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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Railroad Boss Faces Jail Over Turnstiles

MTThe Moscow Railroad has ignored the court ruling for a year, saying the turnstiles are needed to make sure people pay to ride.
If Moscow prosecutors get their way, the head of the powerful Moscow Railroad could end up behind bars for not letting passengers move freely.

City prosecutors on Tuesday opened a criminal case against Vladimir Starostenko for ignoring a court order to remove turnstiles from suburban train stations.

"For a long time, the Moscow prosecutor's office has repeatedly demanded that the Moscow Railroad cancel its decision to place turnstiles at the exits of train stops and railway stations," prosecutor's office spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko said by telephone.

The office said in a statement that the turnstiles violate passengers' rights by "limiting their freedom of movement."

Last October, the Meshansky intermunicipal court upheld the claim and ordered the railroad to remove the turnstiles. On several occasions, court marshals have extracted fines from Starostenko for not complying with the court's decision, but the Moscow Railroad steadfastly refuses to take action, prosecutors said.

"Taking into account the circumstances, the city prosecutor's office had to resort to more serious measures of influence," Petrenko said.

Starostenko faces a maximum of two years in jail.

"We apologize, but we have to say that we have no comment," Moscow Railroad's press office said.

The Moscow Railroad began placing turnstiles at stations and stops in 1999 in an effort to discourage freeloaders. Passengers are required to buy a ticket before approaching the platform and insert the ticket into a turnstile before they can exit. Prosecutors say they have been inundated with complaints from the public ever since; with millions of people riding Moscow Railroad trains every day and only a handful of turnstiles at each station, the exiting process can get ugly.

But it is not just passengers who are irritated by the turnstiles. Police say the bottlenecks created by the devices encourage terrorist attacks, while firefighters call them a safety hazard.

Federal law says people are passengers only while riding and are not passengers once they disembark, thus cannot be required to pass through a turnstile to exit, prosecutors contend.

The railroad, however, says the system is needed to make sure people pay. After installing turnstiles at Yaroslavsky Station, for example, revenues grew by 30 times, according to the railroad.