Information published on 4 March 2014 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr 388.

Railways as the backbone of the Olympics

Russian Railways made the Olympics in Sochi happen

The Winter Olympics began on Friday 7 February, but at Russian Railways, the largest railway operator in Russia, the Olympic spirit has been felt over the last few years. Russian Railways was responsible for creating the transport infrastructure in Sochi.
Five years ago, while deciding what the future transport infrastructure to the Winter Games would look like, the Russian government decided to focus on the railways. Tens of thousands of people are now travelling between the mountain resort and the Olympic Park, as well as between Adler, Sochi, and the airport, daily on Russian Railway trains. More than five years ago, the task entrusted to the railway company by the government seemed impossible.

The project for the transport infrastructure included railways and roads between Adler (a suburb of Sochi) and Krasnaya Polyana (mountain resort), as well as the modernisation of railways in Sochi and the repair and construction of several stations. Most work on the project at Adler-Krasnaya Polyana included 45.6 km of road with six interchanges; 48.2 km of electrified railway; four stations with passenger stations, which will function as transfer units on trucks and cableways (hubs); 27.3 km of tunnels; and 38 km of bridges and overpasses.

Nothing in the world compares to the Sochi project with regard to the scale, complexity and speed of construction. The infrastructure was built in difficult geotechnical conditions, preserving the unique natural landscape of the Sochi reserve. The combined road was built in an area where there was no engineering infrastructure at all, making it necessary to put significant investment into the construction of temporary roads (37 km), technological bridges over the Mzimta River (10 bridges), power lines (43 km), etc.
Two-thirds of the length of the highway, or 38 km, is made up of artificial structures: bridges, culverts, and tunnels. Four new stations were built in Adler, Olympic Park, Krasnaya Polyana, and the Esto-Sadok terminal.

One of the key factors influencing the project was the short amount of time it took: just five years. Usually, four years are spent on the design alone of such roads, according to the norms of Russian legislation; construction itself takes the same amount of time. The Adler-Krasnaya Polyana project was implemented within five years instead of the standard eight years. This required some unique solutions: design, survey, and construction work were started at the same time and conducted parallel to each other.
Work was carried out on a broad front at all 28 sites, requiring the maximum concentration of logistical and financial resources. This is a more expensive approach to the construction of linear objects; usually a more economical method is used. However, it was the only way to significantly reduce construction time.

The sophisticated engineering and geological conditions also demanded that construction be carried out under anti-avalanche, anti-landslide, and anti-mudflow conditions. Karst fissures of the rock mass hindered tunnelling; tunnel complex №3 went though the nine karst areas. For the purpose of sinking karst areas, an international working group of specialists developed a special technology that required additional expenses.

To accelerate the process, the most modern technology and finest (and, therefore, more expensive) equipment was used. According to experts from Amberg Engineering Ltd., the technical and design tasks of the combined road and tunnel construction have no analogues in international tunnelling. In December 2011 in Hong Kong, the tunnel project of the combined road was voted best at the annual International Competition International Tunnelling Awards.

Moreover, the construction took place in the territory of the Sochi National Park and on the floodplain of the Mzimta River, requiring Russian Railways to make additional efforts to protect the environment. In order to preserve plant flora, forest development projects totalling an area of 194 ha were developed with compensatory measures for the maximum preservation of the existing natural complex of rare and endangered plant species. From 2009 to 2012, more than 70 000 individuals of endangered plants were planted or transplanted to make up for the 26 000 individuals lost.

All work on the project was completed by November 2013, and less than a month later regular train service between Sochi, Adler, and Krasnaya Polyana began. During the Olympics passenger flows reached their peak: 46 trains made 413 trips every day. The railway infrastructure in Sochi allowed 7000 passengers per hour to travel between the coastal and mountain clusters. By 24 February Russian Railway trains transported more than 3.5 million passengers.

The road from the Olympic Park, located near the Black Sea, ensured that one can travel to Krasnaya Polyana – a world-class ski resort located on the slopes of the Caucasus Mountains – in less than an hour. The Olympics would not have been the same without the road built by Russian Railways; it links the summer and winter resorts, which makes the concept of Sochi as a year-round resort possible, and an important part of the Olympic legacy in the region.

(Source: RZD)