Correspondents of Novye Izvestia, together with colleagues from the federal media holding 1MI, visited the stations of 11 key Russian cities - Moscow, Ivanovo, Kazan, Rostov-on-Don, Volgograd, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Krasnoyarsk, Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, Chelyabinsk. At all stations, in all cities, changes and innovations are visible, which speak of a unified program for the renovation of stations being carried out by the Russian Railways holding.
REFERENCE POINT: FROM NEGATIVE TO POSITIVE
There were always queues at the ticket offices. To understand the mass stereotypes of Russians about railway stations, one does not need to conduct in-depth sociological research. Since the late USSR and throughout the 90s, railway stations have been one of the main sources of theft, crime, racketeering and extortion.
As for the service for passengers, the expressions "station restaurant", "station toilet", "queues at the ticket offices" and "station taxi drivers" (they are also bombiles) were imprinted in the mass consciousness with a minus sign and nothing else. The head of Russian Railways Oleg Belozerov promised the renovation of the stations in 2015. Words did not diverge from deeds.
To understand the mass stereotypes of Russians about railway stations, one does not need to conduct in-depth sociological research. Since the late USSR and throughout the 90s, railway stations have been one of the main sources of theft, crime, racketeering and extortion. As for the service for passengers, the expressions "station restaurant", "station toilet", "queues at the ticket offices" and "station taxi drivers" (they are also bombiles) were imprinted in the mass consciousness with a minus sign and nothing else.
Since the 2000s, the situation at and around railway stations, of course, began to change for the better. But, according to the statement of the head of Russian Railways Oleg Belozerov, made by him in 2015 immediately after his appointment to the post, the pace and quality of these changes left much to be desired.
"I believe that the railway is deeply indebted to passengers, who often forgive us our shortcomings and are sympathetic to those, shall we say, historical phenomena still encountered in our country. We are trying to make the railway for passengers a fundamentally different environment, a hospitable home and a comfortable office". (Oleg Belozerov, General Director - Chairman of Russian Railways)
At the same time, the new head of Russian Railways talked about the strategy of renovating station buildings and territories, about an integrated approach to the reconstruction of stations, including the development of the smallest stopping points.
"It is planned to make both large and small railway stations and stopping points more comfortable, equip them with sheds, additional lighting, and carry out reconstruction somewhere. The personnel involved in servicing passengers on trains and at stations will undergo additional trainings, learn to communicate with customers competently and efficiently". (Oleg Belozerov, General Director - Chairman of Russian Railways)
Today, almost six years later, we can say that Oleg Belozerov has fulfilled his promises. The stations are being restored, the infrastructure is being updated, changes in the work of the personnel are noticeable. Let us tell you what Russian Railways passengers received in practice.
ENTRANCE FOR CRIMINALS AND STREET PERSONS IS FORBIDDEN!
In all 11 cities, Novye Izvestia correspondents did not see strangers who were not going to go anywhere. There are no scammers, gypsies-extortionists, homeless people or people who simply sleep on benches who “have nowhere to sleep” at Russian Railways stations today. At the entrance everywhere there are metal detectors' arches and vigilant law enforcement officers. Everything inside is monitored by video cameras. In Omsk, an integrated security system began operating two years ago. In 2019, all video cameras in the building were updated, introscopes for inspection, frames with metal detectors, and radiation monitoring appeared.
We observe the same picture in Khabarovsk and in other cities.
"Once upon a time, the entrance to the Khabarovsk railway station was free. I went in - and immediately a buffet in which all sorts of things were sold, for example, that very chicken, which was always skinny and for some reason not the first freshness. Today, thank God, we got rid of this good. Now, at the entrance, every citizen is checked for weapons. This is, of course, a little unnerving, but order remains order. Nobody canceled the provision of anti-terrorist measures. As a matter of fact, this disciplines the citizens, puts them under control, if you like", - reported by the correspondent of NI from Khabarovsk.
COVID WILL NOT PASS!
