The following is a guest post by Erik Gyulazyan, Trade and Prosperity Adviser, British Embassy Yerevan.
We all know that the older a wine gets the better it is. But for a vintage wine to meet our expectations it must be given constant attention down the years by highly-skilled experts.
This year the London Underground (the Tube) is celebrating its 150th anniversary. Just think of that: it was created in the days when there were no computers and none of those iAnything gadgets that make life so easy for us today. And through the centuries the Tube remains an indispensable part of London life.
I have lived in London and have used it many times. On every occasion the Tube has been the friend that has taken me where I wanted to go in a simple, straightforward way. I could have used a posher way to travel from Elephant and Castle to Camden Town; and I would have had that posh car all to myself.
But a) It would have cost me a fortune and b) I would probably have arrived late because posh cars don’t have the right to jump London traffic jams (well… except for Olympic guests).
From a mere handful of stations 150 years ago the Tube has grown into a megalopolis in its own right. It now has around 270 stations and more than 400 km of track, 45% of which is underground.
Every year the Tube moves more than 1.2 billion passengers (just imagine!) and very few of them will ask themselves when they’re down in the tunnel; how does this all work? The answer is that for the Tube to work as it does, people have had to maintain it and upgrade it constantly through 150 years.
Top brains have developed more and more sophisticated ways of maintaining and upgrading the network so that it can serve new generations. It is this attention to maintenance and upgrading that makes it possible for the great, great, great grand-children of the engineers who built it to travel the same Paddington via King’s Cross route 150 years later…
But my first impressions of an underground railway come from the Yerevan Metro in the 1980s, when my father took my brother and me to the construction site of the Shengavit- Garegin Nzhdeh tunnel. You can imagine how I have carried the impression of that trip in my head over the decades.
It was so exciting to be in an underground tunnel as a kid. Then the Yerevan Metro was just a fun ride but later it was the Metro that took me to University and back for five years. I love the Yerevan Metro and for that reason I notice every single change that it has undergone during over the years.
Unfortunately the 1990s and 2000s were not kind to the Yerevan Metro in spite of all the efforts of many dedicated people to keep it running to a high standard. And I was really beginning to worry about the fate of our beloved Yerevan Metro when I heard the good news: the Yerevan municipality is undertaking a major programme to rehabilitate the Metro with the support of Armenia’s international partners.
I am delighted because this rehabilitation work, which builds on the efforts of so many people over the years, will ensure that the Yerevan Metro will be there to serve future generations of Yerevanis and their guests just as the London Tube has served Londoners and their guests for a century and half.
And let’s believe that like a vintage wine, the Yerevan Metro will get better and more beloved as it ages and that as it ages it will be better cared for. Transport for London which runs the Tube knows a thing or two about running an underground railway and I hope that they will share their knowledge, expertise and know-how with their Armenian colleagues on the rehabilitation of the Yerevan Metro.