Today, Crimea became closer for at least 14 million Russian citizens. This is the estimated number of passengers per year who will reach the peninsula by train. Vladimir Putin opened the railroad section of the Crimean Bridge. He traveled from Kerch to the Taman together with the bridge construction workers. The first passenger train set off from Saint Petersburg to Sevastopol in the afternoon. It will soon cross the border between the Tver and Moscow oblasts.
Olga Armyakova and Salima Zarif report on this historical event.
It’s a technical, one could say, the presidential train that’s getting ready for its first trip across the Crimean Bridge. It’s the Kerch Yuzhnaya station. We’re setting off to the other side, no stopping. Every second of this event will go down in history. The grand finale of the hard work and the long-awaited start of traffic. The Crimean Bridge is ready.
Vladimir Putin: Off we go?
– Everything’s ready. Do you want to blow the horn?
– The whistle? One?
– Yes, one.
And now, the first train is gaining speed. The President is in the engineer’s cabin.
Vladimir Putin: It’s much smoother than a car.
What was once only a dream has now come true. The velvet road between two seas; 19 kilometers (~11.8 miles) of railroad. Cars are rushing by — that’s the automobile section of the bridge. And we’re traveling along the Crimea Railroad. Two coasts of one country are now tightly connected by two bridges that were built in record time, unbelievably quickly: four years of non-stop construction despite everything, and they’ll definitely last for centuries.
– It’s simply beautiful.
– Yes, indeed. Great.
– It’s been hard work, really.
– Yes. What a beautiful bridge.
On both sides, there’s the sea that’s been conquered now, and in the heart of the Kerch Strait, there are two snow-white arches, the main symbol of the Crimean Bridge. A real miracle of engineering whose construction was watched by the whole world. Nobody has ever done anything like that before.
Vladimir Putin: The head of The works with a simple English last name, Rotenberg, called me at night, and he was talking in such a voice.
– As if drunk.
– Yes, and I asked him, “Have you been drinking?”
– And he said, “No, nobody has even touched a bottle here”. And then he said very good words. “Only a Russian person can do this”. He was absolutely right.
Arkady Rotenberg, the Chairman, board of directors of the construction company: “We decided to raise the arch, and we needed three days of calm waters. And when the guys said to me, “So what, do we start?” I said, “Well, yes.” Of course, it was actually very stirring. Maybe that’s why I called him, to receive his blessing as well”.
Here is the result of the grand work. The Crimean Bridge can now even be seen from space. The longest bridge in Europe — 19 kilometers (~11.8 miles) long. The biggest bridge in the country, and it’s more than a bridge.
Only 15 minutes later, we’re on the other side. From now on, it will always be like that. First stop: Taman-Passazhirskaya.
Thousands of workers from all over the country proved yet again that nothing’s impossible for Russia.
“At first, we thought that it’s impossible to build such an object in such time. But thankfully, we were wrong”.
Vladimir Vlasov, CEO of the construction company: We fully proved our qualification between Kerch and Taman.
– So, it’s a victory bridge?
– It’s a victory bridge.
Then, Vladimir Putin congratulated the workers with the completion of all works and the opening of the Crimean Bridge.
Vladimir Putin: “With your work, talent, persistence, and dedication, you showed that Russia is capable of doing such world-class infrastructure projects. Because it’s the biggest bridge not only in Russia, but it’s the longest bridge in Europe. And you showed that we can realize such large-scale projects using our own technological base. It inspires confidence in almost all of us, I’m not exaggerating, that we can and definitely will realize other similar projects in the future. My congratulations!”
It’s a big event for the passengers, too. Taman is on hold with the Northern Capital, where the train that had been connecting the two hero cities, Leningrad and Sevastopol, for more than 50 years, has set off. It’s time to go again.
– Our first train is ready to set off.
While the trainmaster was reporting to the president that everything’s ready to go, the train was clearly seen departing on the background.
“They forgot him. How will they go on without him? Catch up”.
Jumping in the last car is an adventure on its own.
Our colleague Salima Zarif definitely knows whether the trainmaster managed to catch up with his train. She’s among the first lucky passengers of Train 7.
The legendary 7 Train will set off soon. I don’t know anybody who didn’t travel to the sea by this train during university years. The conductors’ warm intonations and the passengers’ broad smiles show the anticipation of a big and happy event. This line, “7 Train Saint Petersburg — Sevastopol”, has finally returned to the timetable. It’s a route full of romance.
