If not me, then who? How Moscow metro helps passengers with restricted mobility

If not me, then who? How Moscow metro helps passengers with restricted mobility
Photo: mos.ru. Yuliya Ivanko
Elderly people, disabled people, multi-child family members, a group of children can be accompanied free of charge.

This year, the Passenger Mobility Centre's inspectors have assisted 90,000 passengers. And over the service's existence, they have accompanied almost one million people.

In 2019, the Passenger Mobility Centre celebrates its 6th birthday. The employees help visually impaired and elderly people, wheelchair users, multi-child family members and other categories of citizens. mos.ru spent a day with the inspectors.

Sokolniki —  Otradnoye

Ksenia Belyantseva, a Passenger Mobility Centre's inspector wearing a bright red-and-yellow uniform meets Anna Gorokh near the lobby of Sokolniki metro station. A blind girl needs to get home. To do this, she has to get to Otradnoye station first. The inspector takes her arm and leads her into the metro.

Anna Gorokh sings in a church choir and works as an editor at a publishing house. According to her, she has been using escort service in the metro rather often, five or seven times a week for almost two years. She already recognises the voices of the Passenger Mobility Centre's employees.

'I learned about this service in the metro. One day I was travelling on my own, when I was approached by an inspector. He introduced himself, told about the centre, and gave me his business card with phone numbers. Many visually-impaired people, who could not move on their own in the metro, began to actively use the service. My way home is faster now. I used to carry a white cane. Surely, you move much slower with its help than with an employee, who always tells you about any obstacles ahead, and helps to move easier and faster,' says Anna Gorokh.

Inspector warns the girl about the steps and supports her by the elbow on the escalator. In the carriage, Ksenia Belyantseva asks to give Anna a seat, and stands close, so the passenger feels the inspector's presence.

'If the train is overcrowded, we wait for the next one, if a passenger has the time. We also ask other passengers to give way and provide a seat. They are OK with it, sometimes I even don't have to ask. An important point when you accompany a blind or visually impaired person is that you need to voice all the obstacles. Naturally, you need to be tactful, kind and caring. The latter surely applies to all other passengers, too. We often attend training sessions to improve our knowledge and skills,' the inspector explains.

Photo: mos.ru. Yuliya Ivanko

Ksenia Belyantseva has been a Passenger Mobility Centre's employee for three years. Before that, she worked in a kindergarten. Now she helps passengers on Zamoskvoretskaya and Sokolnicheskaya lines. However, the inspector can be sent to another section, if necessary. On average, employees help five or six passengers a day.

'Physically, this work is hard, it's true. Especially when you have to accompany passengers not only in the metro, but also to various institutions. But I really like my job, because I know I help people. I was educated as a social teacher additionally trained in psychology,' says Ksenia Belyantseva.

The next station is Komsomolskaya. The inspector warns Anna in advance that they are getting off to change for the Circle Line. And they have the same routine again: escalator — warning — support. There is another transfer ahead, on Novoslobodskaya station, not far from Otradnoye.

Timiryazevskaya — Tretyakovskaya

Passenger Mobility Centre's employees have badges on their jackets reading 'If not me, then who?' That's probably what Olga Korotkova thought, when she got a job at the Centre in 2015.

'Each person needs individual attention. When you connect with the passenger, it's easy. Sure, you have to walk a lot, but we're alive as long as someone needs us. Doing this job, you really feel needed. This feeling keeps me warm and invigorates,' says the girl.

Photo: mos.ru. Yuliya Ivanko

Her colleague, Nikolai Matsnev, got a job at the Passenger Mobility Centre almost six years ago. According to him, this work demands to be amiable and cheerful.

'People often come to Moscow to attend some events, for the first time or only for one day. We should make every effort to make this trip a memorable one. Last year, I also worked during the FIFA World Cup. We transported UK fans, a passenger in a wheelchair. They were very surprised to encounter such a service in the Moscow metro. According to them, this service is not so well-established in the United Kingdom,' says the inspector.

This time, Olga Korotkova and Nikolai Matsnev are accompanying a group of 20 children. 4th 'B' form of School No.1454 with the class teacher and five parents is approaching Timiryazevskaya metro station. Children are going to the Tretyakov Gallery for a tour 'The World of Fairy Tales and Dreams’.

'We have already used the escort service in the metro before. This is an invaluable assistance in travelling by public transport. But even with accompanying inspectors, I cannot feel absolutely at ease, since I am responsible for children,' the class teacher Natalya Petrova says. 'Before the trip, we instruct both children and parents. I always say my students this is a quest to complete. It feels safer to travel together with Passenger Mobility Centre's employees. With their bright uniforms, they are clearly visible from a distance, so other people could see this is an organised group. And children keep quieter and take the trip more seriously.'

Before the turnstiles, we split children into pairs. Olga Korotkova begins the briefing to explain the basic rules. If the inspector turns to face the children and raises a hand, the children have to stop. If the inspector stands with her back to children and raises her hand, the group has to start moving.

Also, children are asked not to touch abandoned items, to hold on to handrails on an escalator and listen to what adults say. Children are given special cards with phone numbers to call and ask for help in case they lag behind the group.

The briefing is over. The group passes through the turnstile, and then the students one by one reach the escalator and stand on the right, so as not to interfere with passengers moving on the left. 'It is safer. We are not the only ones in the metro. Passengers rushing to catch trains and planes do not understand they have to mind children,' explains Olga Korotkova.

Before boarding the carriage, children are divided into small groups, to get on the train easier and faster. According to Nikolai Matsnev, he accompanies groups of children quite often, especially during school holidays.

'Safety is a top priority. All children must adhere to the metro rules and listen to the inspector's instructions. It is preferable for a group of children to go in the head car, so that the driver could watch children boarding and getting off the train. Besides, the inspector monitors the door, too. Boarding is one of the most dangerous moments, especially during rush hours,' he says.

Students leave the carriage as an organised group, with the Passenger Mobility Centre's employees going first, and parents rearing. They count children and lead them on.

'Children are more manageable when they are accompanied by metro employees. They behave with their parents a bit differently than with strangers. It is also a big advantage in terms of safety,' says one of school students' mother Yevgenia Razumeyeva.

Students have a cheerful chat, and the journey ends up quickly. Before leaving Tretyakovskaya metro station, students, split into pairs once again, get lined up. 4th 'B' form leaves the metro and says goodbye to the inspectors.

Photo: mos.ru. Yuliya Ivanko

If you need help

The Passenger Mobility Centre's inspectors are there to help not only in the metro. Muscovites and Moscow guests can be escorted to long-distance and suburban trains, to bus stations, public transport stops and Aeroexpress trains. Officers also help to get to museums, cultural centres and social institutions.

For example, you can contact the inspectors if you need to get to the Pushkin Museum, the Tretyakov Gallery in Lavrushinsky Pereulok, New Tretyakov Gallery in Krymsky Val Street, Tsaritsyno Museum Reserve, Ostrovsky Integration Museum and Cultural Centre, the Russian Impressionism Museum or to My Documents centres. There are 90 routes for citizens.

There is also an SMS hotline available for hearing impaired passengers. Daily, 07:00 am till 08:00 pm,  operators answer questions about the metro working hours, how to get to a station or an attraction, and help calling an officer on duty in case of emergency. The line has already received about 80 appeals.

The Passenger Mobility Centre employs about 300 employees who transport passengers 07:00 am till 08:00 pm. Apply for free escort in the official Moscow Metro mobile app, on the metro's website or call free numbers +7 (495) 622-73-41 or +7 (800) 250-73-41.