Soon after the 2007/2008 global economic crisis began, it became apparent that the crisis was not simply financial in origin, but the result of a systemic defect, the inadequacy of the socio-economic model of modern capitalism. This crisis included economic, political, social, and human dimensions, and may well be regarded as crisis of anthropological values.
The topics of globalisation, inclusive models of economic development, and the search for universal economic well-being for all civilisations is of critical importance. The future of cities for humankind in the twenty-first century is of growing significance, as cities are actually becoming economic, social, and politically dominant points for every culture. The way city landscapes will look and what kind of opportunities will be provided for citizens will influence the future of the whole world.
What is the connection between the railway infrastructure and the well-being of citizens?
Countries with developed and emerging markets both face the problem of urbanisation. Large cities, metropolises, and metropolitan areas are becoming more attractive for labour migration due to developed and convenient infrastructure. As the density of urban populations grows, there appears the problem of extending the borders of the cities, including the growing suburbs, adjacent territories, and regions as the source for such growth. Urban specialists even have a specific term for this: ‘suburbia’. It is a territory at the border of the city with houses, but usually without big shops, work places and entertainment facilities close by.
In fact, these are the outskirts of a big city that together form large metropolitan areas. A developed transport infrastructure is needed for them to function successfully. Experts have identified several models:
- The conventional American model including the areas with low-story, single family houses and a road system focused on automobile transport (“to go shopping by car”);
- The conventional European model including the areas with densely built multi-story houses or apartment buildings, with a focus on public transport, mostly railway (“to go to work by a commuter train”); and
- The Russian model, which has peculiarities. There is a tradition to have a flat in the city and a country house, which has an impact on passenger traffic. People actively use commuter transport to get to work, but at the same time they cannot help using their cars to go to the country. Therefore, all kinds of transport infrastructures need to be developed.
Such infrastructure can help cities and metropolitan areas grow. At the same time, the infrastructure does not directly lead to a higher level of well-being for citizens, but it enables the following:
- To make working places more accessible;
- To improve the accessibility, and thus potential for economic success, of existing places (shopping areas, office centres; recreational areas, etc.);
- To create new working places in previously inaccessible regions around city centres; and
- To establish new standards of living, a new culture that can improve citizens’ feelings of satisfaction. It means there is a significant non-material effect.
Development of transport infrastructure has its peculiarities for any large city, especially if it has a particular history, an established architectural look, traditions, and certain habits of citizens. However, life requires at least some change to progress, and railway transport can facilitate this. Let us remember the London Crossrail Train project. [i] It took several decades for the authorities to develop the initiative, but it has now been implemented for almost 10 years, and soon longer-term results will become visible.
The Russian experience: comfortable commuter trains and growing passenger traffic
Railway transport has always been well-developed in Russia, including suburban transport. In recent years much attention was paid to improving the quality of the services, with examples in four Russian regions: Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, Kazan, and Krasnoyarsk.
The Moscow region: Moscow Central Ring (MCR):
- The passenger flow on underground lines decreased 7-10 percent on radial lines and by 15 percent on ring lines;
- The fast growth of passenger traffic – 75 million passengers were planned per year. Currently the results are ahead of the forecast and will reach 105-110 million people after its first year in operation.
The experiences from the MCR implementation show the high level of readiness and adaptability of citizens to use a new kind of transport in the city: it took the citizens just a few days for adaptation, though experts thought it would take several months.
The new stations are situated near the districts that were considered to be ‘depressed’, old industrial areas, and so on. Today there is the process of revival of these industrial zones in Moscow, with dense construction of buildings. Houses are being renovated, and as a result 1.6 million people will be moved to new buildings and even more buildings will be constructed for an additional 4 million people. That is a huge migration flow, which can be compared to the entire population of Saint-Petersburg. Under these circumstances the city’s railway transport will help decrease the burden on the transport network as people cease to rely on cars for trips within the city, instead taking trains from the newly built residential areas to the places people work, especially in the areas with significant road traffic.
