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Kyiv subway  more than just transportation convenience

 

In Kyiv it is called Metro. And it is much more than just a convenient means of transportation. Once you enter a Metro station and go down into the bowels of the Earth, you can, in addition to catching a train to go in the direction you want, chill out (both metaphorically and literally) slouching on a marble bench in the cool of the underground island between the platforms; you can indulge in smooching (this activity is particularly convenient to engage in when youre riding the escalator); you can enjoy works of underground art  mosaics and bas-reliefs decorating the walls; you can listen to music and songs performed by itinerant Gypsies and buskers; you can buy newspapers and other useful things  pens and pencils, maps of Kyiv, notepads, shoe polish, to name just a few. When the train crosses the Dnipro River riding over the bridge, you can get glimpses of the water and distant vistas.

 

Among the people who live in Kyiv, there are some who know about their city everything there is to know  and they will tell you that it was in Kyiv the first tram in Europe started running. But as far as a subway system is concerned, Kyiv joined the underground railway club much later. A popular encyclopedia informs us that, The first subway, which began operating in 1863 in London, England, used steam locomotives. The subway was successful, and it expanded, converting to electricity in about 1896. That same year Budapest, Hungary, became the first city on the European continent to open an electric subway line. Other European cities followed with similar lines Competing railway companies brought 10 separate systems of track into London from every point of the compass. Linkage between the terminals was achieved in 1884 with the opening of the Metropolitan Railway. Early development of underground railways in London was helped by the clay, which was easy to excavate, the spoil providing raw material to make bricks for lining the tunnel walls. Improved deep tunneling techniques after World War I allowed a rapid expansion of the underground network...

The first half of the 20th century saw subway systems appearing in many cities of the world, and in 1935, the first underground stations were opened in Moscow, then the capital of the country that disintegrated a little over five decades later  the Soviet Union. The Soviet penchant for showing off found one of its most spectacular realizations in Moscows subway  underground stations looked like fairy-tale palaces decorated with mosaics, wall paintings, showing the happy Soviets led by the all-knowing communist party and by the genius of its leader, the father of all nations, Joseph Stalin. Marble of many colours, gilt stucco and thousands of fancy lamps and chandeliers contributed to the underground chic  the life on the ground was miserable but once underground, you could not help being impressed by the subterranean grandeur.

The provinces of the Red Empire followed suit but Kyiv of Ukraine outdid all other cities. When in 1960 the first several stations were opened, the eager populace rushed in to have a look and take a ride  and they were amazed or even awed. In some respects the Kyiv underground stations rivaled even Moscows. Gradually, the first underground (Svyatoshynsko-Brovarska) line stretched to cover the distance of 20 kilometers (about 13 miles) with 16 stations on the way, some of which are on the ground rather than under it. The trains run over two bridges, one across the Dnipro itself and the other one over one of its tributaries.

Sixteen years later, in 1976, the second underground line (Kurenivsko-Chervonoarmiyska) was launched. It is shorter than the first, being only 13.2 kilometers long and having 12 stations, but it connected large residential areas, and thus was a significant addition to the citys transport system. There was only one cross-over station, but when in the 1990s the third line (Syretsko-Pecherska; 12 stations, 18.8 kilometers) was added after many years of delays, the number of stations at which you can cross over to the other lines and change trains was increased.

Unlike it was in London, the builders of the Kyiv subway system encountered complicated problems in tunneling through the ground, exacerbated by the underground waters and hilly terrain. Some of the stations had to be lowered hundreds of feet underground, but when you go down, the trip in the direction to the centre of the Earth does not make you feel claustrophobic  the underground stations are mostly spacious, with tall ceilings and are well lit  only a couple of the very first stations have proved to be too small to comfortably accommodate the passenger traffic that has increased enormously since the first days of Kyiv Metro. Back in 1960, the city planners never thought the Kyiv underground system would expand so much.

New stations continue to be added. Metro has become a natural feature of Kyiv as much as its horse chestnut trees and hills and parks are. The subway lines connect all the ten administrative districts of Kyiv, with a second Metro bridge spanning the river several kilometers south of the first.

The Kyiv Subway System employs thousands of people, runs dozens of trains, carries one and a half million passengers a day, but still is the most efficient means of transport in town. The stations are attractive and clean, trains run with intervals of several minutes (only at night, during off-rush hours, the interval may grow to last up to twenty minutes). Kyiv Metro is accident-free  touch wood!  in forty three years of operation, there has not been a single serious accident. The price of a ride has been going up through the decades but it remains the same as that of a bus or street-car ride on the surface  50 kopecks which, at the current rate of exchange, is less than ten cents. Purchasing a monthly ticket brings the price of a ride still further down. In spite of a relatively cheep fare, the Kyiv Metro manages to keep the self-recoupmnet at the level of 80 percent, one of the highest in the world. For comparison, in Hong Kong whose underground system is considered to be the worlds most technologically advanced subway, the self-recoupment is only about 60 percent. And in London it is still lower.

When the Metro train emerges from the dark tunnel onto the Metro bridge, the light of the day  if it happens to be the daytime  invades the cars through the wide windows, and you can enjoy a superb panorama opening on both sides of the train, and though it takes but a couple of minutes to cross the bridge, youll have enough time to get glimpses of the beaches, parks, islands, creeks, the wide expanse of water reflecting the sunrays, and hills with majestic golden domes of churches on the top of them.

 

Based on an article written

by Andriy Pyrohiv

Photos & designed by Yury Buslenko

 

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