Friday, 2 November 2012

St Petersburg, Russia

With a population of 5 million inhabitants, the city of St Petersburg is the second largest in Russia.  The city was founded at the beginning of the 18th Century, and was Russia's capital for much of the 18th and 19th Centuries.  In 1918, the capital moved to Moscow.

The city hasn't always been known as St Petersburg.  In 1914, its name was changed to Petrograd while 10 years later, the name changed again to Leningrad.  It was renamed back to St Petersburg in 1991 as the Soviet Union collapsed.

St Petersburg (or Leningrad as it then was) was once home to the largest tram network in the world.  However, financial instability which followed the end of communism left the system underfunded.  Where money has been available, priority has generally been given to expanding St Petersburg's metro system.  This has resulted in parts of St Petersburg's tram network being abandoned.

I paid a brief visit to St Petersburg in 2008.  Here outside the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, disused tracks end abruptly.

The surviving tram network was showing clear signs of under-investment with some of the trams looking quite scruffy.  Trams are a mix of single and articulated cars.  Some date from the Soviet era while others are more recent.

In some places, the track was clearly not in good condition.

Shared taxi-buses ("marshrutki") operating fixed routes compete against the public transport system.  In this image, a marshrutka is running alongside the tram.

Again, the poor condition of the tram rails is plain to see.

Despite the signs of neglect, there has been some investment in more modern rolling stock.

As well as trams, St Petersburg also has a network of trolleybus routes.


It was interesting to observe Finlyandskiy Railway Station displaying its name using the Western European alphabet, in English.

The tram and trolleybus networks are complemented by bus routes with plenty of modern vehicles in use.  Route information, however, often comprises nothing more than a card in the windscreen.

Not all buses were being used for carrying passengers.  Quite bizarre were these quite modern-looking buses, converted for use as public toilets at Dvortsovaya Ploshchad (Palace Square).

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