The world’s biggest country, in a magazine. Since 1956.
Author: Howard Amos
Page 52 ( 8 pages)
The view from Moscow’s newest passenger railroad is not picturesque.
The Moscow Central Ring Railroad snakes 34 miles past power stations, road junctions and abandoned industrial zones in a circle through Moscow’s middle – a former industrial belt between its historic center and the endless Soviet-era apartment blocks on the outskirts, where most people live.
Dilapidated buildings, construction sites and smokestacks are visible through the windows of the brand new trains, the same model as used to ferry guests around the Black Sea resort of Sochi for Russia’s 2014 Winter Olympics.
But, actually, the railroad is not completely new. It is an upgrade of tracks first laid at the beginning of the twentieth century under Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II. Never really popular, as it was located in what was back then the city’s fringe, the service was stopped; in the post-war Soviet Union it was switched to carrying freight. When the refurbished line was unveiled in a ceremony attended by President Vladimir Putin on September 10 this year, it was the first time it had carried passengers for 80 years.
Trains whizz past the crumbing, but still elegant, tsarist-era stations without stopping. The $1.38 billion revamp included the electrification of the line and the construction of 31 new stations, 17 of which have connections to the metro network. Planners hope it will carry 75 million people in 2016.
While many of those who first rode the trains this fall were joy riders, interested only in trying out the new line while it was free during the first month, several weeks later it is now being used by commuters and is fairly crowded during rush hour. At the end of September, construction workers were laboring intensively to finish many of the stations, which still lack escalators, windows and, in some cases, coats of paint.
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