The Novosibirsk subway, the only one in Russia located beyond the Urals, was opened in 1985. It has two lines, Leninskaya and Dzerzhinskaya, with 13 stations.
Zolotaya Niva, the last of them, was commissioned in February 2011. The construction of the subway began during perestroika [a political movement for reformation within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during the 1980s widely associated with CPSU general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev and his glasnost (meaning “openness”) policy reform,] at the end of the Soviet era, and continued in the “wild” 1990s and 2000s. However, no new stations were built in the 2010s, except for the Zolotaya Niva station.
In Soviet times, the construction of metro stations in the country was financed much more regularly, because the subway was subordinate to the Ministry of Railways.
However, the subway is municipal transport nowadays, and its construction is financed from the local budget. In this regard, finding money for the subway in Novosibirsk is very difficult as the annual budget of the city in 2021 is about 55 billion rubles ($762.17 mln), and the extension of the Dzerzhinskaya line with the construction of only two stations is estimated at 25.3 billion rubles ($350.6 mln).
Currently, the Sportivnaya subway station, the first in a long time, is being built in Novosibirsk for the youth world hockey championship in 2023. It is located next to the new ice arena, where the matches of the tournament will be held and its daily passenger traffic is estimated at 30,000.
As for further subway construction in the city, its major problem is where to get the money. After all, the Novosibirsk region has spent a lot of money from its budget on the federal order to build Sportivnaya.
On May 17, regional leader Andrei Travnikov instructed the Minister of Finance Vitaly Golubenko to find funds in the regional budget to pay for the delivery and installation of escalators at the station under construction. It had to be done in order not to suspend the construction, the federal funds for which are delayed from time to time.
The construction requires more and more effort from both the city and the region but the most important thing is that the station is being built at a decent pace. The first trains are due to run to Sportivnaya as early as August 2022.
What the city authorities are proposing
Plans for further development of the Novosibirsk subway have been hatched by the city administration for a long time. In 2020, Deputy Mayor Alexei Kondratyev told the media about the construction of seven metro stations until 2030 but later it was decided to build only three: one on the right bank of the city and two on the left bank of the river Eltsovka 2nd, where there are many actively developing neighborhoods.
City authorities are planning to build two new metro stations Gusinobrodskaya and Molodezhnaya and extend the Dzerzhinskaya line to the Volochaevskoye subway depot.
This year Novosibirsk’s residents hoped that the federal authorities will provide money for this project in the city with a population of 1.5 million people. Funding will be provided at least for the first stages of underground structures. After all, the Russian government began to seriously consider the construction of new subway lines in various Russian cities.
Alas, in the end, it was decided to give money for the subway to many cities but not to Novosibirsk. When asked why the government responded rather evasively.
“Novosibirsk has not abandoned this idea. They are working on it and count the money to assess the possibility of future construction,” said Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin.
Who throws up roadblocks
METRO MIR head Alexander Mysik said that the beginning of construction of the second tunnel of the subway Zolotaya Niva in Novosibirsk is being held back by Glavgosekspertiza, which found flaws in the outdated project.
“The experts had many questions and recommendations. Since 2010, too much has changed at the legislative level, more than once. So, now we are carefully studying what Glavgosekspertiza has written to us to develop a plan of action.
To invest a lot of money in the preparation of the design, cost estimates and construction of the second phase of Zolotaya Niva, we first need to understand if the Dzerzhinskaya line will be extended. There is no such understanding today.
If new stations are not built, the tunnel will not be operated, because the train, getting into it, must then go further. It will be an idle dead-end track, so some 1.5 billion rubles ($20.79 mln) spent on it will be wasted,” said Mysik.
He added that the political decision to extend the construction of the Dzerzhinskaya line of the Novosibirsk subway with a depot should be taken at least at the level of the territorial subject of the Federation. Otherwise, it makes no sense to spend money on a tunnel, which will not be operated.
What does the financing depend on?
In February 2021, Khusnullin explained in detail the limits of expediency of the construction of new metro stations in non-capital cities (that is, except Moscow and St. Petersburg). They cannot be overcome with the Novosibirsk subway’s current passenger flow.
According to Khusnullin, it makes sense to develop a particular regional subway system if the passenger flow in a particular city subway is no less than 30,000 people per hour. In this case, it becomes profitable in terms of costs per passenger. If the figure is, for example, three times less and is 10,000 people per hour, it is better to develop ground transport, such as high-speed streetcars.
The Novosibirsk subway carried more than 83 million passengers in 2018 and about 85 million people in 2019. Based on this indicator, we get 13,000 people per hour. That’s too few, so at least a 200-percent increase is needed. In 2020, passenger traffic decreased by more than 30% due to COVID-19 restrictions making the targets unreachable.
The Sportivnaya station will be completed in year. It would belong to the infrastructure of the ice arena that is under construction rather than to the Novosibirsk transport system as a whole. So, it will not change the situation much because more new stations are needed. Thus, Novosibirsk, as well as several other cities in Russia, does not meet the requirements of the Deputy Prime Minister related to the expediency of the development of the subway.
In this case, there is a vicious circle. The city will not receive federal money to build subway stations until the desired passenger flow rate is achieved but this rate can only be achieved through the construction of new stations in densely populated areas. We can only hope that the federal authorities will reconsider their criteria.