According to the firm Jones Lang LaSalle Consulting Company (JLL), the Moscow Central Ring will encourage the re-development of industrial areas. The Ring is located 6-8 km from the city centre where 40-70 percent of the territories are occupied by industrial buildings. Amid the high density of working places in the centre (where 37 percent of all workers in the city are employed), and the low density in industrial areas (nine percent) we can expect to see new office and shopping centres near the MCR. Another motivation is based on the plans of the Moscow government to reduce the number of working places in the city centre and to develop clusters near developed transport.
There are certain impacts on business as well: benefits from the launch of the Moscow Central Ring will be enjoyed for 15 office buildings and 19 shopping centres in Moscow, some of them are directly integrated into the stations[iii]. Analysts from JLL consulting expect that better transport access in many districts, particularly in the places without a metro station nearby, will make the houses more attractive. According to the plan of the city authorities, about 10 million square meters of housing construction will be built next to the MCR.
As we can see, the launch of the Moscow Central Ring helped to realise a completely different scheme: instead of developing broadly by adding remote suburbs, Moscow is developing in depth, thanks to the involvement of ineffectively used territories in the centre of the city. It provides absolutely new opportunities for the population, the city authorities, and businesses.
Saint-Petersburg: “City commuter train”
There are plans to replicate the success of the Moscow Central Ring in Saint-Petersburg: to reconstruct the North Semi-Ring of the inner-city part of the railroad, to organise the trains’ movements based on the ‘open metro’ idea and to organise the transfer hubs at the points where the railway and the metro intercross.
This kind of project can secure transport accessibility for nine districts of the city with a combined population of over 1.5 million people. It will solve the following issues:
- Newly built districts will get high-speed transport;
- The roads will have less traffic;
- The transport accessibility for popular suburban tourist routes (Peterhof, Pushkin, and others) will improve; and
- Less burden will be put on the metro system.
Kazan: inner-city ring railway connection
The first positive experience related to railway transport for suburban intermodal transportation was during the Universiade, an international multi-sport event for university athletes, in Kazan in 2013. At the time, organisers developed a transport connection between the airport and the main railway station.
In 2015 – 2016 the project of the ring railway connection was developed to connect the airport, the main railway stations, and several districts of the city. Even the connection of two railway stations in Kazan with the airport has attracted some 1.4 million passengers. According to forecasts, by the time the Ring is fully launched in 2025, passenger traffic will have reached 25 million people.
As a result, there is now a better connection with remote areas of the city (the transport accessibility makes the houses in the districts more valuable and appealing), there is less burden on the road network, and there is an increase in tourism interest.
Krasnoyarsk: “City commuter train” and the Universiade
The Universiade is becoming the key reason for the development of Russian cities. In 2019 the Winter Universiade will be held in Krasnoyarsk. Since 2014 ‘The City Commuter Train’ project has been in use, with 17 stops within the city and six more stops outside of the city limits. Today ‘The City Commuter Train’ carries over a million passengers per year. It is getting more and more popular (in 2017 passenger traffic grew by 12 percent).
By the time the Universiade takes place in 2019 the ‘City Commuter Train’ should be turned into a ring and connected with the airport. It will make it possible to improve the transport conditions for citizens of the nearest settlements and to make the region more interesting for tourists.
[i] The project of the inner-city railway line which connects several areas of London as well as some counties nearby (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Essex). Different variants of the project were discussed since 1970s. The Crossrail Act came into effect in 2008. According the Act the project has been implemented since 2009. The project includes the construction of 118 km of railways including 21 km in tunnels under the central part of London. It is considered to be the largest infrastructure project in Europe. The launch of the project is planned for the end of 2018.
[ii] The ring 54 km long, including 31 stations, is connecting 10 lines of the Moscow metro and 9 radial railway routes. According to the data from Moscow government, the average passenger flow at MCR during 24 hours is now 310,000 people. Source: https://realty.rbc.ru/news/5860e99b9a794750e5c73a14
[iii] Including “Metropolis” Office Centre and the objects of “Moscow-City”