Enhanced sanitary measures have been added to the anti-terrorist security measures in connection with the coronavirus pandemic in the past year and a half. In Rostov-on-Don, for example, there is a special room for measuring temperature and a department where you can do a COVID-19 test and a PCR test.
In Vladivostok, a robot is standing right at the entrance, which automatically checks the temperature of visitors. The wonderful machine deftly jerks its eye-lens, riveting the attention of children.
At the stations of Volgograd and Omsk, there is a non-contact infrared measurement system for body temperature. Remote thermometry complexes are installed in the inspection areas. Externally, the system consists of a sensor that displays the passenger's body temperature on a computer monitor. No measuring pistol, you just need to go inside the station. If the temperature is high, the system beeps. And a medical worker is invited to the person for additional consultations.
In waiting rooms, sanitizers with antiseptic agents for treating hands are installed everywhere, and comprehensive disinfection treatment of station premises is constantly being carried out ... And similar measures are in place in all cities visited by our correspondents.
GIVE US THE "SMART STATION"!
The "Smart Station" system under the general director of Russian Railways Oleg Belozerov is being actively implemented throughout Russia. "Smart Station" is a complex of 17 subsystems that automatically ensure the functioning of the entire station, create comfortable and safe conditions for passengers. For example, some subsystems control heating, ventilation, lighting and air conditioning. Another provides security: a video surveillance system of at least 100 cameras, access to the station, fire alarms, an emergency communication system with the police, etc. The chief engineer of the Krasnoyarsk railway station, Alexander Tsvettsikh, is happy to talk about how the system works: “An important part of the Smart Station is the information system and electronic passenger service. To avoid crowds of people, an "electronic queue" was introduced at the station in the checkout hall, which evenly distributes flows and speeds up the service process. As in any modern bank. The "electronic queue" terminals are located in the checkout hall. Passengers choose the type of service and receive a coupon, for example, for a purchase, ticket refund or any other. The ticket can also be purchased contactless, quickly, technologically. All information is displayed on touch screens - all explanations and announcements are divided into sections, you can even track the location of the train, in case of force majeure, find out why and how long it is late. If something is not clear, you can press the saving blue button, and a live operator will get in touch, he will tell you everything, calm down and guide you.
The electronic system has significantly reduced the queues at the checkout. “In recent years, it has become much calmer at the station, people are no longer nervous,” says a guest from Abakan, Sergei Basharov. For ten years, he regularly travels to Krasnoyarsk on business trips, and always by train. “You don’t need to remember who is behind whom, to look for a person, if he has left, you yourself are called to the cashier, like in a bank,” Sergey continues. - If there is a lot of time and your turn is still far away, then you can walk around the station. You can follow your ticket number on the monitors that hang on the walls in different rooms, or on the speakerphone. " The Smart Station system has become the industry standard at Russian Railways. And it is being introduced everywhere. And all the stations of Russian Railways received a unified navigation system - clear and simple.
The information service has also gone online: at the stations there are sensory information boards, or information terminals, where you can get complete information about trains, services, and look at the station map. If something is not clear, you can contact the operator who will answer any question. And the Chelyabinsk information service operators, for example, have recently been serving passengers from Kurgan, Miass, Kartalov. Communication takes place via the Internet, instantly bypassing hundreds of kilometers. The pleasant female voice of the announcer of the Chelyabinsk railway station, announcing the arrival and departure of trains, sounds in the cities mentioned. The system is fully automated. The station employees themselves call her "Alice", by analogy with the Yandex system.
There are even interactive holograms. So in Volgograd, an interactive girl, very similar to a real employee, talks about the advantages of a business lounge.
And the sound of the arrival of the train at many stations has changed. If before all the work was done by a person: he saw that the train had arrived, announced it to the entire station. Now this is done by an automated system. After the train arrives, the information is immediately transmitted to the program, which voices all the necessary information in a human voice. And no reservations. We can say that today machines rule at train stations. For example, at the Vladivostok station, cash is now completely unnecessary, you can pay for everything with bank cards. And in Chelyabinsk, coffee is sold by a robot bartender.
