By Lidia Tabolina
Radio-speakers are soon to be installed at the entrance and exit of each tube station, informing passengers of how to enter safely and where steps are situated. Moreover, contrasting coloured tiles are being laid along each platform, with a raised relief surface, to help safely identify the edge. The move aims to help those with limited eyesight. Yellow strips have been painted on the first and last stairs located at the entrance and exit of the tube to further aid those with impaired vision. Such lines are also painted near escalators and by pedestrian crossings.
Researching the hidden side of Minsk’s metro, I joined a train safety inspector, Alexander Saley, walking from one station to another by foot. We spent no more than an hour underground in the tunnels, with me holding onto my mobile phone the whole time! In fact, I never lost my connection. “It’s almost impossible to become lost in Minsk’s metro tunnels. If you go straight, you reach the surface sooner or later,” he explains. He was far calmer than me of course.
Minsk has 65,937 metres of tunnels, with an average of five thousand metres changed annually, regardless of wear. All work is conducted at night of course, when the high electrical voltage is switched off (as a dispatcher informs us by radio). In the daytime, the dispatcher can also call for an ambulance where needed or scold noisy youngsters.
People who enter the tube after 1.00am are registered in a journal. If someone fails to exit, staff can search for them, but Mr. Saley stresses that nothing of the kind has occurred to date. Sometimes, a train might fail to stop at a station, if unattended bags or boxes create a security alert. Again, such instances have never resulted in true danger — with boxes usually found to be empty or containing rubbish. Not long ago, a suitcase was left on a platform, having been left behind inadvertently by its owner. The train passed through without stopping, as is always the case when this happens. The finding was later returned to its owner.
At night, cleaners sweep through each station with their machines, ensuring that new passengers are met by gleaming corridors, stairs and platforms each morning.