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Entries in Sochi Transport (2)

Monday
Nov042013

Sochi High-Speed Rail System Operational

 

Olympic Park Station- Sochi

 

Yesterday I took the new high- speed rail from Sochi to Krasnaya Polyana for the first time.  The system, which began operations on November 1, is a spectacular improvement to the infrastructure in Sochi.  The trains are new, the ride is smooth and fast and the views are great.  I went from Sochi to Adler (through stops at Matsesta and Khosta stations) and from there past the airport.  At this point, the train accelerated to 115 kilometers per hour and we made the journey up the Myzimta River Valley to Krasnaya Polyana in about 20 minutes.  Along the way, the train passed over the river and through the steep mountain gorge.

 

We caught glimpses of snow-covered peaks as we approached Krasnaya Polyana.  The train stopped for a few minutes at Esta Sadok Station and just after we left that station, passengers had views of the ski jump, where athletes will compete for gold in February. Then we passed the huge new development at Gornaya Karusel and the train arrived at the last station, Rosa Khutor (which like Esta Sadok and the rail line is new,too), less than 5 minutes later.  I disembarked there and walked about 250 meters to Fort Evrika, a small hotel near the oldest ski lift in Krasnaya Polyana and just a short walk from Rosa Khutor.  There were quite a few other daytrippers who had come from Sochi to ride the rails and to see the views, the new stations and the mountain resorts being finished for the Winter Games.

I have made the trip from Sochi to Krasnaya Polyana hundreds of times over the last few years.  It can take anywhere from 2- 4 hours based upon traffic.  Even from Adler Station it is never less than an hour and can take 3 with traffic.  But I just made that distance in less than 30 very comfortable and relaxed minutes.

Esta Sadok Station

 

Rosa Khutor Station

 

I was first in Krasnaya Polyana in 2004 on a short trip to Sochi with friends.  This was 3 years before Sochi won the right to host the 2014 Winter Olympics and at that time I was not even aware it was a candidate.  We drove up the road and spent 2 nights at Fort Evrika.  Then, this was pretty much the end of the road.  There were only a few hotels in the area and the small mountain village of Krasnaya Polyana.  There was not much to do, either. We took the single chairlift to the top of the mountain next to the hotel, saw the views and had a raft trip for several hours down the river.  

 

Fort Evrika Hotel

 

While I was riding the train to Krasnaya Polyana and, after,  when I walked to Fort Evrika, I thought about that first trip. It never occurred to me at that time that I would return to Krasnaya Polyana, much less that I would do it very regularly on a road choked with trucks and buses delivering construction materials and workers to massive mountain developments.  And when I went to Fort Evrika, I looked at the small hotel now dwarfed by the new resort just up the road at Rosa Khutor, another just down the road at Gornaya Karusel and flanked by a world-class train station suitable for an Olympic destination.  

 

Rosa Khutor and New Lift

 

Next, I rode back down to Adler and switched to the train bound for the Coastal Cluster.  I followed this route because the direct route between the Coastal and the Mountain Clusters is not yet open.  However, it is only a few kilometers from Adler Station to the station at the Olympic Park, so it was a quick trip.  I have watched the station being built there for the last several years, but it was the first time I was onsite.  The building is not yet open, but the platforms and the approach to the Olympic Park are prepared.

 

Olympic Park Station

Olympic Park Station

 

Several times I asked for information about train arrival and departure times.  The main criticism I have of the system was that the information I was given was typically not accurate- even when I asked in Russian. However, these are growing pains in a system that is only a few days old.  I noticed that train conductors had badges which identified the languages they spoke, most were pleasant and helpful.

All of the new stations- Adler, Esta Sadok, Rosa Khutor and the Olympic Park are built on a spectacular, grand Olympian scale and capable of handling thousands of passengers per hour.  Sochi has a 21st century transportation system, leapfrogging the issues caused by traffic and construction on the road system.

 


Adler Station

 

 

 

Saturday
Nov032012

Sochi Seaport

 

Sochi City Center and Seaport

Sochi is the site of the 2014 Winter Games and is recognized as one of the largest construction zones in the world. Games venues, both in the mountains and at the Coastal Cluster, are being built new and at a pace to finish well ahead of the Games.  Krasnaya Polyana has 3 beautiful, state of the art, new ski resorts and a new hospital.  There is a new airport, train stations are being rebuilt (including Adler Station, which will be the largest in Russia).  A new high-speed rail network will connect the airport with both the Coastal and Mountain Clusters. There are new roads, highways, bridges and massive retaining walls and a new border crossing.  Large, modern hotels and resorts are being built in Krasnaya Polyana, Adler and Sochi.  New apartment complexes, office buildings and shopping centers are going up all over the city, particularly near the Sochi city center.  

With all of this happening in Sochi, it is easy to miss what may have as big an impact as almost any of these on Sochi's ability to sustain an international tourism legacy after the Games conclude - the expansion of Sochi's seaport.  The massive project involves using both public (for infrastructure) and private investment (for commercial development). The investment by the Russian government alone will be more than 7 billion rubles (about $230 million).  The project will include 730 meters of cruise ship terminals, which will allow 2 large cruise ships to dock in Sochi, simultaneously.  There will be a new yacht marina, roll on/ roll off ship berths, a 1,000 meter protective pier and a 200 meter breakwater.  The new seaport will also include a retail complex with additional space for restaurants and parking. When all is said and done, Sochi's seaport will be recognized as the best facility on the Black Sea.   

Construction on the seaport project began this summer and completion is expected next year.  It is located in the very center of Sochi, near the pedestrian zone defined on one side by the Sochi River and the other by Gorkovo Ulitsa.  It is about 1 1/2 blocks from the McDonald's Restaurant and next to Sochi's boardwalk.  The area around the seaport is already seen as the center of Sochi's restaurant scene, with the locally well-known Brigantina Cafe sitting next to the marina.   The iconic seaport building, built during the Soviet era, sits near the Olympic Clock.

I have been watching developments in Sochi closely and with the seaport reconstruction ramping up, I wanted to get a closer look and more information about what is happening. So, recently I met with local officials and took a brief tour. That afternoon, the Director of the Seaport and I took a walk and he showed me the seaport and its yacht marina. He said that with thousands of new passengers disembarking to shop, eat and drink, sightsee and to enjoy the beaches and mountains, the new seaport will place Sochi on the international cruise ship map.  Cruise ships are projected to increase the number of visits to Sochi to 179 by that same year. Those cruise ships alone are expected to bring more than 100,000 new tourists to Sochi, most of whom will be from Western Europe or North America.  Ferry traffic, including to local destinations and which connects Sochi to Trabzon, Turkey; Gagra, Abkhazia: Batumi, Georgia and other Russian cities on the Black Sea, such as Gelendzhik and Novorossiysk, is projected to grow to 463 stops in 2015.                                                                                                                              

The Winter Games and accompanying development in Sochi has been part of comprehensive plan to increase tourism in Sochi and Russia.  Sochi is rapidly transforming into an international, year-around, mountain sports and beach destination, with tourists arriving by airplane, train, automobile and cruise liners.

 

Seaport Construction