[as of 06.2002]
Cherepovets is a city of approximately 320 000 inhabitants, located in the Vologodskiy region, about 450 km northeast of Moscow. The city is heavily dependent on its major employer, the "SeverStal" steelworks plant, formerly known as the "ChMK". Cherepovets grew to its present size together with the development of the plant, beginning from the early 1950's. Nowadays the plant occupies about 40% of the city territory. It is also considered one of the most successful and prominent manufacturers of the modern Russian industry, as luckily for the plant and the city, steel producing happens to be one of a few areas of production that actually has sizable demand.
The city itself understandably reflects the steelworks' economic supremacy. The streets are clean, the roads are in a good state of repair, the greenery is looked after, the rules are followed, the militia does not ask for bribes as much. The housing is painfully reminiscent of the different stages of planned economic development under the Soviet Union, but it is kept it dignified appearance. The overall comparable prosperity of the city could also be explained by the sign posted upon the entry to the city: "In Cherepovets it is customary to pay taxes".
Not surprisingly, the Cherepovets tramway network is commonly cited as the best-kept tramway network in Russia. The first tramway line opened on 19 October 1956 and was built by the developing steelworks plant. The local tramways were owned by the plant until 1998, when the system was turned over to the municipality. The network is notably oriented to serve the plant itself. All routes before 1998 were serving the plant, one of which had actually run within the plant itself. The first route catering to the city's needs only (Line 8) was introduced in 1998, which required the installation of new turning switches in order to allow turning in the direction opposite to the plant.
Nowadays successful operation of the tramway network seems to be a local government's priority. Headways are low, including weekends. The schedule is well maintained with disruptions of service considered highly unusual. As both eastern and western parts of the line are served by two complementing routes each, the headways of each route are well timed so trams of alternate routes would show up in sequence and at reliably equal periods of time. Private transportation enterprises do seem to be under strong control and do not represent any threat to the tramway's domain. There is a visible excess of private buses on city streets, but there is only limited direct tramline duplication. All private buses appear to be in equally good shape, as the best of western second-hand equipment is represented. There is a notable absence of minibuses, a highly unusual factor, if compared to other Russian cities.
The ultimate example of the local perception of tram's importance was observed during the visit in 06.2002, as an ordinary traffic accident occurred on the tracks. In such cases, according to the law, the parties involved have to wait for the militia to arrive. Contrary to many other cities in Russia where it would take forever for the militia to arrive unrelated to the number of trams stranded, the Cherepovets traffic militia showed up, took all measurements and cleared the intersection within 8 minutes. It should also be noted that the exemplary eagerness and punctuality was exhibited in the handling of this case, with officers involved visibly concerned, which is extremely rare in modern Russia. Nevertheless, the delay was sufficient for 4 cars to accumulate on this Saturday afternoon!
Cherepovets has three official tram routes, curiously numbered 2, 4 and 8. Line 1 existed ever since the opening, but ceased operation in 1982. Later some unmarked runs are known to be completed following the former Line 1. Line 3 was the one operating within the steelworks plant from 1979 to 1984; some unmarked runs following the former Line 3, however, were still made during rush hours after 1984 and are even suspected to operate today. Line 8 appeared in 1998, at the time when there were route numbers 1, 3, 5, 6 and 7 were still available. The logic behind such numbering remains a mystery.
Lines 2 and 4 serve the "SeverStal" steelworks plant. The line is mostly on the side of the road, fully segregated. It used to curve around the old Depot via Metallurgov Ul. and Lomonosova Ul. There was also the Obuvnaya Fabrika Loop near the Depot entrance, a leftover from the first section of city tramways. In 1992 the main line was straightened out and transferred over to Pobedi Pr. nearby. A one-way depot access track was preserved, but the loop was disassembled. Line 2 connects the Main Railroad Station with the first terminal Domennaya, whereas Line 4 continues to the outer terminal Aglofabrika 3, also known as AGF-3 for short. The Domennaya terminal is located within plant property. As the trams continue farther west, they exit the plant, and follow some roadside trackage along the fence, only to re-enter the plant territory later. As all the stops are located within the plant, thus granting workers direct access to their workplace, during the later years, access for passengers other than plant workers was somewhat restricted. In accordance with the now well-preserved Russian custom, the author was warned of the illegality of picture-taking in the plant's proximity due to security reasons. Apparently Russian laws are ambiguously designed and tend to relate picture-taking not to the location where the picture was taken from (thus public vs. private property), but to the subject of a picture itself (which, in turn, could be private property). Which makes the western-most picture #16 displayed in the gallery fairly illegal.
