Moscow metro fire puts focus on transport in city election

on a busy stretch of a metro line in central Moscow was halted twice for a total of five
hours on Wednesday as underground power cable ignited in the tunnel in two
separate locations in the morning and in the afternoon.

incidents left dozens of people seeking medical attention over carbon monoxide
inhalation, caused massive transport disruption and made thousands of commuters
walk to work.

Sergey Sobyanin. Source: Reuters / Vostock Photo

transport chaos came on the day that Mayor Sergei Sobyanin officially submitted
his resignation to President Vladimir Putin, who supported his candidacy in a September
mayoral election – the first in the city for 10 years.

Sobyanin’s resignation and appointing him acting mayor until the election,
Putin told Sobyanin in televised comments: “I ask you to ensure that all of the
city’s services continue working without problem[s].”

was no statement from Sobyanin or City Hall about the metro problems on
Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Moscow
metro’s website simply announced that services had resumed and issued a one-line
statement: “Moscow Metro apologizes to passengers for the inconvenience.”

of Sobyanin’s possible opponents in the election, Yabloko party leader Sergei
Mitrokhin, pointed out that the mayor had praised safety on the metro just
three weeks ago, singling out Okhotny Ryad as a model.

today’s fire in the metro it is clear that these statements were… self-PR, hiding
an extremely ugly reality,” Mitrokhin wrote in a blog on Ekho Moskvy radio. “Today
we can say that the system of fire safety in the Moscow metro is unsatisfactory and could fail
at any time.”

Criticism of the mayor also came from
the liberal online newspaper, which said in an editorial comment: “Instead
of playing political games like early elections, the Moscow mayor should rather
get things in order in the key areas of the city’s economy,” adding: “After
today’s incident, Sergei Sobyanin probably won’t look great in a hardhat as he
inaugurates another metro station during his abruptly announced campaign.”

investment program

has undertaken sweeping reforms since taking over as mayor in 2010, and his administration
plans $55 billion of investment in roads, metro lines and infrastructure to
boost use of public transportation by 45 percent and ease the city’s horrific traffic

addition to Moscow’s
current 188 metro stations, the city government plans the opening of 14 new stations
by the end of this year. Last
year City
Hall announced a plan to sell shares in the metro
to attract capital for development through 2025.


Moscow metro,
the busiest in the world with up to 9 million people journeys per day, has seen
similar smaller incidents twice this year. Some 300 people were evacuated from
a metro station in the latest incident, on May 5, when the third rail, which
powers metro trains, combusted in a tunnel in southeastern Moscow. A total of seven metro system
failures were reported last year.

in any of the central stations usually cause inconvenience for commuters,
overload nearby stations, and take a while to complete. For instance, it took
14 months to replace 60-year-old escalators and turnstiles and to refurbish the
vestibule at Park Kultury station recently.

before evacuation


Fire and short circuit close Moscow metro stations for hours

Dozens injured in Moscow metro fire

Central Moscow subway stations closed due to fire

response is yet to be revised as well. On the morning of June 5, hundreds of
passengers were trapped for up to an hour in unconditioned trains in the tunnel
during rush hour before they were evacuated. No explanation about the cause of
congestion was provided to the passengers through the loudspeaker systems,
leading some of them to presume that the metro was attacked by terrorists.

opened the RIA Novosti website and read out loud the news about fire at Okhotny
Ryad. A spry lady shouted ‘A fire on the metro!’ and her neighbor peeped ‘A
terrorist attack!,’” Natalya Bem, who got stuck on a train near the Park
Kultury station [three stops from Okhotny Ryad station, near which power cable
combusted] wrote on her Facebook page.

The Moscow metro fire resulted in the mass evacuation of passengers. Source: RIA Novosti / Youtube 

to 5,000 people were reported to have been evacuated from eight stations by
Wednesday afternoon.

case of combustion the only people in charge are the train driver and the
station assistant,” Svetlana Razina, the leader of the union of metro workers,
told Moskovskiye Novosti newspaper. “According to the rules, a train driver is
to report about combustion to a dispatcher, and after the train is powered off,
he goes through each of the cars to open the doors between them to let people
out through the driving cab.”

Need for information

making it outside, people had to figure out on their own how to get to work or
to school.

staff of the metro didn’t explain to people where they should go and what
stations in the vicinity they can use,” a member of the Public Safety Commission
of the Public Chamber of Russia, Dmitry Galochkin, told RIA Novosti news
agency. “There should be information boards or flat screens near metro exits
saying what public transport is available in the area.”

called for upgrading the fire-safety system on the metro and improving the
emergency alert system to provide passengers with relevant information, such as
alternative public transport routes. He also stressed the need to ensure that
mobile operators send out notifications to their clients in case of emergency.
On Wednesday morning some passengers reported receiving such notifications,
while others said they didn’t.

terrorist threats and the dilapidation of equipment, the management of the
metro now needs to overhaul the underground fire prevention and alarm systems,”
Galochkin said. “It’s also important to develop safety culture so that people
would know what to do in an emergency. It’s something that should be studied at

Transport in Russia

Moscow City Prosecutor’s Office announced it would investigate the June 5
incidents. A similar probe into the May 5 incident found violations of safety
rules and resulted in a warning for the deputy head of a department at
Moskovsky Metropoliten, the operator of the Moscow metro.

5 p.m. Wednesday Moscow’s Department of Transport reported that a train stopped
in a tunnel between Petrovsko-Razumovskaya and Timiryazevskaya stations in
northern Moscow.
The incident was caused by “technical reasons,” the department’s press service
reported. It took 25 minutes to resume traffic.

Nikolayeva, former deputy editor-in-chief of Moskovskiye Novosti, noted in a
blog on Ekho Moskvy’s website that residents’ unhappiness with other transport
problems such as roads construction, particularly an ambitious project to
upgrade Leninsky Prospekt, was also likely to provoke opposition to the mayor.

fact, the environmental well-being of the city and the constitutional rights of
citizens to a healthy environment are being sacrificed for the sake of the work
of the construction lobby,” Nikolayeva wrote.

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