This is an old version of the site. We have moved to Click here to read Minsk and Belarus latest news

17 Sept 2012

Public transport in Minsk

No wonder that public transport is much in demand in Minsk for the city’s population exceeds 1,5 million inhabitants. Thousands of passengers travel daily by different means of transport including buses, trolleybuses, tramways, city shuttles, commuter trains. At the moment Minsk keeps on widening its boundaries and, therefore, the city’s public transport network expands its coverage. New routes emerge together with new residential areas.

Of all types of public transport the buses prevail in today’s Minsk. According to some sources the first buses appeared in Minsk in the 20s but they were not popular among city dwellers at that time due to comparatively high fare charged for a trip. So, buses started playing a significant role in the city’s public transport system after the Second World War only. The buses you may observe in Minsk streets are mostly produced at the MAZ (Minskiy Avtomobilny Zavod, Минский автомобильный завод cyr. Minsk Automobile Plant); you can easily recognize them for majority of them are painted green. However these vehicles are not fully Belarus produced due to obvious technological gap. Thus Belarusian producers have to equip the vehicles with imported from abroad details and mechanisms.

You should remember that in Minsk buses (as well as trolleybuses and tramways) halt at every stop they are supposed to according to the route no matter if somebody is going to get on (off) the vehicle or not. In many vehicles, nevertheless, are installed stop buttons supposed to warn a driver that somebody is willing to get off at the following stop. Anyway there is nothing to do with them.

There is a mean of transport operating in Minsk streets that may seem exotic to some foreigners. It’s, of course, trolleybus which once used to be wide spread worldwide but hardly can be seen nowadays in many countries-former active operators of this type of public transport. On the contrary, it’s typical for the former USSR countries till present day including Belarus. Its outer design doesn’t distinguish from the bus’s a lot except for current collecting poles installed on the top of every trolleybus for it is an electricity-powered and overhead line-fed vehicle. Minsk possesses one of the most extended trolleybus networks being inferior only to Moscow in this respect. Almost all Minsk trolleybuses are produced by state-run “Belkommunmash” company. The first trolleybuses started operating in Minsk in 1952. The route number 1 covered the distance between the central railway station and Pobedy (Peramohi blr.) square called “Round (Kruglaya) square” at that moment (renamed in 1954).

Another electricity-powered mean of transport available for passengers in Minsk is tramway. Electricity-powered tramways emerged in Minsk relatively late-in 1929 only. So-called horsecars (horse-drawn tramways) preceded them. The project of electrical tramway network was discussed in Minsk in the beginning of the 20th century but the First World War and following dramatic events delayed its realization. Today’s Minsk tramways are produced by “Belkommunmash” like trolleybuses. However this type of public transport is regarded to be obsolete so only 8 tramway roots remain operating. The most mysterious is the route number 2 for there seems to be hardly any need in it. It covers the distance you could cope with in about half an hour or even less. Besides, the root leads to the relatively deserted area despite its location in the city centre. No wonder that the vehicles running at this route are always almost empty.

Above mentioned types of public transport may seem to you too slow when you are in hurry. So, if you want to get to your destination faster you may use city shuttles. City dwellers call them “marhrutka’-an informal word derived from “marshrutnoye taxi” (маршрутное такси cyr. literally a rout taxi). City shuttles are minibuses which are lighter than buses, trolleybuses and tramways and thus are faster. Besides, unlike above listed types of city public transport they skip stops when nobody is willing to get on (off). Therefore, staying at the stop you should wave on approach of a vehicle otherwise it may not halt. Having got on you should also be careful for a driver may miss the stop you are going to get off at if you haven’t warned him beforehand.

Another fast and convenient mean of public transport is the Metro. In the former USSR the Metro was constructed in the cities with population exceeding 1 million inhabitants only. The 1 millions inhabitant was born in Minsk in 1976. The decision to construct the Metro followed this crucial event for the city’s history. So, in 1984 the Minsk Metro accepted its first passengers. At that time the Metro network consisted of one line only covering the distance between stations “Lenin Square” and “Moskovskaya”. Today Minsk Metro has two lines at its disposal crossing at October square. Still the network is not expanded enough, that’s why Minsk Metro goes on being under construction. New stations are likely to be opened in the near future.
You should take into consideration that Russia made Metro trains don’t have open door buttons. The doors always open automatically without any effort needed from you. Everything you have to do is to wait for a while.

In Minsk you also may travel by train on the ground. The commuter trains may provide you with such option. Local people call them “elektrichka”-a colloquial word derived from elektropoyezd (электропоезд cyr. electrical multiple unit or electricity-powered train if literally). The commuter trains operate between the city and its suburbs but there are stations within the city area they have to stop at on their route. However, commuter trains are not very convenient for travelling within the city. Majority of trains running at Belarusian suburban and commuter lines were produced in Riga in the late 70s-80s, therefore these Soviet made units don’t provide much comfort. The most annoying thing about them is absence of toilets in most carriages. The only exception are recently consumed train units from Switzerland but there are still few of them at Belarusian railway lines.

No doubt that if you are a foreign guest, it may take you some time to get accustomed to some local peculiarities concerning public transport. Still Minsk possesses well-developed public transport system. Most vehicles are in relatively good condition and run at a satisfactory frequency. So, have a nice trip!


Post a Comment