Moscow authorities discuss 10 variants of new cable car ropeways


In Moscow, the first working line should appear in three years. In total, Moscow authorities are planning to build about 10 cable car ropeways, with a series of meetings (road shows) for manufacturers and operators scheduled for July. "We plan to build 30 to 40 km of ropeways in 4-5 years, which will be small, but extremely important elements for the convenience of movement for many residents of Moscow. The first phase of the project has already been implemented in Moscow in 2018: a passenger cable car ropeway connecting the Vorobyovy Gory to the Luzhniki sports complex was built. In addition, the city is currently implementing a project to create a cable car connection of Skhodnenskaya metro station with Rechnoy Vokzal metro station. This will provide transport links between several Moscow districts in addition to the existing system of urban transport," said Deputy Mayor of Moscow for Transport Maxim Liksutov.

According to the transport complex of the capital, "Mostransproject" has prepared a concept of organization of various ropeways, taking into account objects of attraction in Moscow Oblast. There are about 10 options of cable car routes, which are supposed to provide links between major attraction objects, where other modes of transport are not effective enough or there is a need to organize additional transportation services. For example, a ropeway can connect the amusement park "Dream Island" with the metro station "Kozhukhovskaya" or "Pechatniki".

Above Moscow

Five bids were received for the concession for the construction of the ropeway between "Rechnoy Vokzal" and "Skhodnenskaya". The applicants were the companies "National Cableways", "Stariy Gorod", two Moscow companies - "Moscow Cableways" and "Proflogistikservis" - and "Development of Cableways" from St. Petersburg. Negotiating the terms of the future concession agreement on the creation and operation of the cable car ropeway between metro stations "Skhodnenskaya" and "Rechnoy Vokzal" (2.3 km) in Moscow completed in March. This is the first project in the capital on the construction of the ropeway as a part of an urban transport system which will serve citizens daily needs. As explained the Deputy Mayor of Moscow on Economic Policy and Property and Land Relations Vladimir Efimov, the construction is planned to be carried out by extra-budgetary funds on the principles of public-private partnership. The total amount of investments will be not less than 3,16 billion rubles, the road will be owned by the city. The terms of the concession agreement is 25 years. It will be possible to pay for the passage (55 rubles) with "Troika" card. According to the preliminary estimates, the passenger flow on the cable car will be around 19,000 people per day. The construction period is estimated to take 2.5 years.


The appearance of the ropeway pleases developers who are building complexes on both sides of the canal. "The unusual road will not only save time and allow to quickly transfer from one metro line to another but will become an observation deck for the residents of the prestigious neighborhood. It will also be more environmentally friendly than other modes of urban transport which is important for residents", - this is how the future landmark is being described in the press releases. The previously opened ropeway which connects the Vorobyovy Gory and Luzhniki is a tourist attraction and does not perform the functions of urban transport. Moreover, until recently the five-minute route over the Moscow River was not very popular, so the operator had to introduce discounted fares on weekdays.

Above Volga River

Until recently, cable car ropeways in Russia could not be considered urban transport at all due to complexities in the existing legislation. All the existing ones, and there are actually quite a few of them - at Krasnaya Polyana alone there are about 30 ropeways - serve mostly skiers. For the first time it was decided to use the cable car as a part of public transport infrastructure in Nizhny Novgorod. In 2012, it connected Nizhny Novgorod to its satellite city Bor.

As Mikhail Grudinin, president of the urban planning institute of spatial modeling and development "Giprogor Project" says, about 950 million rubles was spent of which 50% were budgetary funds (city budget - 35%, the regional budget - 65%), the rest was covered by loans. The project was implemented in 2012. "On average, a trip costs 100 rubles, the load of the system was up to 90%, and in some periods the road turned out to be overloaded. People were commuting from one city to another. With the appearance of the ropeway, conceived as an alternative to the river cab, the latter could not withstand the competition, stopping regular trips", - shares Mikhail Grudinin.

