Mark Elliott in Siberia, Russia travel blog

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To keep travel writers guessing they have moved the bus station - happily not too far - and have renumbered the most important city-bus route. Others appear to remain the same but one can never be 100% sure just by asking. The best way to test things out is simply to ride key bus routes and check where they really go. I've been told that bus No 1 goes to Padunskie Porogie train station. It would be a very useful route if true, but seems rather unlikely from my knowledge of the city layout. So I hop aboard. The doors shut, the bus snarls forward with a ghastly rasping of gears and I sidle up to ask the bulbous, henna-headed conductress to check with her. Sad, lugubrious eyes look up at me and fatalistically she says "Well, no." However, she admits that it passes "not so far away" and agrees to tell me when to get off. Unconcerned by the refreezing black ice which IS the road, the driver hurtles through amber traffic lights and up an incline. I gesticulate an "are we here yet" gesture. "Not this stop but the next" she says softly. But outside all is pitch black no-man's land and stops aren't at all visible. As the bus speeds on we skid round a corner and the conductress yells at me with quite disproportionate venom - "What are you doing? Get up! The driver won't see you there." Silly me - I had assumed there was another way of communicating with him. Remarkably the driver does see me jump to my feet and slams to a halt. "Up there" says the conductress waving vaguely towards the freezing darkness, "it's a clear path". Clear to her maybe. But a forking pair of trails disappear into the moonless night without any certainty of direction. Fortunately the gloom is rendered marginally navigable by snow reflected starlight. I edge my way forward and emerge beside a semi-derelict warehousing compound at a railway marshalling yard. The tracks are a good sign and I manage to pick my way across. Finally I must choose a direction. I hit lucky and follow the rail line to the train station which, luckily, I recognize from a past visit. It's hardly conspicuous and if there's a sign it's not illuminated. Talking to other passengers it seems that my walking route was quite normal. Indeed access to the platforms here is similarly by walking across the rail tracks. That's all very well when there's no traffic on the line. But what happens when two trains come in at once?

The mail train stops here for a full 70 minutes and has inconveniently decided to lodge at platform two. Meanwhile an 'elektrichka' (clunky old commuter train) arrives on platform 3 visible only by the pantograph above and behind the mail train. A passenger who is unaware of the challenges suddenly realizes that there's no way through the mail train. There's no stairway or subway either so she starts to dash along the snowy tracks to get around it. But the train is many carriages long and the elektrichka pulls away a few seconds later. The defeated passenger finally grumps back into the waiting room, shoulders drooping, fur hat akimbo and gold-edged teeth gnashing with silent fury looking for someone to complain to. But the information window is closed, so she waits, berating her misfortune in an untargeted tirade to a scatter of fellow passengers who look sympathetic yet keen to avoid direct conversation. Eventually a station official lumbers out of one of the side rooms and the stranded passenger leaps to her feet, screaming about the ridiculous set up and how she'll now have to wait till past midnight to get home. The official shrugs provocatively and disinterestedly points to the timetable: "You see - it's clearly written. Look. There ... train 906 is at the station between those times... so you should have been prepared". Presumably this means that one should stand on the platform 3 for at least 15 minutes at -10 degrees. Lovely.

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