Friday, 29 July 2011

Saint Petersburg Metro

Sunday 24th July 2011

Route Map of the Saint Petersburg Metro. (Larger image).

After the morning organised visit to the Peterhof, in the afternoon I briefly explored the Saint Petersburg Metro on my own. Any journey costs 25 Roubles and all stations have one or more staffed ticket windows where you can purchase the necessary coin token. There were a few automatic ticket machines but I never worked out quite how they worked. Moscow Metro uses credit-card sized printed tickets but Saint Petersburg uses coin tokens similar to those I found in Kiev a few years ago. The automatic gates themselves which give access to the platforms are similar to Metro systems the world over.

Russian Metros seem to run quite deep - 70 metres below ground is typical. Descending to platform level usually involves one long escalator and steps or a short escalator. Each station is formed from three parallel tunnels - two outside tunnels for the tracks and a central concourse tunnel for passenger access which is sometimes highly decorated. At many stations there are platform edge doors so you can only hear the arriving trains. The row of heavy steel doors set in arches either side of the concourse tunnel rather gives the impression of a prison. At other stations, the arches allow you to walk through to a conventional platform which shares the tunnel bore with the track. Digital displays are often provided on the end walls of the concourse showing how long has elapsed since the previous train departed. Even on a Sunday, trains were running every two or three minutes.

There are now five separate Metro lines in St. Petersburg, all end-to-end, with seven interchange stations. The lines are known as M1 to M5, but always using a stylised 'M' looking like a letter 'V' in a tunnel - (V). All signage, of course, is in Russian using Cyrillic characters. In the city centre, many signs also carry station names or other clues in the 'Romanised' or 'Latinised' form but away from the city centre Cyrillic rules. To add to my confusion, interchange stations have a separate name on each line. I started my tour at Gostiny Dvor on Line 3: had I walked through the pedestrian tunnel to Line 2, I would have been at Nevsky Prospekt.

My first trip took me just one stop on Line 3 to the interchange station of Mayakovskaya/Ploshchad Vosstaniya where I emerged to look for 'Moscow Station' - the main line railway station for trains to Moscow. I spent a happy half hour wandering around this station before returning underground to continue my Metro tour. This time, I took Line 1 for two stations to reach the interchange station of Pushkinskaya/Zvenigorodskaya. The rolling stock on lines 1 and 3 had been the fairly basic Russian Metro design but, transferring to the later Line 5, more modern trains were in use and there was a lot of electronics in the driver's cab. I only travelled one stop to the three-way interchange of Sadovaya/Sennaya Ploshchad/Spasskaya. Wandering through the pedestrian tunnels, I was amused to find a pair of double doors labelled in Russian and in English 'Spasskaya Telecontrol Centre' which I assume was a signalling control room. This time, my journey took me three stops on Line 4 to my final interchange of Ploshchad Aleksandra Nevskogo. Oddly, the two stations here share the same name, with a suffix 'I' or 'II'. Three stops on Line 3 took me to Proletarskaya. Here I was to get the Shuttle Bus back to my ship at the river terminal. Worried that I would miss the bus, I panted up the long escalator, crossed the main road and panted along the street opposite which I hoped would lead to the bus stop. Fortunately, it did and the bus set off a few seconds after I boarded. A rather breathess end to an interesting tour.

My rather indifferent pictures of the Saint Petersburg Metro are here.

My equally indifferent pictures of Moscow's Metro are here.