The eastern end of the line leads into a vast dull apartment block development. The line follows an unattractively straight Pobedi Pr. via the fully segregated median. It is served by Lines 4 and 8. Both routes terminate at the Olympiyskaya Ul. Terminal. Trams turnaround through the Depot's territory.
Trams do run in mixed traffic within the central area of the city, but the provision of unlimited roadspace hardly calls for tram and automobile movements to intersect. In the city center, a single-track circular line branches off to serve the Main Railroad Station (Lines 2 and 8). Some portions of the line, including the one near the station, would rather remind one of the suburbia, not a city as we know it. A curious design of the intersection with the tram interchange could be found at the corner of Vereschagina Ul. / Pobedi Pr. The tram stop is located in the middle of the intersection, San-Francisco style, with the passenger waiting area located within the triangle created by tracks themselves. When trams stop here, they practically block the intersection, and discharge passengers right into the road. (See picture gallery, pics 11 and 12 for farther illustrations.)
All tracks in Cherepovets appear to be in superb condition, with trams rolling freely and aching to break the speed limit.
The network used to have two depots. The first one was opened in 1956 with the opening of the tramway, the second opened in 1984. During the late 1990s, Depot 1 was only used for repair purposes. All cars were stored at Depot 2. As per September 2002, the older depot was closed due to the apparent operational redundancy. Over the span of its existence, the Cherepovets network used to be ran with KTM+KTP-2 two-axle trams, as well as MTV-82 and LM-68 bogie cars. As of 2002, Cherepovets possesses some 80 cars, all but 6 of them of the KTM-5 type. KTM-5 tramcars were delivered between 1979 and 1985, plus 9 more in 1992. The oldest car noted in service was 73, delivered in 1984. Trams numbered 148-153 are KTM-8 cars, the first two delivered in 1992, the remaining ones delivered in the following year of 1993. There were no deliveries ever since. Despite this fact, the majority of cars are in superb mechanical, electrical and cosmetic condition. One could feel it from the way these cars ride – smoothly, with no unrelated noise whatsoever accompanying the movement. Especially if compared to the other cities, even the ones with newer fleets of KTM cars, it is hardly believable that some of the sturdy Cherepovets trams are actually 20 years old. Some trams are coupled in two-car sets, and are used during weekdays only. Many trams carry catchy passages written on the side, such as "City for the people, people for the city", or "Cherepovets children choose life. Cherepovets children are against drugs" sprawled over two cars in one set. This gives the city an irreplaceable homey sense of community.
The Cherepovets network makes an impression of an outstandingly run system, with such factors as a depot closure or lack of new rolling stock deliveries seemingly inconsequential in the light of an otherwise positive image. Trams play an important role here, and there is a local recognition of such importance. The city is also relatively rich with tax money. It also appears that the city has sound transportation policy. All this provided, it could be concluded that Cherepovets trams have a solidly secure future.
THE CHEREPOVETS TROLLEYBUS NETWORK
Construction of the first line started in 1994 with the use of the steelworks' funds. Trolleybuses were expected to run from the plant to the new apartment block developments on the other side of the Sheksna river, where a trolleybus depot was to be built. The project was put on hold after the funds ran out in 1996. The resurrection of the project is highly unlikely, as city's transpiration problems could now be solved through the services of private bus operators, operating second hand equipment from Western Europe.