Electronic luggage storage is a separate topic. You can pay for the luggage storage service at the terminals located near the cameras. They issue a check, the barcode of which serves as a key to open the cells.
COMFORT FOR PERSONS WITH RESTRICTIONS IS THE NORM
A special direction in the service of the renovated stations is helping the disabled. For the convenience of special passengers, the entrances have been adapted at the stations, and on the apron the safety strip is lined with tactile tiles. For hearing-impaired passengers, an induction loop was provided at the checkout. On the floors there are mnemonic diagrams for orienting people with visual impairments. Also in the buildings of the station there are special rooms for short-term stays of people with limited mobility. The peculiarities of visitors - wheelchair users, hearing impaired or visually impaired people - are taken into account in the work of the cash desk.
"They will be invited to the cashier for people with limited mobility and will not be sent to a random window. And if it is a wheelchair user, then the checkout will be with a lowered counter". Alexander Tsvettsikh, director of the Krasnoyarsk railway station.
Also, people with disabilities can ask for help when boarding or disembarking from the train. Many platforms have special elevators and mobile platforms that help to get a person with disabilities on the train, or to help him get off.
"The passenger can make a request in advance. Our employees will call him 2 hours before the arrival of the train, meet and see him. If you need a stretcher or stroller, we have and are provided. Luggage assistance is also provided", - Dmitry Derechin, director of the Omsk railway station.
COMFORT. PURITY. WI-FI
In terms of comfort technologies, Russian Railways stations seem to compete with each other, offering passengers and visitors a different set of services. Before the start of the renovation, during the monitoring of opinions and wishes, the management of Russian Railways received powerful feedback: passengers readily shared ideas on what could be improved. And the reaction of Russian Railways was not long in coming. Applications, services, information in one click... Everything is available, quickly, understandably and already familiar.
Free Wi-Fi, sockets for charging gadgets are available at the stations of all 11 cities where our correspondents visited. Moreover, all new sofas in the waiting rooms are equipped with built-in devices for charging gadgets with 220V and USB connectors.
In general, a good train station is a whole infrastructure created to ensure the comfort of travelers. Today, the station has everything: shops, pharmacies, cafes, hairdressing salons, hotels, rest rooms, toilets and showers, round-the-clock medical centers, rooms for mothers and children, VIP rooms, gyms, massage rooms, TVs on the walls, points for separate collection of garbage and batteries...
There are office centers, coworking spaces, post office, excursion bureaus and forgotten things bureaus. This is also important. If a passenger has forgotten something valuable (documents, gadgets, watches) on the train or at the station, he / she must fill out an electronic application within 30 days from the date of loss in the Services and Services section on the official website of Russian Railways.
By specifying the name, ticket number, phone number, e-mail and the last four characters of the document number for which the ticket was purchased, you can find a forgotten thing. Conductors and employees of the station are focused on preserving lost things and transferring them to a special service.
And at the train stations there are shelves with free books that you can safely take on the road and put on a shelf at a train station in another city, and even musical instruments: if you get bored while waiting for the train, play something beautiful.
The sanitary block with shower can be used by passengers of all classes. Well, if you really want to sleep in silence, you can check into the hotel right at the station.
Children's play areas are another thoughtful detail of the renovated train stations. Traveling with children is not an easy undertaking. Waiting for a train can become unbearable, especially for small passengers. Therefore, playgrounds were installed at many railway stations. Most of the sites are located in soundproofed areas so as not to disturb other passengers. In addition, at the stations there are special zones with educational toys, children's TVs with cartoons and broadcasting of children's TV channels.
CLEANLINESS IS A KEY TO COMFORT
"The station struck me with its perfect cleanliness, well, it's just amazing and amazing how the workers manage to maintain the place where clouds and heaps of people pass by in such a state", - says Maria, a resident of Novosibirsk.
We've heard similar responses all over the place. The secret of cleanliness is simple: railway stations in Russia began to be cleaned, cleaned and washed not "from time to time" when some kind of check comes, but with obligatory regularity, using special equipment and cleaning agents, including disinfection from bacteria and viruses. Simply put, cleanliness has become another standard for all Russian Railways stations.
