessary maintenance quite seriously, Asia being a case in point. However many ‘developed’ countries seem to limit their involvement to lip service and kicking the can down the timeline road. After all, investing in, developing, maintaining or refurbishing infrastructure is expensive as hell, but it is still much less costly than when things collapse or progress is impeded.

So what have the elves in Moscow been up to underground? Well, in 2018 seventeen new subway (Metro) stations have opened. These are all new and along new lines crisscrossing and embracing the depths of Moscow with interconnected concentric circles. By 2023, a further 55 stations and 5 line extensions will be added to the system, increasing the length by 134 additional kilometers. So far, all the planned construction and openings have been on schedule and within budget.

In the New Year 2019, a further 14 stations will be commissioned and operational, and 2020 will see an additional 12. The undertaking is significantly large, and the positive effects are already apparent through the ease and efficiency getting around town quickly. 

The key to the plan is the ‘Big Ring Line’ which is still under construction and is 70 kilometers in length with 31 stations. From this new line, passengers will be able to transfer to over 19 other intersecting lines. The Moscow Metro has grown 1.5 times within these past 8 years, and continues to expand in a smart way.

Today the Moscow metro has 222 stations, with total length of lines reaching some 380 kilometers. The new stations will service around 600,000 Moscow residents, and will cut down the amount of time it will take passengers from neighbouring districts to get to the city centre. 

Statistically, the subway system in Moscow has some good points, as timetable fulfillment keeps steady at 99.96%, with a minimum average interval between trains at 90 seconds! As for sexism in the workplace, the system employs 34,792 people, of which 18,291 are male, leaving a paltry 16,448 underground female jobs. Statistics are one thing, the number of females in upper management positions is unknown.

The entire system is Wi-Fi friendly with free service to passengers. Getting in to the station is now by e-cards only which you can buy with cash or credit cards at the station entrances. Most long time visitors and all Muscovites usually buy e-cards called ‘Troika’ which can even be topped up from your online bank account at major Russian banks, or e-pay services like Yandex cash and similar. 

According to the planners, by 2020, ninety-three percent of Moscow residents are supposed to be within comfortable walking distance of a Metro station. Seeing as how Moscow is spread out, this is a needed and necessary goal for what is the largest (by area) city on the European continent.

As a daily user of the transit system, I have already gotten rid of my car, which was a necessity just 10 years ago to reach many places in the city. Today, if I need to head out into the countryside I simply rent online self-drives and use as needed – no parking worries and costs. 

There have been enormous inroads made in the interconnectivity of underground and surface transit inside this metropolis. When I need to get to an appointment where the metro does not service, and have to continue by bus or tram, the extended cost of the bus or tram is automatically discounted on my e-card. Quite simply it is blockchain at work, and working well.

G1EXDE Komsomolskaya subway station in Moscow

I must also add that while many people have said that the Moscow Metro stations are among the most visually beautiful in the world, the new stations are no slouches in comparison and well worth a few rides to visit and ogle.

This is just a New Year’s look at what the elves have been busying themselves with in Moscow, and yet Russia is quite a bit bigger than Moscow. The power word ‘infrastructure’ is working its magic from the Golden Horn bay in Vladivostok, through rail linkages with the One Belt One Road, the Silk Road, the Kerch Strait Bridge and many places in between. It doesn’t take a prophet to foresee that Russia is looking forward, and investing on plans to be ahead of the growth curve for this 21stcentury.