The last metro station in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia’s fifth largest city, was built on the eve of the 2018 FIFA World Cup so far. Now it looks like the construction of underground stations may stop there. Instead, the options of the above-ground subway are discussed.
Inadvertently, Russia’s deputy prime minister Marat Khusnullin added fuel to the controversy by saying that "the underground should be built where the passenger flow is guaranteed to be at least 30, 000 people per hour." With a passenger flow of 10,000 people per hour, it is more profitable to build light rail infrastructure.”The metro in Nizhny Novgorod transports 2.6 million passengers per month, said Oleg Yaushev, executive director of the Nizhny Novgorod metro, that is, less than 5,000 people use this type of transport every hour. Only two stations of the Nizhny Novgorod subway of the current fifteen operate without losses (Moskovskaya and Gorkovskaya metro stations), the remaining thirteen stations are prospectively unprofitable. At present, about 1.5 billion rubles ($ 22,391,100) is needed for modernization of the subway. The launch of the Strelka metro station for the 2018 World Cup has increased passenger traffic of the subway by 800,000 people per year. The result is quite good but not enough. Especially since the construction cost reached almost 13 billion rubles ($19,405,620.)Alexander Ivanov, assistant professor of the department of management of the environment and natural resources and candidate of economic sciences at Nizhny Novgorod State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering (NNSAGU), told KommersantFM Nizhny Novgorod radio station that the entire subway system has been built in Nizhny Novgorod with assistance from the federal budget. With the annual subsidies for the maintenance of the subway close to 1 bln rubles ($14,927,400), the construction of new stations will only increase the amount of necessary financial aid, says Ivanov. Why are these new stations so essential when the passenger flow is only declining?In 2019, the prime cost of a single trip on the subway in Nizhny Novgorod amounted to 56 rubles ($0,84) while the fare for the residents is 28 rubles ($0,42). The remaining sum is provided by the city and regional budgets.The construction of a single start-up line, consisting of the Opera Theatre and Sennaya stations, will cost at least 27 bln rubles ($403,039,800), which is almost 90% of the budget revenues of Nizhny Novgorod for the current year: 31.9 bln rubles ($476,184,060) with a surplus of 1.320 mln rubles ($19,704.17). The extension of the Sormovskaya line costs about 40 bln rubles ($597,096,000), which is about a quarter of the Nizhny Novgorod region budget. In the meantime, the city’s budget for 2020-2021 does not include any expenses for construction of the underground.Pavel Savateyev, the Nizhny Novgorod region's minister of transport and road facilities, told wek.ru that in order to gradually increase passenger traffic in the subway, work has begun to draft a plan for the transportation. In particular, transfer hubs at metro stations are planned will be built, substitute routes of overland transport will be removed and an appropriate road infrastructure will be built. Regional authorities do not give up plans for development of the metro in Nizhny Novgorod, Savateyev underlined.On the other hand, under an agreement of the regional authorities with the VEB.RF state corporation, three new tramlines are expected to be built in Nizhny Novgorod instead of construction of the metro. This measure is aimed at an increase of the passenger flow at the above-ground electric transport from 50 million to 140 million people per year.In February 2020, the surface metro was launched in the testing mode in the Sormovo district of Nizhny Novgorod. As of May 1, 2020, the timing traffic between Pochinki and Varya stations will start. The Volgo-Vyatka suburban passenger company's press office explains that the main idea is to use the existing railway line to organize passenger traffic within the city boundaries. If this is done, the residents of the 7th microdistrict of Sormovo will be able to get to its center (Shcherbakov Street) by suburban train in 6 minutes and to Varya station, in 10 minutes. This will give them an opportunity to change for the subway, trams, and shuttle vans of private carriers or municipal buses at the Burevestnik station.At the same time, there is the ‘Program of complex development of transport infrastructure of the Nizhny Novgorod municipal entity: 2018 to 2030’ approved by deputies of the city council. According to it, in 10 years, there will be six new metro stations in Nizhny Novgorod.However, it is very difficult to implement this program as it depends on Moscow’s good will. The Russian government would like to see the project pay off the investments -- and it is pushing Nizhny Novgorod into a vicious circle. Without a developed network of metro stations the city has to solve its transport problems all alone and to develop alternative means of urban transport. In the end, this only aggravates the situation -- the metro remains unprofitable, while traffic jams and environmental issues on the ground continue getting bigger. Obviously, the metro in Nizhny Novgorod will remain unprofitable without the station network development.The problem could be solved by investing funds from the federal budget for large-scale construction. It seems that there is a good reason for that – the coming 800th anniversary of the city. However, it should be admitted that Nizhny Novgorod is not Moscow or Kazan either – the two cities for the anniversaries of which the federal government would be ready to spend lavishly. In addition, Gleb Nikitin, the incumbent governor of the Nizhny Novgorod region, is not so powerful as Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, or even Valery Shantsev, his predecessor. Obviously, Nikitin has neither the levers to lobby for the interests of the city nor the desire to deal with all these problems.