Moscow's Iron Ring

Andrei Gordeev / Vedomosti

MCR is a 54-km. railway line and 31stations, some of which are integrated with Metro stations.

The Moscow Central Ring will stimulate the development of adjacent areas.

In September 2008, Yuri Luzhkov, then mayor of Moscow, and Vladimir Yakunin, then president of Russian Railways, signed an agreement on the reconstruction of the Small Ring of Moscow Railways (renamed the Mosow Central Ring — MCR). The MCR was to supposed to being service in 2015, but it was launched a year late, in September 2016 by Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and Russian Railways president Oleg Belozerov. A railway and mayoral commission worked for several years, but Russian Railways blocked all issues, citing the long and highly complex process of incorporation, a former city official said, and the city lacked the money for the MCR.

In 2011, Sobyanin took the project to the president, according to a source close to city hall. The investments was sizable: 72 billion rubles from the federal budget ($2.45 billion) and 85 billion rubles from Moscow. No additional calculations of passenger flow were made, and the calculations of Moscow General Planning Research and Project Institute (MGPRPI) were used, says a former employee of the Moscow Ring Railway company (created by Russian Railways and Moscow City Hall on a parity basis, it developed transportation hubs on the MCR).

The MCR passenger railway was incorporated in the master plan of Moscow to 2025. Originally the ring served the middle zone of the capital, the former industrial area, but in the 2000s, they began to include these areas in the master plan as subject to reorganization and requiring intensification of public transport, says Sergey Tkachenko, director of MGPRPI until 2011. "This is the European experience," he said. "The most successful example is Berlin, with its single system of S-Bahn and U-Bahn [commuter train and subway]. A small ring was built as a single-fare transfer line connected with the other transport routes through a transportation hub."

Today, MCR is a 54-km. railway line (31 km. has three tracks, the rest has two) and 31 stations, some of which are integrated with Metro stations and some with stations of the suburban trains. The Moscow Metro is responsible for passenger transport, and Russian Railways is in charge of cargo.

Big Hopes

Waiting for the Flow

A number of experts believe that new construction around MCR stations is unlikely in the near future. "A steady flow should be created in the area of these stations first. It has to be be evaluated, and only then can you talk about its potential," said Yulia Nikulicheva, national director and head of the strategic consulting department at JLL. "A number of stations are located in built-up areas where there is no land for development. Others are in already developed commercial real estate markets and do not need further development (for example, Voykovskaya and City). Of course, we can talk about its appeal for small-scale developmentsmall retail facilities targeted at impulse buying by MCR passengers."

The new ring can bring benefit and harm to owners of residential property," said Metrium Group managing partner Maria Litinetskaya. "Where the stations improve transport accessibility, new construction and secondary real estate rise in price by 4-5percent," she said. "At the same time, the liquidity of apartments with windows facing directly onto the railway is decreased, due to the additional source of noise." For example, the elite House on Khamovniki is located in the vicinity of Luzhniki Station. "Living next to a railway is, to put it mildly, a matter of taste," Vadim Lamin, managing partner of Spencer Estate, said. "Housing prices have nothing to grow on."

In its first year, the MCR will carry 75 million people, the city says and, in 2020, that number will rise to 170 million. In 2030, it will reach 300 million. About half of them will be people who now use other Metro lines. Almost a quarter will use suburban trains and only 10 percent will live in the areas surrounding it. "When calculating the passenger flow, we were primarily focused on those who live within walking distance of the MCR and those who regularly use the radial Metro lines," said a city hall representative. About half a million people live within walking distance of the MCR stations, according to rough estimates, and 250,000 people work and about 80,000 study there.

