St. Petersburg, Russia

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The Northern Russian city of St. Petersburg (Leningrad from 1924-1991) has long been known for its huge tram network. While it is still vast in comparison to many other systems, a great deal of recent abandonment has led to its place as the world's largest network being lost. At least Vienna, Milan and Melbourne's tramways now consist of more route-miles.

Apart from the continuing expansion of the Metro and the development of 'Marshrukta' (competing minibuses), it would seem that lack of investment is squarely to blame for the problems evident. The state of both rights-of-way and the trams themselves is more often than not deplorable, and given the lack of funding it would seem that further route closures are inevitable. The central area around Nevsky Prospekt is now bereft of trams completely, although there are countless examples of obviously abandoned tram lines still present. In many other areas a total lack of segregation or tram priority results in the rail vehicles often being held up for long periods by cars and such; presumbaly as a result of this, and low frequencies, tram patronage is generally sparse.

It appears that all the remaining cars in use were constructed by the tram undertaking's own workshops in St Petersburg. A large batch of standard Russian tram cars built by Ust Katav was supplied during the 1980s, but none were in evidence during July 2007. Whilst much of the fleet is old and very decrepit, a small number of new cars have arrived recently according to Tramways & Urban Transit magazine. Single cars are of type LM99, and have a small low-floor section at the rear of the car; 32 are due in total. A similar, but articulated, car type recently added is the LVs2005, which is fully low-floor - five of these are due.

St. Petersburg is well worth a visit, although trams play very much a bit-part compared to the opulent and extensive Metro system. No fixed-term farecards seem to be available - each tram carries a seated conductor who issues tickets and makes change. There is also a considerable 'electrichka' suburban railway system, operated using (very) basic EMUs and departing from various terminals around the city.

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