Moscow mayor sacks metro chief over crash

Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin lays flowers at the entrance to Park Pobedy metro station on July 16, 2014, the day after the devastating train crash in Moscow. Mr Sobyanin on July 22 announced he had fired the head of the capital's metro over
Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin lays flowers at the entrance to Park Pobedy metro station on July 16, 2014, the day after the devastating train crash in Moscow. Mr Sobyanin on July 22 announced he had fired the head of the capital's metro over the crash, which killed 22 people and injured more than 200. -- PHOTO: AFP

MOSCOW (AFP) - The mayor of Moscow on Tuesday announced he had fired the head of the capital's metro over a devastating crash that killed 22 people and injured more than 200.

"What happened on the Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya line, this tragedy, has cancelled out the huge amount of work that was carried out in the metro in recent years," Mayor Sergei Sobyanin told a meeting. "The head of the metro, Ivan Sergeyevich Besedin is being relieved of his position," Mr Sobyanin was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

Three carriages went off the rails between stations deep in a tunnel on July 15 in an accident that investigators suggest was due to a failure in a section of track that allows trains to change lines.

The accident shocked Russians and came as a major blow for the metro, which prides itself on reliability and safety even though its ornate Stalin-era stations struggle to contain nine million passengers at peak periods.

Mr Besedin was appointed in 2011 by Mr Sobyanin on a five-year contract. His predecessor had voluntarily stepped under pressure over alleged corruption and died soon afterwards.

He will be succeeded by Dmitry Pegov, who started out as an assistant train driver and currently heads a department that is introducing high-speed trains to Russia.

Mr Sobyanin said his main task would be to raise passenger safety and carry out development plans to "prove that the metro is the safest form of transport".

In his first statement in the post, Mr Pegov vowed to personally inspect every station on the metro.

Russia has launched a probe into safety breaches linked to the crash and has arrested four suspects.

Two metro workers were detained the day after the crash, followed this week by the deputy head of the body that repairs metro stations, and the director of a construction materials firm.