Residents of Ivanovo said that the station building used to have no toilets at all, and now, after reconstruction, there are even sanitary rooms for disabled people.
In other cities, changing tables have appeared in the washrooms, and at some train stations, full-fledged "Mother and Child" rooms. By the way, our correspondents tried to look for toilets at railway stations by the specific smell that in the old years pursued passengers. But the task turned out to be impossible: nowhere from 11 stations did the toilets remind of themselves with unnecessary smells. They are washed and ventilated! And by the way, today toilets at train stations are free.
NEW LIFE OF VINTAGE INTERIORS
During the reconstruction of the stations, most of which were built in the past and the century before last, restorers tried to carefully preserve the architectural features and decorative elements of old buildings. And today, at all stations, you can admire the beauty of paintings by eminent artists, old stained glass windows, columns, clocks, mosaics.
In general, the interiors of the stations have changed a lot after the renovation. If earlier the entrance to the waiting rooms was blocked by huge tubs with palm trees, wooden benches, from which legs hung down the aisles, hats were pulled down and bags with suitcases left. Today the station has become more open and modern. Passengers say there is more air in the buildings. The space was visually expanded due to the competent organization of the space. There are soft armchairs and sofas, aquariums, tables in the waiting rooms. And the tubs and flowerpots turned into winter gardens.
The halls with trade pavilions have also changed for the better. Previously, it was a scattered row of retail outlets, now it is a network of pavilions in the same style. And especially the passengers are grateful for the elevators that have appeared in almost all the renovated stations. Now you can easily go up and down to the basement floors, to the exits to the aprons or to the second floors to the waiting rooms.
DELIVER CULTURE IN THE MASS DIRECTLY FROM THE STATION!
The stations, oddly enough, offer passengers a cultural program. Museums have been organized on the territory of many railway stations and squares, which carefully preserve the history of Russian Railways; concerts and exhibitions are held in the premises of the stations. For example, on the second floor of Novosibirsk railway station there is a stylish exposition about the history of luggage - a joint project of Russian Railways and the Russian Historical Society.
There is a museum of the Vladivostok railway station in Vladivostok. Orders, documents, elements of the form, everything was collected by the efforts of the museum staff. In Rostov-on-Don, they show old parts of trains, awards from the Rostov-Glavny railway station and other exhibits of its history.
The waiting room in Volgograd is decorated with a thematic photo zone with the attributes of the war years. And in Khabarovsk there is an exhibition about the Shantar Islands - the pearl of the Khabarovsk Territory, the cradle of whales and killer whales. And in Krasnoyarsk there is a historical wall with photos of the most famous passengers of the Krasnoyarsk railway - from Vladimir Lenin and Fridtjof Nansen to Arkady Strugatsky.
The train station is also a place with amazing acoustics. This was proved, for example, by Vilena Murzina, who became a celebrity in TikTok after performing at the Chelyabinsk train station.
CITY SQUARE AS A PART OF THE STATION
Correspondents of "Novye Izvestia" saw another positive trend: along with the renovation of railway stations, Russian Railways is reconstructing and ennobling the squares near the station. We can note the experience of Krasnoyarsk or Chelyabinsk, where the reconstruction of the adjacent territory will be completed from day to day. And to the comfort and convenience of the station building itself, a new square was added, with its own garden and a church with a bell tower.
INSTEAD OF AN AFTERWORD
As conceived by the management of Russian Railways, the station complexes should again become important city dominants - in other words, the front gates of cities that leave only the best impressions for passengers and residents.
The experience accumulated over 6 years of renovation has allowed Russian Railways to develop uniform standards for all railway stations in Russia. And you can be sure that in a couple of years the negative image of the railway stations will go down in history forever.
For example, the railway station in Ivanovo, which opened in July 2020 after professional restoration, is today recognized as the most beautiful in Russia, and took first place in the online voting of the GQ Travel Awards magazine. So, it's up to little - to move forward and think about people.