Metro closures cause huge delays for commuters

By Tanya Magullin

St Petersburg's transport system was in a state of chaos last week after the indefinite closure of four Metro stations on the city's Kirovskso-Vyborgskaya line.

What was a simple trip to work two weeks ago has become an overcrowded, sluggish nightmare crawl for millions of people in the city's north and northwest after last Monday's suspension of services between Ploshchad Lenina and Akademicheskaya Metro stations.

Other means of transport are now incredibly crowded, including the Moskovsko-Petrogradskaya Metro line which serves the city's north and northeastern suburbs.

Trips that usually take 45 minutes can now take up to three hours at peak times.

St Petersburg Metro authorities said the closing of the four Metro stations -- Vyborgskaya, Lesnaya, Ploshchad Muzhestva and Politekhnicheskaya -- was caused by a sudden increase in pressure from the underground river that runs through the area.

The Metro tunnel was damaged between Metro stations Lesnaya and Ploshchad Muzhestva, letting in sand and some water.

In this area, the tunnel was subsiding at a speed 150 times the safety limit, a spokesperson from St Petersburg Metropolitan, the company which runs the city's Metro system, said.

Emergency repairs to reinforce the structure of the Metro tunnels and halt the influx of sand and water are underway.

The company's main engineer Nicole Firsova said, "Nobody can make any predictions at the moment."

"The situation is under control. But we can't struggle with the elements. We can't see what they will do next," she added.

The Metro closures have been disastrous for the Kalininsky and Vyborgsky districts in the northwest of city, where people have always suffered from a lack of transport.

These so-called "sleeping districts," with no industry plants are popular with many young families because of lower levels of pollution and cheaper rents.

Valentina Chirkova, a mother of two, lives close to Ploshchad Muzhestva. She used to take her daughter to school by tram before traveling to Chernyshevskaya to start work there at 9 am.

Now, she spends double the normal time walking her daughter to school because the tram is impossibly full. Ms Chirkova must then catch a bus to a Metro station on the Moskovsko-Petrogradskaya line station -- often it takes her three attempts before she can squeeze herself onto a bus.

"I get tired before I get to my job," Ms Chirkova said.

She is one of millions who already bought a monthly Metro card and must now pay again to use other types of transport.

Many have expressed discontent that the city administration is charging for the express buses they arranged.

The city transport department has announced that people can get a refund for the metro-card, but not for the all-transport card which includes metro usage.

The section that was closed last week had been under repair late at night and on weekends for several months before the sudden pressure increase forced the closure.

© 1995 St Petersburg Press

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