Vladimir Markov: nothing being done for underground construction and design in St. Petersburg

Underground Expert discusses underground space development in the second largest Russian city and its future with Vladimir Markov, deputy director of the local Design Institute ОАО NIPII Lenmetrogiprotrans.


Author: darakh/Pixabay

– When do you think the tunnels under the Neva River will appear?

–  There are no road tunnels under the river at the moment, and there will not be in the nearest future because these structures are very pricy and unique. This city does not have funding for such projects. Also, we should not forget how strong the lobby of the bridge constructors is here.

– There were rumors in the media about the Orlovsky tunnel again…

– The design work for the Orlovsky tunnel has been initiated three times.Several of these designs even made it to the expert review phase. Nevertheless, the construction never started. In addition, the area where the tunnel was meant to be constructed has been built up already.

– What can you tell us about the tunnel designed for the Eastern motorway?

– As far as I know, the final decision regarding the way it crosses the river has not been made yet. The future tunnel will have eight lines.

The tunnel version makes it a cut and cover method combined with the immersed sections. We implemented the tunnel under the ship channel in the 70s using this method.

Невский проспект в Санкт-Петербурге

Nevsky Prospect in St Petersburg. Author: shbs/Pixabay

– Is the tunnel under the main street a realistic project?

– In theory, it is possible, but the Nevsky Prospect as any other street has many utility lines underneath. In the case of the shallow tunnel, we will need to relocate them, and it is always a complicated task. Otherwise, we will be stuck with the proper ramps’ construction. We would not be able to build many of them. The long tunnel that has only two exits, as a result, seems not a reasonable solution. A multilevel transport interchange construction is more effective and may help with traffic issues.

– Where were the largest infrastructure projects implemented in Russia?

– The railroad tunnel is being designed in Sochi. Also, the alternative route for the Severo-Muyskiy tunnel for the main railroad Baikal-Amur has been completed recently.

The constructors work at the installation of services is underway. Some projects are undergoing preliminary studies.  In large cities, metro construction and tunnel construction do not develop as fast as it is required. Most of the construction activities were related to the World Cup 2018.


Author: Kevin Noble/Unsplash

–  What is the reason behind such an unpopularity of the underground construction in Russia?    

–  The comfort of living is the main reason for the development of underground infrastructure. This kind of construction work is pricy and has a long pay-off period. In many countries, the investment policy based on the long term period. In Russia, the velocity is a priority. The structure has to be profitable instantly. Besides, in accordance with the current legislation and technical standards basis, it is not permitted to build up the land assigned for the future metro station, it is a matter of easement.

When we design the above-ground structure, we suppose no other structure apart from the metro station building. Without any doubts, it is necessary to combine underground and above-ground parts, but they have to be designed as one structure. It is complex work. Foreign countries have such an experience, and we do not.

– How could the transport situation in St. Petersburg be improved? 

– The motor transport should be limited in the streets for the comfort of the citizens, and the metro system should be developed. We need to construct more lines which go beyond the city border, add stations in the center as well. For motor transport chargeless parking lots have to be constructed near large transport interchange hubs.

метро Автово

Metro station “Avtovo”. Author: Peter H/Pixabay

– According to the authorities, there will be constructed 29 new stations in the next 13 years. Is it real?

– Under current circumstances, it is not possible. The current legislation basically works against metro construction development. It is a really complicated task to complete the work well-timed.  Only with the full support of the administration and no delays with funding, this situation improves, like they do in Moscow.

 – What can you tell the citizens who are concerned about the historical building preservation?

– If the historical center of St. Petersburg was inhabited, it would be right not to demolish anything and not to construct new buildings. However, there are thousands of people living in the center, and they want to improve the comfort of living. If we strictly keep the side of those who stand for any old structure, even bearing no significant historical value, we will not be able to develop the metro system.

In most of the cases, it is not about sightseeing places but ordinary buildings. And we use now the entrance halls of the stations Mayakovskaya, Admiralteyskaya, and Kanal Griboedova although all these buildings were demolished and constructed anew.  There are merely well-done copies which do not break the city landscape. The recent policy of several City Administration departments goes against the construction works in the historical center.

For example, we could not locate the entrance hall of the second exit of the Sportivnaya stations that goes to Vasilyevsky Island in the old building, as we did not get permission to replace this building.  By the way, this building is in a poor state. It requires immediate renovation. Such a policy makes the development of the central part of St. Petersburg complicated from the point of transportation issues. And the integrated underground development is a pipe dream for now.

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