The construction of facilities for which infrastructure loans were allocated last year is underway in our country despite recent events in Russia and other countries. The extension of the Samara metro line is one of them. On January 25, excavation work began at the site of the future Teatralnaya metro station in Samara.
Plan for subway
The Russian government approved the allocation of 10.4 billion rubles ($99.93 mln) to the Samara region for the completion of construction of the first subway line in the regional center. The amount will be given as a credit for 15 years. According to the Governor of the region Dmitry Azarov, the money will be used for the construction of the Teatralnaya metro station. АсСоrding to the plan, it will be terminal on the current metro map.
Azarov explained the need for the new station by the fact that it will extend the only line deep into the historic center of the city and connect the Bezymyanka neighborhood, as well as other residential and industrial areas with a cultural, administrative and business center of Samara.
It is believed that its appearance will solve the issue of efficient transportation of 3.5 million passengers per year to the rapidly growing industrial areas of the city. It is also reported that the new station will remove the existing technological constraints and ensure the reduction of train interval from the current 15 minutes to 5 minutes. According to the head of the region, the first subway line could be completed in 2024.
The Samarskaya station was initially supposed to be constructed. But in November 2021, it became known that the regional authorities refused to build it in Oktyabrsky district. The official reason was that the distance between the two new stations was too small. Therefore, it was decided to build Teatralnaya at the moment. Thus, the metro line will become longer not by one kilometer, but by three.
Subway is in the red
Social activists argue about the need to continue the construction of the subway in Samara and the direction of its future lines. According to a number of deputies, it is necessary to build a new line not to the Leninsky district of the city, but to the opposite Krasnoglinsky district, where the population density is higher.
The fact is that the Samara metro is unprofitable. According to the International Association of Metro, transportation of one passenger costs 88.26 rubles ($0.86) to the municipality, while the fare is 32 rubles ($0.31). The subway accounts for 6.9% in the structure of the citywide transportation.
Today, the subway in Samara does not even cover half of the city. It includes 10 stations and connects the center with industrial areas, where population density in modern realities is not very high. The limited route network explains the low popularity of the subway.
In 2019, the passenger flow of the Samara metro was 13.1 million people. In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions imposed, the figure dropped to 8.78 million people. In 2021, passenger traffic increased by 17% compared to 2020 and amounted to 10.255 million people.
For comparison, there are 11 metro stations in Kazan, which is often compared to Samara. The passenger traffic in 2019 was 30.5 million people and almost 21.5 million people in 2020. In 2021, more than 27 million people used metro services.
Opinions of experts: pros and cons
Professor of the Moscow Architectural Institute Maxim Poleshchuk believes that the announced construction of two metro stations can improve the situation in Samara with a competent urban planning policy.
“The current concept with a second line from Khlebnaya Square through the railway station to the bus station should provide a connection to the stations, but given the pace of subway construction in Samara, this is a very distant prospect.
To increase the building density on the section from Moskovskaya to Pobedy Street, which will ensure the flow of 3-4 million passengers a year is another way to improve the efficiency of the subway and reduce subsidies from the budget.
The next step will be a reconstruction of the five-storey building in the surrounding neighborhoods, which is another 4-8 million passengers a year. In turn, it could provide subway payback together with Teatralnaya and the return to the idea of the final station near the railway station with its continuation to Khlebnaya Square,” he said.
Meanwhile, the necessity of Teatralnaya is doubted by the main subway builder of Samara VTS Metro Head Sergey Natalchuk, who has been in charge of subway construction in the city for 35 years.
If the choice which station should be terminal of the first branch of the subway in Samara is to be made, the experienced subway builder Natalchuk chooses Samarskaya but not Teatralnaya.
“Of course, all the stations need to be built,” he said. “But why the first line should end with the Teatralnaya station? My personal opinion is that it is ineffective. It is far away from the city center, and it is possible to get there only with transfers. It doesn't connect to any other transport. It is necessary either to build a line even farther into the center, towards the Samara River, or, if there is no possibility, finish the line earlier, by building Samarskaya.
Who will use Teatralnaya? Clients of the Lotte hotel, which is located nearby, do not take the subway. Visitors of the Opera and Ballet Theater also more often come in private cars or by ground transport. There are not so many spectators for the volume of traffic, for which the subway is designed.
Yes, there are mass events on Kuybyshev Square, where thousands of people have to be transported there once. But events are held there not every day, just on holidays. The station will be open every day and require daily service. All this will be done for using it to its full capacity once a month or even more rarely.”
Natalchuk also believes that the allocated 10 billion rubles ($96.94 mln) will not be enough to build Teatralnaya on a turnkey basis. “We need 4-5 billion rubles ($43,620.75) more. The cost of Teatralnaya was estimated at 14 billion rubles ($135.71 mln) not so long ago. In my opinion, it will get more expensive now. When choosing between the Teatralnaya and Samarskaya stations, it makes more sense to choose the latter.
There is the Sports Palace for 5,000 spectators, a huge swimming pool, and important attractions of Samara next to it. In addition, there is convenient access to the embankment, where a lot of people have rest in the warm season. It will definitely be busy. There are both traffic and pedestrian flows around it. Therefore, I am puzzled why it was decided to put aside the construction of Samarskaya and choose Teatralnaya.”
Many citizens are against the construction
Residents of the Leninsky and Samarsky districts, who literally flooded the Instagram account of Governor Dmitry Azarov with requests to stop the construction of Teatralnaya, are also against it.
Residents call transport collapse among the disadvantages of the construction of the subway. Now, streetcars bypass Galaktionovskaya Street. Traffic intervals are often 30-40 minutes, and tramways are filled to capacity. Moreover, there is the inconvenience associated with the construction of a two-level junction on Novo-Sadovaya and Soviet Army Street, where traffic jams occur during rush hours. That is why they propose to invest in the development of municipal bus, streetcar and trolleybus parks instead of building a subway.
Opinion of the authorities
On February 16, 2022, during a government hour in the State Duma, the Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin called regions where the construction of the subway will continue. A positive decision was made on Chelyabinsk, Krasnoyarsk and Nizhny Novgorod, while Omsk and Novosibirsk are still under discussion. However, the Deputy Prime Minister did not mention Samara.
In addition, Khusnullin said that the construction of the subway in the regions is economically unprofitable solution. “As a person who gave 9 years of his life to the construction of the Moscow metro, I can say that it makes sense to build the subway, if it carries 20,000 passengers or more in rush hour. In other cases, the subway construction is expensive. Moscow can afford it, and for St. Petersburg it is profitable. For other cities it is inexpedient,” said Deputy Prime Minister.
Last May, Khusnullin already said that metro projects in cities with a million-plus population, which have been already launched, will be completed after finding cheaper solutions, but the new subway will not be built there.
After this speech, Mikhail Matveev, a Samara deputy of the CPRF party, wrote on his Facebook account: “In short, there will not be a subway in Samara.”