More convenient, less expensive: How MCD routes make things easier for passengers

November 26, 2020

One year ago, on 21 November 2019, the city initiated Moscow Central Diameters service: the MCD-1 Belorussko-Savyolovsky route (Odintsovo-Lobnya) and the MCD-2 Kursko-Rizhsky route (Nakhabino-Podolsk).

The city of Moscow, the Moscow Region and Russian Railways has accomplished a lot in two years. First, they decided to merge railway and metro routes to integrate a “surface metro” into the system. This project paid off, with riders accessing convenient locations for changing to the Moscow Central Circle (MCC) railway and public transport routes. They also received a unified fare payment system.

The MCD routes make life more convenient for over 4 million residents in Moscow. Instead of the older style commuter trains, passengers now have modern convenient trains that always run on time with service intervals of between 5 and 7 minutes. They will need another excuse to be late for work. People travelling from the suburbs now pay less, and Troika card users can change for free to the metro and MCC. 

This story shows how the life of people shuttling between the Moscow Region and the city has changed in the past 12 months, and what MCD advantages they now appreciate. 

The five advantages of MCD routes

Synchronised traffic, more trains, shorter service intervals

Synchronised traffic is one of the MCD’s main advantages. Passengers who regularly used commuter trains can now reach their destinations faster without depending on train schedules. MCD-1 and MCD-2 trains now run almost 70 percent more often, with minimal service intervals. The city’ commuter trains now come and go at 5 to 7 minute service intervals. Traditional daytime maintenance breaks have been eliminated. 

Photo by Maxim Denisov,

The MCD routes offer new opportunities for those traveling from the Moscow Region to Moscow and back, as well as for those moving about town. According to statistics, middle-aged and young people are now using the commuter trains more often. Before the pandemic, students accounted for 15 percent of all passengers in the Central Zone and used Moscow resident cards.

The new MCD routes have also increased age limits for children traveling free, that is, from 5 to 7 years. MCD trains have carried 180,000 passengers in this category over the past 12 months.

Photo by Yevgeny Samarin,

Easy-to-understand fare system and pay-your-own-way concept

MCD passengers can pay their fares with the Troika card; it is less expensive than buying commuter train tickets, and they don’t have to carry several travel cards. It is also more environmentally friendly because less paper is used on tickets. Fares are deducted at “Wallet rates,” and it is possible to record and access the Central and Suburban zones, covering the metro, MCC and surface transport with one pre-paid fare system.

The new rates have allowed passengers to save about 1.5 billion roubles on MCD routes over the past 12 months. Moscow residents can save up to 50 percent of the previous fares on their daily trips, with Moscow Region residents saving up to 75 percent.

It is possible to change to MCD routes at no additional cost from 20 metro stations, and this number is to reach 27 by 2024. Riders can change from metro stations to MCD routes within 90 minutes from the first ticket validation. Previously, passengers had to buy extra tickets to change from commuter to metro trains; now they can pay for the entire trip once with a Troika card.

In the past 12 months, passengers have changed over 16.5 million times from MCDs to the metro without additional cost, including 16,800 times at the following new stations:  Rabochy Posyolok (MCD-1), Butovo and Krasny Stroitel (MCD-2) that opened in September 2020.

New comfortable trains: Wi-Fi, bicycle racks and lots more

Modern, domestically-assembled Ivolga (Oriole) trains run on MCD routes together with long-range commuter trains, Aeroexpress trains (MCD-1) and Lastochka (Swallow) trains (MCD-2). Here is how the more convenient and less expensive MCD routes make life easier for passengers.

Ivolga trains accelerate quickly but smoothly, for greater safety. Soft seats, a heating, ventilation and heat control (HVAC) system, wireless internet access and USB ports for recharging mobile devices provide for a comfortable experience. Carriages have luggage and bicycle racks, plus tables for changing infants’ diapers in restrooms. The new trains have been adapted for people with disabilities.

The city plans to replace the older MCD trains with more advanced versions before the year is out. All trains have already been replaced on the MCD-2 Kursko-Rizhsky route, with EP2D, Ivolga and Lastochka trains. They are no more than 3 years old on average. All MCD-1 trains are to be replaced by early 2021.

Modern railway stations integrated with the city’s transport systems

Transport projects have continued despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The city has built new stations and rebuilt existing ones since early 2020. Five new stations, including Volokolamskaya, Penyagino, Ostafyevo and Kuryanovo on the MCD-2 route and Slavyansky Bulvar  station on the MCD-1 route, have opened in the past 12 months. Passengers will also find five upgraded stations: Opalikha and Nakhabino on the MCD-2 route, and Novodachnaya, Setun and Dolgoprudnaya, on the MCD-1 route.

