Working continuously in new conditions: Train driver, cashier and inspectors discuss Moscow Metro’s 2020 performance

January 14

Life became different for everyone last year. People now have a different perception of hygienic rules and public spaces, health protection and personal communications. The Moscow Metro has continued to function without respite during the COVID-19 pandemic. People have an opportunity to use a very reliable transport system, while shuttling from home to work and back, and rest assured that they will reach their destinations on time.

How do metro workers cope with the pandemic’s problems, and how do they keep the rapid transport system going? What new regulations were enacted in 2020, and what will stay with us for a long time? These questions were put to a train driver, a cashier and inspectors from the Passenger Mobility Centre and the metro’s Security Service.

Empty stations during rush hour

The metro continued to operate even when the pandemic peaked, with all workers fulfilling their duties. Now in addition to his uniform, Nikita Kovalkov, a train driver, has to wear face masks and gloves, and he undergoes regular pre-work coronavirus and antibody tests.

“My wife also works as a duty station master, and we therefore help each other. She was concerned about me, and vice versa. Of course, my mother and sister were also worried. We called each other all the time, and they asked me to take care and to wear face masks all the time. We saw them very rarely during the spring and summer, but I always felt they cared and supported me,” Nikita Kovalkov noted.

Following a decline in the volume of passenger traffic, Mr Kovalkov experienced virtually empty stations during rush hour. Before the pandemic, metro trains carried about nine million people on a daily basis. In April 2020, the volume of the metro’s passenger traffic plunged by 80 percent. However, everyone realised that the pre-pandemic lifestyle would resume, sooner or later. Mr Kovalkov is confident that the metro has also contributed to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are sanitisers at every station, the passenger infrastructure and rolling stock are being disinfected. I am quite certain  that these and other measures have minimised the number of patients. Trains never stopped running with the same intensity; we carried those who kept the city alive and kicking in the most difficult months, including doctors, delivery-service couriers and police officers,” Mr Kovalkov added.

New public transport dress code

In 2020, everyone had to don face masks and gloves before going out. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is mandatory in all public places, including the metro. Those entering metro stations are told to wear face masks and gloves.

“Some passengers did not immediately heed the new recommendations and the public transport rules of conduct. We therefore methodically urged even the most incorrigible sceptics to wear face masks and gloves, at least out of respect for all other passengers. We also monitored the work of newly-installed thermal imaging systems and thermometers, handled data flows, took passengers’ temperatures and advised people who had temperature to use the metro and to return home or see a doctor. Consequently, the range of our routine competences expanded somewhat. We had to act as diplomats and psychologists,” said Mikhail Bondarenko, a senior inspector with the metro’s Security Service.

Cashiers also found themselves on the frontline. Apart from wearing face masks and gloves, they received bactericidal air recirculation systems. The metro virtually carried no passengers during the spring-time lockdown, controller-cashier Taisia Vyazova noted.

“It was a bit scary, especially when the metro became almost empty. We had never before seen anything like it. However, all my coworkers responded with great understanding to the global and national situation and official measures. My family supports me, and they are worried because I work for such a large organisation, and because I deal with hundreds of passengers every single day. Most importantly, I have to be extremely attentive and wear PPE; this is exactly what I am doing,” Ms Vyazova noted.

Today, people can disinfect their hands using sanitisers at metro stations’ entrances and exits. They can also buy face masks and gloves at ticket offices or from vending machines. Special markers help passengers to observe social distancing on platforms and also in hallways.

Stable and intrepid transport system

As before, Passenger Mobility Centre workers helped people  to move about town last year. This service which has been working since 2013 assists visually impaired passengers, parents with prams, people with locomotor disabilities, senior citizens, educators and teachers with groups of pupils. Over a period of  past seven years, PMC has assisted over one million passengers; its inspectors did not stop working even during the pandemic.

“Last spring, we worked in the hallways of stations when people were unable to pass through turnstiles because they had failed to obtain online passes or to peg their Troika travel cards or any other fare passes to them. We continued to provide escort services, always had extra PPE kits for passengers without face masks and gloves,” said Darya Kozlova, a senior inspector with the Passenger Mobility Centre. “Last spring, we posted a sharp decline in volumes of passenger traffic. We found this rather unusual because we normally handle about 200 requests daily. We are used to working every minute of the day,” she added.

However, some city dwellers needed daily assistance while using the metro. Inspectors also notified passengers about metro repair work.

According to Ms Kozlova, safety and continuity are the main principles of the metro’s work. The metro’s management toughened security measures during the pandemic, so as to protect both workers and passengers. The 60,000-plus metro employees are supplied everyday with PPE.

“In 2020, the metro once again convinced everyone that it was a powerful, reliable and intrepid transport system. Any problems seem to help it get even better, safer and more passenger-friendly,” Ms Kozlova added. “The pandemic reminded us about the basic rules that we have known since childhood. We realised once again that these seemingly banal and naïve rules remain highly important, and that all people have to do is wash their hands carefully, stay away from others while talking to them and care for elderly people,” she noted.


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