Will the Ulaanbaatar subway system turn from myth to reality?
Much media attention has recently been devoted to the news of the impending metro construction for Ulaanbaatar. For a long time people have said that a metro is not feasible for a city like Ulaanbaatar which has such low population density and is so small in size. Despite this the state professional team has conducted a survey which states that the its technically possible and will bring vast economic advantages. The following is an interview with the head officer of the Bureau for Public Transportation. It sounds like the construction plans for the Ulaanbaatar metro are going well. What is the current stage of development? For the moment we use only buses for public transportation but with the increase in population in the city we have to think about other ways to transport the public. The traffic jams in the city are now terrible and just getting worst. Because of this, we have started thinking about installing a metro system to cover Ulaanbaatar. According to our statistical predictions, public transport will become a very serious issue within the next 5 to 10 years. Two Korean companies, "Su Song" and "Seoul Metro" have now won the contract to build the new metro system. We are currently reviewing their offers and the project is set to start after it has passed the board of governor's meeting. Ulaanbaatar is sandwiched between four mountains. Is there an East to West line planned? We have planned to build two metro lines, one vertical and one horizontal. The Horizontal line will start from 22 Tovchoo and reach to Amgalan which is about 28.4km long. The Vertical line will start from the 17th School, then go through the Nogoon Nuur, Mongolian National University, Chinggis Avenue, Peace bridge and finish at the Buyant-Ukhaa which is about 21.3km long. Which type of metro has been chosen? LRT or MRT? The LRT type is chosen because it is suitable for low population density city. the LRT metro has typically 3-4 cars. Only that much even LRT metro has more capacity The most congested road in Ulaanbaatar is Peace Avenue, according to our research, about 6,000 people pass through Peace Avenue each hour. The LRT is capable of transporting 3,000 to to 5,000 passengers in that same time. The main advantage of the LRT is its construction cost, an LRT metro costs on average between 30 and 90 billion MNT per kilometre while a metro would cost between 80 and 1.2 Trillion MNT. The running costs of the two systems are also different with the LRT being considerably cheaper. It is estimated that in 2020 there will be 15,000 passengers an hour and that is sufficient for the LRT metro. Due to poor short term decisions and lack of serious planning, we are often forced to changed things later on which can be very costly. Are you sure that we will not need to change from LRT to MRT higher capacity systems after 30 years? We don't do that kind of thing. Also it is technically possible to extend the LRT’s capacity to make it into an MRT. -There are 2 kinds of metros, subway and shuttle. Which one do you prefer to use? In my view, subway is better especially in central area. -We have chosen both types. Subway will be used in the downtown area and shuttle in the suburban areas. From Tavan-Shar to Ofitseruudiin Ordon it will be subway and the remaining parts will be shuttle.15-20m high altitude electrical lines are necessary for the shuttle. -Moscow's metro is 40m deep. How about Ulaanbaatar? A too deep system is not only costly but also inconvenient for passengers. Some countries use the metro system as an evacuation route and shelter for its citizen's but we think that 15 to 20 meters deep is enough for our needs. It will also give us the opportunity to solve the road engineering problems we are currently seeing. The Shuttle is cheaper than the subway but it’s noisy and doesn't look great. Isn’t the vertical line too short? Why don’t you extend it until Doloon Buudal? We are working together with the MRTCUD to make those sorts of decisions. From Nogoon Nuur to the 32 circle, the new 7th Khoroolol is launching now. So this area will be soon be a high population density and we made our decisions based on the levels of population in each area. What will be the distance between stations? From West to East how many stations will be built altogether? Foreign countries metro systems take 2-3 minutes to approach the next station. How will Ulaanbaatar work out? According to our plan, the distance between stations will be between 800 meters to 1,000 meters. There will be between 35 and 40 stations all together. The bus routes will be changed to then serve other areas not connected by the metro. The speed of the LRT will be about the same as other countries. How about the fees for use of the metro? Ticket will be set initially at 400MNT but will probably change between now and when it opens. Today we are paying a single fare regardless of the distance covered, this is an unfair system which will change in the future. I know the project hasn't ever started yet, but how about the staff? Where will they get trained? The “Seoul Metro” company has its own training centre in Korea. 4 staffs from our bureau have just finished their 6 months training. As we get going with the project, more staff will be trained. I know it’s quite early to talk about investments in the project but I heard that some countries have expressed interest in helping financing the metro, what are the next steps? The Government of Mongolia will decide which company from what country will be able to help us finance the project. When will we have a metro? Are the 2 lines going to start construction at the same time? We are planning to build the horizontal line first. In 2011 we will complete the exact drawings of the metro line to decide where all the stations will be and where it will start and complete. By 2013 we will choose the company to implement the project on the Mongolian side and we hope that it will be finished in 2017. The most important thing is of course the investment, preliminary figures state that we need 4.5billion USD to complete the project. This is almost the same amount as 2 years worth of budget for the entire country. EDITOR'S NOTE: There has been already for many years a fake website for the Ulaanbaatar metro: http://ulaanbaator.narod.ru/
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