Igor Bakhirev, Head of Transport Engineering Center of the Institute of General Plan of Moscow, considers the Nizhny Novgorod project to be more than successful. "Previously, the residents of Bor had to make a detour of about 30 km by bus or car or to use a ferry to cross Volga River to get to Nizhny Novgorod to work because there were not enough workspaces in Bor. Nowadays, most people prefer to cross the river by cable car - it is faster, especially since further there is a fairly easy access to the bus station. In the rush hours there is a queue of people, wishing to get to the cable car. In this case, it was an adequate response to the existing transport problems", - the expert suggests.

Mikhail Grudinin adds that the project was able to provide a full payback, after which the leadership of Nizhny Novgorod and the company "National ropeways" signed an additional agreement to build two more cable car ropeways in the city.

In Ufa, such a road takes residents to the ferry crossing in the summer, from where they are transferred to the other side of the river, where the dachas of city dwellers are located. But ropeways have not yet become widespread as part of urban transport in Russia.

"The two main obstacles are legislative unsettlement and the economics of the project," says Yulia Zubarik, founder of the urban planning bureau Master's Plan. – “The first obstacle is being gradually overcome: in December 2017, amendments to the law on public transport were adopted, and cable cars were referred to as non-street public transport. This gives such projects the green light. However, the fare is still higher than that on a bus or tram: in Nizhny Novgorod, a one-way ticket today costs 100 rubles, and the fare on a city bus is 28 rubles. So, even a convenient and fast route is not ready for use by all citizens," - said the architect.

Views are not the main thing

Nevertheless, the new mode of transport can solve many problems, including environmental ones. "In the second half of the last century, the global process of urban growth forced urbanists to look for new solutions to optimize the ever-increasing traffic flows. Traditional forms of public transport at the time were in some cases ineffective, economically impractical or could cause serious damage to the environment. So, by the 1980s it was decided to start using cable car ropeways which had previously been used mostly at ski resorts (as tourist attractions) and as freight, - says Igor Kantyshev, head of transport design of the Institute of Integrated Territory Development (part of the NPK "Quite White"). - The ability to overcome any terrain, large water obstacles, relatively low construction and operation costs, environmental friendliness, safety, speed of communication, significant capacity - these factors in many cases have become decisive for the use of ropeways not only for tourism purposes but also as an additional form of urban public transport.”

Ropeway transport can be used to reorganize traffic flows in the city and, thus, perform the function of a fully-fledged urban transport, agrees the head of Doppelmayr Russia Oleg Zege (an Austrian-Swiss group specializing in the production of cable car ropeways and equipment for them). According to the expert, the most important thing is not to forget that the route of the transportation system should be popular and convenient for the passengers and the scenic value of the road is not important. As a negative example, he cites Moscow’s monorail: according to Oleg Zege, this is a case where a good technical solution was used in the wrong place and turned out to be commercially unviable. "A similar fate may befall the cable car in Luzhniki: at a ticket price of more than 500 rubles, it connects only two major recreation areas," warns the expert.

In addition to the possible passenger traffic, it is also necessary to assess the possibility of integrating the ropeway service into the existing urban transport system, says Mikhail Grudinin.

Cheaper than the highway

According to Oleg Zege, the ropeways in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, built by the company in 2016, cost the customer 475 million and 530 million rubles, respectively.

Grudinin says that the cable car is advantageously distinguished from the "ground" analogues by the construction time: readiness for operation in a year and a half. "If we compare the cost and timing of the installation of the ropeway with the construction of the bridge, the difference will be striking: the maximum cost in the first case could be up to 1.5 billion rubles, in the second - up to 15 billion. Since the start of operation, the costs will include only electricity, wages to the road maintenance staff and the purchase of necessary spare parts", - says the expert.

According to Zege, the cost of operation is determined by the type and length of the cable car ropeway, the height of its supports, the type of components used, the location, the required mode of operation, the amount of penalties in case of downtime. "Depending on these inputs, the annual cost of operation and maintenance (including boarding pavilions and other mandatory infrastructure elements) can range from 1.5% to about 10% of the cost of a cable car," he estimates.

