When I arrived in Moscow for the first time, back in January 2007, it was a very different city than it is now. So much has changed since then.
Today we’re going to take a look at the Moscow metro and how it’s changed since 2007.
The Moscow metro system is one of the longest in the world – and the most beautiful. You’ve probably seen photos of it, or even visited it yourself. If you have, then you’ll agree that some of the stations are simply amazing.
Here are some of the more beautiful ones from the centre of Moscow.
And here is what a lot of them look like as we move away from the prestigious centre of the city. They’re a little more functional.
While it’s true that the stations themselves haven’t changed a lot, if at all, during my time here, there are other things that have.
Let’s look at the signs in the metro. These signs tell us which side of the platforms to go, to get to the station we want. Or they tell us where the exit is, and what streets we can find outside once we’ve exited.
Below you’ll see first the old one, then the new one. You can see now they’re also written in English (although smaller and in lighter writing under the Russian words).
The new sign above also tells you the end station, and the stations that connect with the ones on this line. Much more information than the old ones gave us. And let’s look at the ‘keep left’ signs.
And you can see again the new sign is in English. Here’s some more examples of old and new signs.
And which side of the platform shall I go?
And here’s one with both an old and a new sign at the same place!
When I first came to Moscow, there were no English signs, not in the stations, nor in the trains themselves.
As they replaced the old signs for new ones, the old ones were actually sold to members of the public. They were available for purchase, and I thought hard about buying one, but I decided not to – what would I do with it?!
Where do I get off?
Stations are announced in the train, the current station and the next one, but unless you know Russian and the names of the stations, these announcements are useless. And if you can’t read Russian the older maps are useless, too.
One of the first pieces of advice that I was given when I arrived in Moscow was to count the stations. You get on at the station where you live, your place of work is 5 stations away – and you count the stations as you travel to where you’re going. Don’t lose count or you’ll find yourself lost in some unknown place. Without the counting system, if you didn’t know Russian, you didn’t know when it’s time to get off.
The shift towards adding English everywhere started happening around 2017. The reason was probably because the World Cup was held in Russia in 2018, and up until then Moscow wasn’t very tourist friendly.
There weren’t a lot of English signs anywhere, including street signs, in this beautiful city.
So, due to this huge international sports event, Moscow received a ‘facelift’. The street signs and the metro signs were replaced and updated to include English.
I will admit to you that it was at that point, for me, that Moscow started to lose some of the exotic charm that it had previously possessed.
It’s now much easier for foreigners to read and understand things in the metro. They also started the next station announcements in English, so tourists had more of a chance of getting off at the right station, and not having to count the number of stops like I had to!
And it’s not only the signs that have been ‘modernised’. There’s been some great improvements in the trains themselves.
These ones were the standard metro train carriages back in 2007, and continued to be more or less the only type for some time. We still have a lot of them even now.
Here you can see the inside of these old carriages. They’re in pretty good condition considering how many people use them everyday.
Then Moscow got some new trains, but not many, and it was still common on most of the metro lines to see the old blue carriages.
And here’s some of the ‘new’ modern ones. These started appearing in about 2012 (I think).
Then, it got serious, the World Cup was on it’s way and we were looking at hosting a LOT of tourists in Moscow. So, we got these ones.
And the interior is very lovely and modern.
And there are USB charging stations. We don’t have them in the old ones!
Let’s compare some of the interior features of the old and new train carriages.
Here’s the communication system if you need to talk to the driver. There’s one in every carriage. This one is a very old one. Push the button to talk to the driver.
This one seems to have broken, so they’ve added an old ‘new’ one just below it. I don’t know why they didn’t remove the old one.
And in our lovely new trains, we have this masterpiece – and in English for tourists, however I’m not sure that the drivers speak English so good luck with that if you need him for something!
One thing all carriages need is an emergency door opener. Here’s the old one.
And the new one.
Another safety aspect in the trains is the fire extinguisher. We lived for years with this version.
And now, what do you think of this? Magnificent, no?
Getting in and out
And it’s not just the train carriages that have changed. Take a look at these doors, for instance. They’re locked at night, but by day thousands and thousands of people go through them. Here are the old ones.
But they’re all gone now and have been replaced with these one.
And then we have the barriers that you had to go through to get in. You scanned your card (in the old days you put a token or a coin in a slot) and you could go through.
If you tried to get through without paying, those ‘arms’ you can see at about knee height chopped off your legs. Young and athletic guys used to put a hand on the top of each side and jump over them. If the sensor was activated then the arms would come out, and they came out hard and fast!
And, for those who were around Moscow when they had these kinds of barriers, wasn’t it fun to walk really close behind the person in front of you and get in without paying? With the old woman in the box blowing her whistle every time she saw two people going through at once, alerting the station police who almost never came to see what the problem was.
The new ones are all shiny and you can’t jump over them anymore, they’re too high.
Some other new things in the metro
Along with the new carriages and signs in English came some other things that the Moscow metro hadn’t seen before.
Free wifi is now available in the metro, on all lines. City wifi is available all over Moscow, including in parks, streets and all public transport.
There are now information desks in some metro stations, where you can get … information of course! It sounds obvious, but until a couple of years ago there were no such information points in the metro.
There’s also been some changes in how we buy tickets. We used to have to line up and talk to a woman through heavy glass, sometimes using a microphone when it was impossible to hear what she said.
Now, in some stations, they have a sign that tells us that they speak English. It would have been very useful for me back in 2007!
And you can see in the photo above that they take bank cards for payment – this is quite popular although it has only been in operation since 2015.
Ticket machines have also made an appearance in the Moscow metro. I haven’t used them, but they seem to be popular.
Musicians now have their own places to busk. In the past, they found the best place for themselves and played to the commuters for as long as they were not asked to move. Now, it seems that it’s a little more ‘professional’, and official, and there are special places just for musicians, marked in red. We can see solo singers or violin players, to 5 piece rock bands, and everything in between.
One last thing…
Let me leave you with a little bit of nostalgia. There used to be a lot of stray dogs in Moscow. Back in 2007 they were everywhere, and even though some people had problems with them, I never saw them being aggressive to anybody.
And, just like people, these stray dogs had their business to attend to, which wasn’t always in their neighbourhood. So, they used to catch the metro. It really did seem that they got off where they intended, they were calm and didn’t bother anyone in the metro.
There’s even a wikipedia article about them!
Now, we don’t see them anymore. Even stray dogs in the streets have mostly disappeared. Moscow has changed in many ways, and I’m not even sure if most people think about how different it is now compared to 10 or even 5 years ago.
So, anyway, here’s a few photos from 2015 of a stray dog taking the metro … somewhere.
Have there been any big changes where you live over the past 10 years? Do you notice small changes that are happening around you, or not? Tell us what’s changed in your town or city in the comments.