Rostov-on-Don Dilemma: Subway, Streetcar or Belt Route

Rostov-on-Don Dilemma: Subway, Streetcar or Belt Route


The streetcar modernization project is not likely to be implemented in the Rostov region due to the sanctions imposed against Russia, for which an infrastructure budget loan was received. It is necessary to reallocate funds to the project of construction of a road bypass in Rostov-on-Don, said Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin.

Why is it postponed?

The new streetcar tracks were to lead to remote areas of the city, in particular, to the Suvorovsky neighborhood, which today is, indeed, cut off from other districts of Rostov.

The project implied the construction of 76.8 km of new tracks, as well as the reconstruction of 46 km of existing lines. The rolling stock was to be increased with 98 three-section modern streetcars.

The new lines were to run from the center of the capital of the Rostov region to the residential neighborhoods Leventsovka, Verkhny Temernik, Suvorovsky, as well as to the territory of the future complex development on the left bank of the Don and the old airport.

In November 2021, the government of the Rostov region signed a contract with Sinara-GTR, which is already engaged in the modernization of the streetcar fleet in Taganrog. The total cost of the project was estimated at 51 billion rubles ($734.71 mln.) It was supposed that 35.6 billion rubles ($512.85 mln) of this amount will be invested by private companies. Another 15 billion rubles ($216.09 mln) the funds of the budget loan, which had already been allocated.

However, the situation changed after sanctions were imposed against Russia against the background of the special operation of the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine. Therefore, the governor of the Rostov region, Vasily Golubev, decided to shift funding for the development of streetcar traffic to the construction of the bypass road to “level out the risks of non-disbursement of the infrastructure budget loan,” which is what he asked Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin.

At a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 23, Khusnullin reported that the authorities of the Rostov region decided to slow down the project and allocated 15 billion rubles of the budget loan offered to send to the construction of the Western Chord and, thus, complete the construction of the Rostov Transport Ring. According to the authorities of the region, it is all the fault of the project appreciation by 9 billion rubles ($129.65 mln.)

“In the Rostov region, there was a project to build public transport, but today streetcars, due to imported components, cannot be delivered in this time frame. Then they propose to complete the construction of the Rostov belt route, which is as serious anti-crisis measure. Please, support them,” said Khusnullin at the government meeting.

The Western Chord will connect the Krasnodar region with Taganrog and Donbass. This is an important road for the state, but for ordinary citizens it is more important to have a streetcar that would connect Leventsovka with the city center.

Rostov-on-Don citizens were not happy with such a decision of the authorities

Rostov-on-Don residents were perplexed by the decision of regional authorities.

“There is always a reason not to construct transport in Rostov. Subway has been promised for decades, then a light subway, then a monorail, then streetcars – well, the result is the same every time. No surprise!” wrote Rostov-on-Don inhabitants on social media.

“What has this to do with sanctions? They have been for a long time.”

“Was the funding for these two projects supposed to come from the same budget or what? What do you mean instead? When they started building the bypass there was no money for it and now they are going to add money from the streetcars? Or were they going to take money from the bypass for the streetcars?”

“The horse-drawn carts can be revived.”

“I don't understand trams are made in Europe? What does that have to do with sanctions?”

“Man, that's a scam,” wrote Rostov-on-Don inhabitants with indignation.

First there was the subway

Rostov citizens have been dreaming of having their own subway since Soviet times, back in the 1970s, then city leader Leonid Ivanchenko, supported by the 1st Secretary of the Regional Committee Ivan Bondarenko, sold the idea in Moscow, even getting a positive conclusion, and the Metrostroy shields appeared in the city. However, the project was cut short by Secretary General Leonid Brezhnev personally.

A few years later, the Rostov metro was “turned down” by the new Secretary General Konstantin Chernenko. In 1987, the project was brought back to life. There was even a Council of Ministers order to develop a feasibility study. However, the collapse of the Soviet Union interfered.

In the post-Soviet period, almost every mayor, especially in the run-up to the elections, announced the intention to build a subway – at least in some form, not necessarily entirely underground, even if only in a “light” version, that is, mixed, so that trains run both on the surface and under it.

However, Khusnullin finally cast a long shadow on the subway project in Rostov. “There is no point,” he said. “The subway should be developed where there is large passenger traffic, in Moscow and St. Petersburg. In cities with millions of people, streetcars are better. This means that the dream of the subway, which has existed since the Soviet era, will remain unrealized.

At that time, Khusnullin also promised that the Russian government will allocate money for light rail transport development in the city, which would connect the Suvorovsky district with the Oktyabrsky district.

Opinions of experts

“The streetcar modernization project is necessary,” said Mikhail Kruglikov, editor of the Rostov City Transport portal. “It would help restart public transport in Rostov. People would get a high level of service, predictable, fast and comfortable transportation. This would not only help to solve the problem of traffic jams, but also increase the mobility of citizens. People would move around more, spend time in cafes, etc. By the way, the implementation of the project continues in Taganrog, even on the first commissioned route it is evident, so everything is possible.”

“At the moment, we continue pre-project work in accordance with the order of Alexei Logvinenko, head of the Rostov-on-Don administration,” said a representative of Sinara-GTR, the company with which the contract was signed. “The company's plans to participate in the concession, if it is announced, have not changed.”

According to experts from the VK Urbanistika - Rostov-on-Don, the situation in Ukraine, rising interest rates, more expensive materials, and sanctions on streetcar equipment are just excuses to send money to build an unnecessary road instead of a needed streetcar.

The real reason is that no new streetcar line has yet been drafted where the money could be directed. The main reason is that the Department of Highways will never be interested in developing public transportation to the detriment of road builders.

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