Prosecutors Want Barriers in Metro

MTMoscow metro officials say installing the barriers in older stations like Pushkinskaya, shown here, would be difficult.
City prosecutors are seeking a court order that would require the Moscow metro to install barriers on its underground platforms to prevent passengers from falling onto the tracks and being struck by oncoming trains.

The suit, filed by the City Prosecutor's Office with Moscow's Meshchansky District Court, follows a probe by the Prosecutor General's Office that cited insufficient safety precautions in the Moscow metro, as well as in underground transit systems in several other major cities.

Every year, between 130 and 150 people are killed after being struck by trains pulling into the 177 metro stations that dot the city, according to Moscow metro police statistics.

Many of the deaths are suicides, although accidental falls are frequent. There have been several cases in recent years of passengers being intentionally pushed off metro platforms and into oncoming trains.

The Prosecutor General's Office said in a statement Monday that in addition to Moscow, prosecutors would seek to have barriers erected on metro platforms in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod and Samara.

The Meshchansky District Court is scheduled to hear the suit against the Moscow metro on Nov. 18, City Prosecutor's Office spokeswoman Valentina Titova said Tuesday.

"It is difficult to say what the ruling will be," Titova said.

Moscow metro spokesman Pavel Sukharnikov said such barriers would be put up in stations on a planned second ring line, whose construction is to begin in 2014. Putting up protective barriers in existing stations, however, would be "very difficult," Sukharnikov said.

Moscow metro chief Dmitry Gayev was less restrained in his criticism of prosecutors' initiative. "The Prosecutor General's Office doesn't have anything better to do," Gayev said, Kommersant reported Tuesday.

"Why is it that when 10,000 people die on the roads, they consider this not to be an issue?" Gayev told Kommersant. "If a man has decided to commit suicide, he will jump in any case: if not under a train, then off the Krymsky Bridge [in central Moscow]."

With 9.5 million passengers daily, the Moscow metro is the second-most heavily used rapid-transit system in the world after Tokyo's, surpassing the New York subway by more than a half million passengers.

The probe by the Prosecutor General's Office concluded that most accidents on metro platforms occur during rush hour, often because of the "careless or intentional actions of citizens."