By Vladimir Metelsky
Our railway has some ambitious plans. By 2015, Belarusians will have access to a European level railroad, offering business and economy classes, various travelling speeds and a principally new classification of lines.
“The new format envisages a comprehensive system of passenger transportation using progressive technological solutions and contemporary rolling stock,” stresses Anatoly Sivak, the Head of Belarusian Railways. “It aims to strengthen ties between regions, offering speed, mobility, comfort and, of course, availability. The market for railway passenger carriage will be classified between international, regional, inter-regional and city lines. The latter will be divided depending on class of comfort and the package of corresponding services offered.”
Journalists present at the briefing were shown information on the seven new lines, each defined by a different colour and flower emblem. For example, an aster against a red background is to be depicted on city lines, while an orchid against orange is to indicate international business class. International economy class will have a tulip against yellow while a crocus against blue will be the sign for regional business class. This rainbow of colours will be reflected in the colour of trains and in the uniforms of engine drivers and guides. Already, work is underway to complete the transformation.
“Infrastructural sites between Minsk-Passazhirsky and Zhdanovichi are being actively constructed and reconstructed. To accelerate passenger boarding and de-boarding, the height of platforms is to be raised to reach that of trains. Platforms will also be equipped with roofs and pedestrian tunnels laid. Near Minsk-Severny railway station a pedestrian tunnel will be built, connecting it directly with Molodezhnaya metro station,” explains Mr. Sivak.
What do the railways hope for in radically changing the level of comfort, speed and availability of rail transport? Firstly, they aim to make ticket prices cover 100 percent of costs. Secondly, they plan to seriously compete against mini-buses and, even, private cars. New schedules and flexible tariffs will make many people reconsider how they travel: burning petrol while standing in traffic jams or travelling in comfort, while reading newspapers or surfing the Internet from the train.