Five years of comfort: how Moscow Central Circle is changing
September 10 the Moscow Central Circle (MCC) is celebrating its first remarkable anniversary — five years of work. Until recently, few could imagine that the "rusty belt of the capital" would be successfully integrated in the metropolis transport system to say nothing of making it popular with residents.
Not everyone believed in the project: some even said that the city did not need it, and that trains would carry air. But the skeptics were wrong. The MCC proved its success to change the idea of the metropolis’s rail transport role forever. Over half a million people choose the circle for their trips every weekday in 2021. The MCC became a real trendsetter in the transport industry, and its development is ongoing. The mos.ru article is about things to make passengers’ travel comfortable and the future awaiting the circle.
Yesterday: a source of inspiration and work on mistakes
The Moscow district railway appeared in the city in the early 20th century: the first train was launched on July 19, 1908. At the time, the project was globally unique and the best engineers and architects were involved in the railway construction. Its facilities became part of a single city’s ensemble: four large and 68 small bridges, 30 overpasses, residential buildings for employees, as well as 14 stations and bus stops.
The railway gave a multifold increase to Moscow's cargo turnover but did not find recognition among passengers. Residents did not like that it was remote from the center and had no interchanges to other types of transport and, on top of that, its high travel fares. The latter were to be paid per every mile, and a full circle travel expense amounted to three rubles (it is the cost of 20 kg of potatoes or a lunch in a decent restaurant). For that reason passenger trains were removed, and in Soviet times rails were used only for cargo transportation. Once some factories along the railway came to a holt in the 1990s, the "rust belt of the capital" came up to name it.
Over 100 years later, the railway was given way to a new life. The MCC is the first effort of successful railway infrastructure configurating in the center of Moscow. The project of a surface-level metro was agreed for implementation to start in 2012. For about four years, specialists, in fact, were building a new railway. Most of the bridges were designed anew, jointless railroad tracks reducing noise were laid instead of old ones, electrical and communications equipment was renovated, transport interchange hubs and warm pavilions on the stations were made.
The MCC was the first project of a new Moscow transport framework. The MCC traffic was launched on September 10, 2016, sloganned "The city has become closer". At first, there were 26 stations to interchange to ground transport, 12 metro stations and six railway platforms, and in a couple of months their number increased to 31. It enabled passengers to make routes bypassing the city center.
Modern Lastochka trains were launched on the ring. At first, they were intercity trains, but by 2018 were replaced by more spacious commuter trains with wider passages, handrails, seats for limited mobility passengers, and mountings for bicycles.
Passengers also benefited from the fares system that was united with that of metro. The MCC offers a free 90 minutes interchange to metro, and, from November 2019, — to the Moscow central diameter lines. And, to make passengers appreciate additional advantages of the circle, the first month of its travelling is free. By the way, passengers will have a zero fare on the City Day, September 11, 2021.
Today: smooth operation and accessibility for thousands of residents
The MCC, in fact, became the 14th, surface line of the metro. The megaproject launching was a breathing effort into once depressed areas giving start to residential community and business facility construction on abandoned territories, and new jobs emerging too.
The MCC improved the transport accessibility of 34 Moscow districts populated by over three million people live, and interconnected them too. Public transport is now more accessible for those who were previously short of a metro station within walking distance. This applies to residents of the districts of Metrogorodok, Beskudnikovsky, Koptevo, Khoroshevo-Mnevniki and Nizhny Novgorod and others.
Today, 31 stations are operating on the MCC to enable passengers make interchange to 26 metro stations and 10 railway stations including four stations of the Moscow central diameter lines (MCD-1 and MCD-2). The work schedule of the circle is close to that of the metro — from 05: 30 to 01: 00. The traffic time intervals of "Lastochka" was reduced from six minutes (in rush hours) to12 minutes on the MCC launching to four and eight minutes, respectively, in 2019.
The MCC succeeded above the boldest expectations. The ground circle carried 98 million passengers in the first year of operation, and 142 million passengers in 2019. Today, more than 500 thousand people choose the MCC for their weekday trips, and 633 million passengers travelled for the past five years.
What is the secret of the MCC popularity? From the very beginning, the Moscow Government was not creating a separate artery, but integrated the MCC into the existing transportation system. Muscovites were fast to appreciate benefits of the circle fares system interconnected with that of metro, and the interchange convenience between the MCC, metro, and commuter train stations.