The MCR passes through 26 districts of Moscow with a population of 1.9 million people, said a representative of the Moscow Department of Transport. Six districts Metrogorodok, Beskudnikovsky, Koptevo, Kotlovka, Khoroshevo-Mnevniki and Nizhegorodsky with a population of 500,000 people, will actually have pedestrian access to the Metro. There are nine parks along the course of the MCR. These include Losiny Island, Izmailovo State Museum, the Trubetskoi Estate, VDNKh, and Luzhniki, Locomotive and CSKA stadiums. The MCR also makes an academic ring, passing the largest universities of the country: Russian State Social University, Moscow State University of Railway Engineering, National Research University Higher School of Economics, I.M. Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University, the Pedagogical University and Moscow Aviation Institute.

Moscow officials are making efforts to popularize the ring. Passengers will ride for free the first month. Since September 10, Yandex has included the MCR in it calculation of passenger routes. More than 30 new bus routes have been developed, and there will be parking at 13 transportation hubs. "People's transportation behavior is very conservative," said a representative of the Transportation Department. "For those who use overland public transport, we will start making trips to stations within a year, so they get used to it." According to him, passengers from the region will have a convenient opportunity to transfer to the Metro before they reach the crowded major stations.

Will It Be Shortened?

"Adapting current daily demand to the new service will take a few months. Remember, Aeroexpress cars were almost empty the first month" said Mikhail Blinkin, director of the Institute of Transport Economics.

The authorities praise the MCR. It cuts the travel the time from Vladykino station to Rokossovsky Boulevard in half, and reduces the time from Mezhdunarodnaya to Leninsky Prospekt nearly as much. Getting from Partizanskaya to Shosse Entuziastov is now 75 percent faster. The MCR will reduce the load on critical stretches of the Metro, for example, reducing traffic on the Ring Line by 15 percent, on the Sokolnicheskaya Line by 20 percent and Lublinskaya by 14 percent. About 20 million passengers will transfer onto it from suburban trains in the MCR's first year, increasing to 60 million in subsequent years. Traffic at railway stations and the Metro stations attached to them will be reduced by more than 20 percent, officials hope.

Blinkin is skeptical. In comparison with passenger traffic on the Metro in 2015, it carried 2.38 billion people those statistics are more than just modest. "There will be a redistribution of passenger traffic by 5-8 percent. But there will not be revolutionary changes," Blinkin said.

Pavel Ivankin, director of the Research Institute of Railway Transport Problems, agrees with him. "In its first phase, employees of Moscow City will appreciate the MCR," he said. A circular pattern of movement is useful when merging similar types of transport. Risks increase with different types of transport, routes can be difficult or number of transfers increase."

For the Sake of Construction

The key thing in this project is the development of adjacent areas, Blinkin said. "The owners of industrial sites had nothing to do, the territory was meaningless and it was impossible to get to it. Business's reaction to the new transport system should be to begin exploring the surrounding area. Only then can it be said that the project is fully."

Moscow Deputy Mayor Marat Khusnullin has repeatedly said the MCR will contribute to the development of adjacent areas. Most of area 10,800 hectares consists of abandoned industrial zones. The MCR will be a catalyst for their development, according to the deputy mayor. Due to the guaranteed passenger flow, the investment attractiveness of the land will increase, which means that there will be areas with comfortable housing, social infrastructure and new jobs. Alexey Zotov, general director of the Moscow Ring Railway company, said up to 10 million sq.m. of real estate may be built near the Small Ring.

At eight MCR transportation hubs Vladykino, Botanical Garden, Yaroslavskaya, Novokhokhlovskaya, Varshavskoe Shosse, Novopeschanaya, Nikolaevskaya and City, commercial building has been proposed. Construction of about 742,500 sq.m. of retail space, offices, hotels, parking and housing is planned. "The MCR is the key to the development of former industrial areas on both sides of the railway. These lands should be developed comprehensively, with one type of real estate supporting the other in a synergistic effect," a representative of the Pioneer company said. (It won the tender to develop the Botanical Garden transportation hub.) "Business activity is generated in the hub and consumer demand is accumulated, and modern transport infrastructure capitalizes residential real estate."