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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

City's Metro Cleanup Draws Fire

Moscow metro workers and riders appear to disapprove of the mayor's latest attempt to clean up the city's prized underground transportation system.

Mayor Yury Luzhkov signed new regulations this week governing the 239-kilometer metro system that will ban musicians from performing in any of the 148 ornate stations.

"I think it is wrong", Sheldon Schwartz, who watches over the escalators which race to and from the Lubyanka metro station, said Thursday. "The musicians never made any problems. They entertained people. I won't tell people to stop".

Igor Zveryev, a spokesman for Luzhkov, said the new rules signed Wednesday were established because the old ones from the early 1970s were outdated.

But Boris Martynov, deputy head of the Metro system, who wrote the new rules cited safety violations as a motivating factor for the new rules.

"When musicians play they create a crowd around them", he said. "If there is an emergency, it is impossible to evacuate people. I have analyzed many accidents and when people can hear directions from metro authorities in the station, there is less panic. When musicians play it is sometimes louder than official announcements".

The new rules also ban drunks, going barefoot and the use of radios and tape recorders underground.

Igor Panashov, 22, a transit officer for the last year, said he agreed with the new rules, which he was informed about by his boss.

"There used to be a lot of people playing", he said. "It was hard to move".

The tradition of people playing on the street and underground began at the turn of the century. But during the years of Soviet rule, street performers all but disappeared, to resurface in the late 1980s.

Now, sounds of music have been replaced by those of the footsteps of 8 million people who use the subway daily as they race off to their next destination.

"A week ago they used to be here", said Lidia Fyodorova, pointing to the subway connecting Lubyanka and Kuznetsky Most stations, where she has worked for seven years. "I wasn't against them playing. In fact, I liked it".