Beleaguered Metro Line To Receive Aid, at Last

Charles Digges

09/07/96

Nearly eight months after a main city Metro line collapsed with no hope of repair in sight, Metro officials announced Thursday that a reconstruction effort will finally get underway before the end of the year.

Nikolai Kalugin, director of Metrogitprotrans, the Metro's engineering branch, said the Danish Geotechnological Institute in Copenhagen will send engineers to St Petersburg before the end of September to conduct soil and geological recommendations, the first major headway made since the Kirov-Vyborg line collapsed after a flood last December.

We have been working for eight months to get the reconstruction project going and this is a major victory, said Kalugin in a telephone interview.

Although the Metro is still far from announcing a reopening date for the flooded-out line, Kalugin said the Danes' assistance will have reconstruction on the flooded underway before the end of the year.

Niels Ovesen of the Danish Geotechnological Institute in Copenhagen confirmed Thursday in a telephone interview that the institute had signed a deal with Metrogiprotrans and that he would be sending two engineers to conduct "penetration-sounding operations" in the ground surrounding the collapsed tunnel.

These studies are crucial and must be conducted before any construction can begin, he said.

Kalugin said a down-payment of $100,000 had been advanced to the Danish institute toward the total cost of the analysis project but would not give a figure on the total cost.

The money for the rest of the project is here and we are ready to go forward, he said.

Ovesen said his institute's work would take approximately three weeks.

Riders on the No. 80 bus, which has been shuttling passengers across the route of the collapsed tunnel between Lesnaya and Ploshchad Muzhestva stations, reacted with relief and even stunned disbelief at the news that an end might be in sight to their extended commute.

My commute everyday is three hours long and this bus has simply become a part of my life, said Vera Smirnov, whose apartment at Akademicheskaya was cut off from the city center when the Metro line collapsed last December.

I certainly am not going to miss this bus though, she added.

I have had it up to here with this bus, said another rider indicating her ears, refusing to give her name.

I am glad they are taking steps to fix the problem finally, but I won't be happy until I hear an apology from the government, she added.

Another rider, who would not give his name, reacted with disbelief and hostility to news that progress is being made.

Don't tell me that, do you want me to have a heart attack? he said.

The down payment received by the Danes, according to Kalugin, was in part funded by the federal government, partially fulfilling a long-time promise from St Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev to finance the repairs from Kremlin coffers. Kalugin would not say how much federal money was involved.

The Kremlin Press Office in Moscow confirmed that the deal was financed in part by the federal government, but likewise declined comment on the exact amount.

The news comes on the heels of a fare hike announced last week by Vice Governor Dmitry Sergeyev who said transportation costs would rise slightly to raise revenue for the repair project.

Sergeyev said the exact amount of the fare increase had not been determined but Severo-Zapad news agency reported that Metro fares would rise from 1,200 rubles to 1,500 rubles in September.

A 480-meter section of the tunnel between the northeastern St Petersburg stations of Ploshchad Muzhestva and Lesnaya caved in and flooded last December, cutting off nearly half a million residents from the city center.

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