Russian City Drops Subway Project after 25 years

For more than 25 years, Omsk, one of Russia’s largest cities, located deep in Siberia, has had an ongoing project to build a subway to serve its more than 1 million residents.

After spending billions of rubles over that period, engineers have almost nothing to show for their efforts: one station, a section of rail tracks built into a bridge over the Irtysh River, and a source of continuing humor among locals, RFE/RL reports.

Last month, the city authorities formally announced they are stopping the project and, on June 8, according to the news site Tayga.info, engineers began filling in one of the other half-constructed stations with sand to give officials more time to figure out what to do with the half-built tunnels.

The initial plans for the city’s subway were conceived by the Soviet planning agency Gosplan in the 1970s, but formal construction didn’t get under way until 1992 — at the very moment when Russia’s economy was in free fall following the Soviet collapse. Perennial budget problems slowed construction for years.

By 2003, workers had managed to bore a tunnel between two proposed station stops, and city officials predicted the system would be formally opened in 2008.

But funds were diverted to the rebuilding of a major bridge over the Irtysh River and the inclusion of a lower level for subway cars. The global economic crisis in 2008 further pinched the local budget, pushing back the completion date.

In 2012, President Dmitry Medvedev said the system would be completed in full by 2016, when the city was to celebrate its tricentennial. In one sign of locals’ cynicism and humor, Medvedev’s announcement was met with laughter by the audience listening to his speech.

Things worsened when the bridge construction company overseeing the effort went bankrupt.

In May, Omsk regional officials threw in the towel and ordered the project frozen altogether. Another 500 million rubles ($8 million) were allocated for preserving the existing infrastructure.