Now it is easier to get to airports. Verkhniye Kotly station provides interchange to the Aeroexpress train to reach Domodedovo Airport, and Okruzhnaya, Shelepikha and Business Center stations — to Sheremetyevo airport. In 2021, the Vostochny Railway station opened near the Locomotive station to take over a number of the Kursk railway station intercity trains.
Another important component of the MCC success is continuous concern for passengers and their comfort. Therefore, the circle service is ever improving, both on stations and on trains, and all innovations are implemented taking into account citizens’ opinion.
The circle contains everything to make travel comfortable: clear navigation and Live Communications counters, ATMs and vending machines with drinks and snacks, charging sets, sockets and an electronic library are available too. Everything is provided for convenience of passengers with limited mobility: elevators, lifting platforms, ramps and wide passage turnstiles. The Passenger Mobility Center employees are accessible on the MCC too. By the way, starting last year the "Lastochka" trains offer seats with green covers. They mark places for people with non-obvious disabilities and those who find it difficult to stand.
Another innovation came up in 2020. Muscovites voted in the Active Citizen project for the idea of creating "cars of silence”. There, it is not recommended to talk and listen to loud music enabling passengers to relax or work comfortably while travelling.
Tomorrow: new technologies, accuracy and safety
The MCC is actively developing and uniting with other types of transport. For example, connecting the MCC to the Kiev railway line — the only radial line with no interchange to the surface circle yet — is planned for 2022. This will be possible after construction of a connecting line between the Kiev and Belarusian , lines to launch of the MCD-4.
A covered walkway will appear between the Okruzhnaya MCC and MCD-1 stations next year, and additional lobbies will be installed at the ZIL and Botanical Garden stations. The next five years will see new lobbies to be built at the Business Center, Rostokino, Verkhnyye Kotly, Krymskaya and Khoroshevo stations, as well as connect the MCC with projected Troitskaya and Biryulevskaya metro lines.
The MCC has the most ambitious plans for the future. Face Pay, three minute intervals and even ... unmanned trains. In the meantime, the main challenge is to ensure safe uninterrupted traffic and increase in the passenger traffic without adding discomfort to residents.
One of the ways to reduce the rush hour traffic is running of double-decker trains. This type of the train was tested on the MCC from August 25 to September 8. 76 percent of Muscovites who took the train voted to support the double-decker idea. Now experts will estimate if the train technical parameters make it suitable for regular transportation.
But globally, reducing the intervals of train traffic during rush hours to three minutes will cope with growing passenger traffic. Such a mode of operation is impossible without introducing artificial intelligence and development of infrastructure. Therefore, testing of unmanned transport control system for the ES2G "Lastochka” electric train is underway on the MCC
The closed circle became an ideal testing ground: the safety of residents is ensured by the absence of intersections with automobile and pedestrian routes, and modern infrastructure and the latest rolling stock are an excellent technical base for automation.
In 2017-2019, the first stage of testing was completed with running-of the unmanned Lastochka train, to have it operated manually only for running to and from the route, otherwise the driver did not control the electric train except for opening and closing car doors..
This specialized institute develops automatic control systems for electric trains, and testing of unmanned technologies. An ES2G-136 train with higher level of automation was created on the Ural Locomotives plant for the second stage of testing. The new control system has a set of previous functions, but the technologies used are significantly improved and modernized.
Now the train can be controlled remotely in the evening and at night without worsening the traffic parameters. Control unit vision and navigation equipment are improved, new lidars (light perception sensors to recognize and display the smallest details of the environment. — Ed. mos.ru.) with automatic cleaning system are installed. A number of other systems were improved: cameras with higher characteristics are installed, additional sensors are installed at the front of the train, on the roof and in the area of car doors.
The train is tested on the MCC without passengers and two or three times a year — on the experimental circle of JSC VNIIZHT in Shcherbinka. Specialists monitor there, how the system recognizes obstacles and applies braking.
"A 12-hour shift includes 30-40 approaches to different types of obstacles at different speeds and with different lighting conditions. All these parameters are analyzed to train the neural network, which is an important part of technical vision. Then we return the train to the MCC and see how the system behaves on the existing infrastructure," Sergey Kudryashov said.
Once the train passes all the tests, it shall be certified and set out for carrying passengers, provided the applicable laws are available. The unmanned system will make it possible to secure traffic, significantly facilitate the work of drivers and reduce the traffic time interval.
"We’re running continuous tests at various stations and in a variety of weather conditions, alongside with generating applicable laws allowing operation of unmanned trains," Sergei Kudryashov stressed.