Cable car ropewayss are absolutely indispensable where the construction of the usual road and transport network is either impossible or economically inexpedient, continues Grudinin. This is especially true if the site has complex topography or dense historical buildings, natural and large obstacles (for example, a river, on both banks of which the city develops). Many Russian cities with serious transportation problems fit this description. "Cable cars are a great opportunity to improve connectivity. They could help towns like Tutaev, for example. Its two parts are located on different banks of Volga River, and nowadays there is a ferry crossing organized in summer with its residents, however, walking on ice in winter. An aerial ropeway would be appropriate and would not spoil the picturesque landscape," argues Yulia Zubarik. According to Kantyshev's data, to lay an "aerial" highway requires no more than 0,1 hectares of land per 1 km of route with infrastructure.

Grudinin also notes that "unlike the vast majority of other modes of city-wide transport, which sit tightly on city subsidies and will never be profitable, the cable car is an investment that will begin to bring a net profit in 5-6 years from the start of operation”. Zege specifies: in this case, achieving a return on investment is possible due to the fact that the cable car is able to provide transportation routes that are not available for other modes of transport. "If the route is a real and convenient alternative for passengers, providing a gain in time, the cost can be higher than the usual public transport", he adds. According to him, "it's like opening a new metro station in an area that previously could only be reached by bus."

Vakhirev considers the disadvantages of cable cars ropeways to be, first of all, limited capacity: "During rush hours, a subway, bus or trolleybus can hold more passengers than required by the standards, but the ride becomes less comfortable. The ropeway, on the other hand, is a rigid system: the cab cannot carry more passengers than it is supposed to, and it is also impossible to influence the interval.” "It's always one and the same cabins spinning around and going at the same speed," he describes.

More than an attraction

What was considered no more than a tourist attraction is becoming a fully-fledged element of the transport infrastructure. A comprehensive study by the World Bank on urban cable cars indicates that the average track length for a modern system is about 2.7 km with stations located every 800 meters. As a rule, the speed of gondolas is from 10 to 20 km per hour. Each such line can carry, on average, up to 2,000 people per hour in each direction. Depending on the city or a neighborhood, the average cable car can carry up to 20,000 passengers per day. The line in the Bolivian capital La Paz carries about 65,000 people a day. It is the largest such transportation system in the world, with a length of over 16 km. This cable car is divided into six lines with 25 stations. In 2019 there are plans to open four more lines. They are actively used by citizens and tourists.

In 2004, the authorities of Medellín, Colombia, adopted a long-term program for the development of cable car ropeways, says Maria Nikolaeva, head of MAD Architects. The city is located in a mountainous area. Wealthy and developed neighborhoods are in the lowlands, while less prosperous parts of the city are spread out on remote slopes. Their isolation has contributed to an increase in crime and a decrease in economic activity. A cable car network, which was integrated into the city's transportation system, has helped solve the problem. The number of people living below the poverty line in Medellín fell from 22% in 2010 to 14.3% in 2015, according to a study conducted by Colombia's National Statistics Office. Serious crime cases decreased from 1,649 in 2011 to 495 in 2015 cases, respectively.

Cable car projects are being developed in Jerusalem, Chicago, Mombasa, Tasmania, Hobart, Gothenburg (Sweden). The advantages of this transport are accessibility, flexibility of location and environmental friendliness. In addition, ropeways relieve the existing urban infrastructure. Suspended transportation systems help develop remote areas and create a multiplicative economic effect.

However, ropeways require a careful approach to design. Not all of them, unfortunately, can boast of efficiency. In 2012, Rio de Janeiro spent almost $45 million to build cable cars in the poorest favelas. However, the authorities did not consult with urbanists and architects before designing the project. The road was built at random. It was heavily criticized by the population for its unfortunate location and inefficiency.