“The Analytical Center has conducted an online survey of passengers to find out how satisfied they are with the commuter train service. The findings will be used to make recommendations for the government,” said the Deputy Head of the Analytical Center Svetlana Ganeeva, opening the Round Table Commuter Train Service.
An expert of the Analytical Center Aleksey Safronov talked about the findings of the pilot survey of commuter train passengers in the Moscow urban agglomeration. “The findings of our survey need to be confirmed with a larger survey,” the expert believes. “But some conclusions can already be drawn now.”
“It may come as a surprise to some but most passengers, about 70% of all the respondents and 40% of regular users of commuter trains rely on single-ride tickets. And that despite all the advertising encouraging people to buy passes,” Mr. Safronov said. “Apparently passengers regarded passes as too expensive, so I suppose some kind of discounts on passes should be considered.” Then there is the recent move of the Moscow metro, which launched a new metro pass menu, making single-ride passes significantly more expensive.
“It may come as a surprise to some but most passengers, about 70% of all the respondents and 40% of regular users of commuter trains rely on single-ride tickets. And that despite all the advertising encouraging people to buy passes.”
Expert, Analytical Center for the Government of the Russian Federation
Our findings also suggest that people prefer to buy tickets from ticket offices rather than from vending machines. “People do not trust vending machines: they fear they may not give them the change or will fail to print out a ticket. And many people simply do not know how to use them,” Mr. Safronov hypothesized. And yet, he believes that vending machines still have to be offered. Their number should be increased, they should be made more reliable and people should be told about how to use them, the expert believes.
As for the fares, our survey found that 2/3 of the passengers think the fares are adequate. “Most are willing to pay only a 40% premium on the standard commuter train fare for faster and more comfortable express trains. In reality, however, the fares for express trains between Moscow and the suburbs are 60-80% higher than the standard fares for the same routes. So currently, express trains like Sputnik and Lastochka do not enjoy much popularity,” the expert noted.
Anton Tsvetkov, a representative of the Security Commission of the Civic Chamber of Russia, brought up another problem: free riders. “Taking a ride on the Gorkovskoye line, the most challenging one in Moscow oblast, we did not see a single police officer either on the platforms or on the train,” the expert said. “The police simply do not have enough resources.” At the same time transport companies spend money liberally on private security. There are plenty of private security guards but they have practically no real authority so there is not much they can do to sort things out on commuter trains, especially when it comes to dealing with free riders, the expert is sure. Private guards on commuter trains must be given more authority and it is the Ministry for Transport that needs to be pushing for that, Mr. Zvetkov believes.
Another problem that Mr. Tsvetkov called attention to is teenagers that ride on the roofs of the train. “Currently, we estimate there are some 5 thousand of them in Moscow and at the moment there are no mechanisms for dealing with them,” the expert said. Mr. Safronov believes that stricter punishment should be introduced for these people, including both administrative and possibly even criminal liability for these offenses.
Speaking about the problems of the commuter train service, the experts agreed that the top priority at the moment is improving the comfort on commuter trains. In the future, the Analytical Center should continue to hold round tables to maintain dialog between the providers and users of the commuter train service.