The new and upgraded MCD stations are becoming European-class railway stations. They are equipped with convenient and safe passageways, hallways with turnstiles, lifts, escalators, and platforms with full-length roofs to protect against the weather.

MCD routes serve as an alternative to the metro and to surface transport. This fall, these routes carried over 60,000 metro passengers when a section of the metro’s Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya Line was shut down on weekdays.

The MCD-2 route’s Kuryanovo station, which opened this summer, helps 340,000 people in the Pechatniki and Maryino districts shuttle back and forth more quickly. Now they can save 25 to 30 minutes daily en route. It is also intended to overhaul a nearby industrial zone and build a residential bock.

In January 2020, another station called Ostafyevo opened on the MCD-2 route under a long-term project. New blocks, due to be completed soon, will increase the population of the settlement of Ryazanovskoye. Located within walking distance, the station also provides service to the township of Znamya Oktyabrya and nearby Shcherbinka neighbourhood units. Trip durations are down by 10 to 35 minutes, and fares have been cut by up to 85 percent for passengers that did not use the MCD route in the past.

The new MCD-1 station, Slavyansky Bulvar, is a hub for several transport systems, including MCD routes, the metro, Aeroexpress trains and surface transport. One million people in the Moscow Region no longer have to go to Belorussky Railway Station in central Moscow and then change to the metro or an Aeroexpress train.

One of Europe’s largest commuter train stations has opened in Nakhabino. This was previously an ordinary railway station, with an old bridge linking the two platforms. Today, passengers can use a large indoor overpass with lifts and escalators.

Work is now underway to overhaul the Timiryazevskaya, Kalanchovskaya, Bakovka and Podolsk stations. Plans include several new stations: Petrovsko-Razumovskaya, Maryina Roshcha, Dmitrovskaya, Kotlyakovo, Pechatniki and Shchyukinskaya on the MCD-1 and MCD-2 routes by 2024. The Ilimskaya station is to be completed after 2024. Each new station will meet Moscow city transport standards.

They are building or overhauling MCD stations 24 hours a day under a special process and without interrupting service.

The new MCD-3 Leningradsko-Kazansky route (between Zelenograd and Ramenskoye), the MCD-4 Kievsko-Gorkovsky route (between Aprelevka and Zheleznodorozhny) and the MCD-5 Yaroslavsko-Paveletsky route (between Pushkino and Domodedovo) are all planned for the future.

Passenger services

The MCD route map was merged with the metro map, including in the Moscow Metro mobile app, prior to opening the first two MCD routes. Passengers were able to plot new routes and see stations for changing from the metro to the MCD. In the past 12 months, app users have plotted over 7.5 million such routes.

Consultants at the Passenger Mobility Centre are ready to help people with disabilities using MCD routes. Since the centre opened, they have assisted 1,000 such passengers. Most often, they help visually impaired people, wheelchair users and children with health impairments. The centre’s staffers can escort them free of charge along their entire route and help them change between MCD routes, the metro and MCC stations. Moreover, they help these people at railway and bus stations and en route to the city’s social facilities.

In August 2020, posters on the Books in the Metro project were hung at all MCD stations. The QR codes allow passengers to access an online library. The MCD-2 route’s Streshnevo station apparently has the most well-read passengers. The three most popular online books are Nevsky Prospekt by Nikolai Gogol, Fat and Skinny by Anton Chekhov and Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

Maximum safety during the pandemic

The MCD routes have used sanitary procedures since March 2020. Every two hours, all surfaces touched by passengers, including turnstiles, validators, ticket-selling machines, ticket office windows and bulletin boards, are treated with antiseptics.

Trains are mopped and disinfected three times a day. Cold steam is used to treat all rolling stock at train maintenance facilities through the night. This makes it possible to decontaminate all surfaces, with anti-bacterial steam penetrating any remote areas.

Cashiers, controllers and locomotive crews undergo medical checkups and have their temperatures checked before each shift. Employees are issued face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. Non-contact sanitisers are installed at stations. And, like in surface transit vehicles, MCD passengers have to wear face masks and gloves, which are available at ticket offices.

The large-scale and long-term Moscow Central Diameters project is the first step in completely merging Moscow’s railway and metro systems. This includes modern trains, convenient interchanges and an easy-to-understand fare system. The mega-project will provide the city and its people with a new transport infrastructure. Since November 2019, MCD routes have become a natural part of the Moscow metropolis and remain popular with local residents. This confirms their importance for the city.

Since their inception, passengers have used both routes over 130 million times. In all, 61 million people have traveled the MCD-1 Belorussko-Savyolovsky route, with 69 million more using the MCD-2 Kursko-Rizhsky route. The programme continues as the MCD-3, MCD-4 and MCD-5 routes are being designed and prepared for service before 2025 is out.


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