Riding the Nizhny Novgorod cable car

Cable cars are usually something associated with tourist resorts and snowfields, but they can be used for public transport – with the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod being one example.

Cable car station at the Nizhny Novgorod side

Some background

Nizhny Novgorod is the fifth largest city in Russia and located at the confluence of the Volga and Oka Rivers, a feature that has long constrained development of the city.

The old town of Nizhny Novgorod is located on the south-eastern banks of the river.

National Unity Square in Nizhny Novgorod

But it took the building of a bridge over the Oak River in the Soviet era for development to move to the western bank of the river.

Soviet-era apartment blocks in the modern part of Nizhny Novgorod

But crossing the Volga River was a step too far, even with the building of a bridge in the 1960s, with the northern bank town of Bor being left behind.

Reaching landfall on the north side of the Volga

As you can see on the map below, the distance as the crow flies between Nizhny Novgorod and Bor is rather short – just four kilometres.

But by road the journey is an incredibly roundabout one – 27 kilometres and 40 minutes on a good day, and much longer than that on a bad one.

Канавинский мост (Kanavinskiy Bridge) over the Oka River

In order to bring the two communities closer today, in 2007 the construction of a cable car across the Volga River was proposed. Operator of the system, «Нижегородские канатные дороги», have this to say on the origins of the cable car (via Google Translate).

The rapid growth of traffic flows, caused by a sharp increase in the number of road transport on the streets of major cities in recent years, far ahead of the dynamics of the development of a network of roads and highways. This is due to dense urban areas, and limited financial resources and the construction of municipal authorities. The result of this imbalance is the growing traffic jams on city and suburban routes.

Alternative solutions to the problem of congestion and traffic jams, in addition to the construction of additional bypass roads, include the construction of bridges, monorail and cable cars. In particular, the cable cars offer a number of advantages:

  • Cheaper construction compared to the trestle bridge and transitions, especially when covering long distances;
  • Cost of transportation is comparable with the cost of transportation by rail;
  • Minimal impact on the environment and the surrounding landscape;
  • Less demand for land areas (land resources) (no more than 0.1 hectares per kilometre of track);
  • Lower energy cost of moving one of the passenger on the 1 kilometre distance (5 times less than transport by road);
  • Modern cabin ropeways meet modern requirements for passenger transport;
  • High degree of reliability and traffic safety.

The use of cable cars, as a modern urban transport, especially if there is cross-country, economically feasible. Cable cars do not depend on the complexity of the landscape and allow the connection of end points for the shortest distance, it is easy to pass over the densely built-up part of the settlements, through the water, and other obstacles, which ultimately will relieve urban traffic arteries and provide sufficient comfort and rhythm of traffic.

Design work commenced in 2009, with construction work starting in 2010, with the cable car opening to passengers in 2012.

Going for a ride

Reaching the cable car station in Nizhny Novgorod was a journey in itself – we strolled along the Volga River trying to find it.

Strolling beside the ice covered Volga River in Nizhny Novgorod

Eventually the cable car towers became visible through the winter fog.

Tiny looking gondolas cross the Volga River

The tower growing taller as we approached.

Spanning the Volga River: the two 82 metre high towers

But we were in the wrong place – the cable car station was at the top of the hill!

Southern terminal perched atop the hillside in Nizhny Novgorod

After trudging through the snow, we made out way to the station.

Cable car station at Nizhny Novgorod

We purchased a ticket, then waited in line.

Passengers wait for the next cable car

Soon enough, it was our turn.

Looking out from the Nizhny Novgorod station

Once onboard, we could see the road we had walked along while looking for the station.

Looking down onto the southern bank of the Volga

Down below locals had drilled holes into the ice in order to go fishing.

Looking down on ice fishermen on the Volga River

The cable car rose upwards, crossing over fishing lodges on the banks of the Volga.

Lakeside cabins down below

And eventually we were out in the middle of the Volga River.

Looking down ~80 metres to an ice covered Volga River

We reached landfall on the north side of the Volga.

Reaching landfall on the north side of the Volga

Then headed back towards ground level.

Approaching the much smaller town of Bor on the north side of the river

Eventually reaching the cable car terminal at Bor.

Arriving into the station at Bor

Bor isn’t exactly a tourist town.

Soviet-era architecture in the town of Bor

So we headed back to the cable car station.

Cable car station on the Bor side

And returned to Nizhny Novgorod.

Arriving back at Nizhny Novgorod

Personally my ride on the Nizhny Novgorod cable car wasn;t anything to write home about, but I’m sure that the gloomy weather was to blame – during nice weather the view is far more impressive.

Riding the Nizhny Novgorod cable car in summer (Photo by Алексей Белобородов, via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by Алексей Белобородов, via Wikimedia Commons

Technical details

A few technical details can be found on the Nizhny Novgorod cable car website:

  • Minimum operating temperature: -30 C.
  • Passenger capacity: 500 persons / hour
  • Speed: 12.5 metres / minute
  • Number of towers: 10
  • Total length: 3661 m.
  • The number of cars: 28
  • Maximum height: 62 m
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