The Moscow Metro: The “Why” Behind Two of Its Quirks

Published: June 27, 2018

The Village is a Russian-language publication in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kiev that seeks to inform locals about their various cities, their upcoming events, changes, and history. The following are two interesting entries from a series of short articles geared to answer the “strangest questions about city life” in the cities covered by the publication. Below are two about the Metro systems (which in all three cities were built with much the same Soviet engineering and thus the metro systems of all three cities are applicable to the issues described below). They have been translated for the first time into English by SRAS Home and Abroad Scholar Caroline Barrow.


Question: Why are the Metro Doors so Heavy?

(Read the Russian original here.)

The size, thickness, and most importantly, the weight of the metro entrance doors have not changed for more than half a century. During that time, Muscovites have learned to use their elbows as battering rams and gotten used to ducking and dodging the hundreds of pounds of metal and glass that come whistling past them. A few have even taught themselves to hold the metro doors for other passengers. But all this time, we continue to wonder: “why are the doors so heavy?” To find the following answer, have the Metro management authorize the answer, and then send it to us by fax, took officials at the Moscow Metro a full month.

Answer from the Moscow Metro Administration:

Big Metro Doors in Moscow
Soviet engineers apparently thought that Soviet citizens might soon grow 10 feet tall. The size of the doors is one reason for their weight. Picture borrowed from

The metro has seen three types of doors: First, there was wood – the old model. Then, in the 1960s, doors made of glass and metal appeared. In 2007, we began installing doors made of stainless steel.

The heaviest of these doors are the wooden ones; they weigh around 110 kilograms while the glass doors weigh only 80 kilograms. The designers followed certain standards, which prescribed requirements for strength, durability, and so on. However, about the weight of the door panel, there simply were no requirements. Therefore, the designers did not even think about it. In the metro, there are door-making workshops, but we only make non-standard models there, in case doors larger than the regular size are needed. Most of the doors are made by third-party contractors, chosen by tender.

Accidents with the doors, unfortunately, happen, but not too often. They are often heavily reported in the media. By the way, I hasten to remind everyone, that metro is a form of transportation service that carries an increased chance of risk. Even the government has acknowledged this. So, when using the metro, be especially careful. Statistics show that all accidents and injuries in the metro occur because passengers themselves violate the basic rules of safety.


Why do the Escalator and Handrails Move at Different Speeds?

(Read the Russian original here)

In the metro, the escalator’s handrails move a little faster or a little slower than the escalator. There is a theory about this: this causes passengers to have to occasionally adjust their grip, and thus does not give the chance for overly tired passengers to fall asleep. The Kiev edition of the village has found out whether or not this is a fact.

Long Kiev metro escalator
Either get a glute-burning workout or enjoy a nice smooth ride on the long escalators!

Answer from Nikolai Andrushchik, Head of the Escalator Service for the Kiev Metro:

The different speeds are related to the escalator’s construction. The track consists of steps on a carrier chain, which moves via gears and an electric motor. The handrails move via the rotation of the drive unit. Over time, the drive unit wears out, and its diameter decreases. As a consequence, handrails begin to move at a different rate, but the speeds should not differ by more than 2%. We monitor this. A slight speed difference is not a problem and is not dangerous.

The different speeds serve no purpose. Occasionally, we simply laugh about the myth that the purpose is so that passengers do not sleep on the escalator, because in reality this would do little to help.

About the author

Caroline Barrow

Caroline Barrow is a graduate of Texas A&M University with a degree in International Studies and Russian. She loves traveling and hearing people’s stories. Out of the places she’s been able to visit, her favorite was Kiev, Ukraine for its beauty, history, and friendly people. She received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship and will spend the next year teaching English in Kostanay, Kazakhstan. Additionally, she has been named SRAS’s Home and Abroad Translation Scholar for the 2013-2014 cycle. Her contributions to Students Abroad will include mostly translations of articles and blog posts that will be of interest to students.

Program attended: Home and Abroad Scholar

View all posts by: Caroline Barrow

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