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As fast as the wind, travelling underground

Minsk underground, Belarusian produced trains, electronic card tickets and new platform doors on third line
By Natalia Sokolova

Next year, Minsk residents will bid farewell to traditional tickets, using electronic cards instead, explains Rostislav Yurenya, the Chief of Minsk Underground. He notes, “We aspire to making entrance to the underground easier. Next year, we’ll introduce a universal electronic card for the underground and buses. Cards will be reloadable at underground stations, via self-service terminals. We’ve begun work and just need chips for the cards.”

Mobile phone payments
Two underground stations are already equipped with experimental terminals, whereby card tickets can be loaded with credit via SMS. Mr. Yurenya cannot say when the service will roll out city-wide but emphasises that the underground is greatly subsidised, with fares paying just 44 percent of the actual cost: less than half.

Transcriptions to aid understanding
On the eve of the World Hockey Championship, the capital’s underground stations are each being given a unique number, with their Belarusian names written in Latin script. Mr. Yurenya tells us that place names across the Minsk underground will be given in Latin, to help visitors navigate. He notes, “The State Committee on Property has decided that there’s no need to translate place names into English, but we do need to use the Belarusian Latin alphabet, simply transcribing Belarusian words.”

All work will be complete in time for the World Hockey Championship in 2014, with signs at Nemiga, Kupalovskaya and Oktyabrskaya stations already changed. Streets, squares and public gardens will receive the same treatment, while key cultural and social sites — such as hospitals, railway stations and theatres — will also receive an English translation.

Without stuffiness or noise
The underground is set to run trains made in Belarus, as Mr. Yurenya tells us. “By the first quarter of 2014, we should see an experimental five-carriage set, produced in Gomel.

We’ll decide on further deliveries after this trial. If successful, it may hail a new era of using Belarusian trains on the underground.” Each carriage will have LED lighting, air conditioning and air-cushioned suspension, reducing noise levels.

No injuries on disembarking
By 2017, Minsk’s four new underground stations — on the third line — will open, connecting the southern and northern residential areas of the city with the centre. The route is being laid under the River Svisloch River. Mr. Yurenya explains that doors will be placed level with platforms, to stop people from falling as they disembark.

A system of automatic train operation is also to be introduced on the third line, although a driver will remain, controlling the train’s systems.
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