“Off we go! To Sevastopol. Happy New Year! Till we meet again!”
The old train was called “Neva”, the new one is called “Tavria”. The gray cars have silhouettes of seagulls and dolphins painted on them.
Igor Kasatkin: We’ve come from Moscow to travel by this train.
– Won’t this train go from Moscow, too?
– That’ll be the second train. And this one’s the first.
Natalia Stepanova, conductor: “I’m finally going to my homeland after so many years. I was born in Simferopol”.
On the first day of sales, people bought three tickets per minute. Every seat in all seventeen cars was taken. The train left at exactly 2 p.m.
Svetlana Nikitova: “I’ve been afraid of flying since childhood. So this train has been a dream of mine. Dreams do come true!”
The train left the train without its master. He had to catch up with it on the way.
Alexander Kaleushchenko, trainmaster: “We took the next express train and caught up with Train 7 in Uglovka. We got off and met you”.
The train”s already rushing but in Veliky Novgorod, legendary liberator of Sevastopol Alexander Popov was still packing his things.
Alexander Popov, veteran of the Great Patriotic War: “I’m going to visit you. I want to go to the hero city of Sevastopol”.
On May 9th, 1944, the T-34 tank crew led by Popov was one of the first to storm into the city. Alexander Popov was 23 then, he’s 98 now.
Alexander Popov: “I have a comrade buried there, and I want to see the bridge. And the battlefields”.
In the next open car, the passengers took out their food.
“Tomatoes and cucumbers are here”.
The conductors give out sheets and serve tea. Every passenger got the brand new glass holders with “Tavria” written on them as souvenirs. While our train was going, the events that Olga Armyakova was watching, continued.
At night, the first passenger and not technical train rushed past this station. It went as scheduled, since the tickets were sold out.
Vladimir Putin: We are not starting a new train. We’re restoring the traffic, because the first train is from Saint Petersburg, and the first route will be Saint Petersburg — Sevastopol, which was started 145 years ago. And it stopped only three times over the course of Russian history: during the October Revolution of 1917, during the Great Patriotic War, and then in 2014. But you’ve restored it. Restored it, but on a different, yet firm and stable route. Almost 3,000 kilometers (~1864.1 miles) and 44 hours in the noise of the tracks in the legendary 7 Train that is already awaited in the city of Russian sailors.
Railroad enthusiasts can set off from the capital of our motherland as well. The train “Moscow — Simferopol” starts tomorrow. Completely new routes through the Kerch Strait will also appear. They will connect the resort cities in Krasnodar Krai and Crimea.
– We have an idea to extend it a bit and start a train from Anapa to Kerch Yuzhnaya.
Vladimir Putin: Between Anapa and that airport? The airport, Anapa, and here through the bridge to the new station of Kerch Yuzhnaya.
– How much do you need to build from Anapa?
– 4.5 kilometers (~2.48 miles) from Anapa. A small section.
-That d be great.
And then, the peninsula can expect a real tourism boom. Almost 100 trains a day will be able to cross the Crimean Bridge, which means 14 million passengers.
The Crimean Bridge has become the main symbol of unity long before its opening. Even its name was chosen by the whole country. Because it’s really a long-awaited miracle. The first passengers will be able to see it in a favorable light — the colors of the Russian flag. The arches’ lights will be turned on exactly at midnight. You totally shouldn’t miss it.
Salima Zarif already saw the first emotions in the legendary 7 Train.
The atmosphere in the cars is close to festive. Everybody feels as if not a pioneer, but certainly as a partaker in a historical event. Our train will cross the Crimean Bridge on Tuesday night, at 2 a.m. The conductors promise to wake up everyone who wants to see it.
“Of course, we’ll wake everyone up. It’s the first time we cross the Crimean Bridge. Everyone wants to see it.”
It’s dinner time in the dining car. The menu is rich.
“Dinner includes potato salad, vegetable salad, salmon, and broccoli with tartar sauce”.
We’re between Tver and Ryazan now. We’ve been going for 6 hours, and 37 more remain. Our first regular train will arrive in the hero city of Sevastopol at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, December 25th.
Salima Zarif, Olga Armyakova, Sergey Ishchenko, Dmitry Lukashevich, and Galina Orlova, Vesti