On her third day in a new position at Russian Railways, Elena Kachalina heard a man die. She didn't see the train hit him as he tried to cross the tracks at Saltykovskaya, a station in the heavily populated Moscow suburb of Balashikha, but she heard the impact.
"He was young and was thrown right here, and he lay there for a very long time," she said, pointing at a path across the railway tracks.
That was seven years ago, and since then Kachalina, whose job is to supervise a crossing point at the station, says she has had to deal with people dying on the lines with tragic regularity. "Now I've got used to it", she said during a short break between the trains that thunder by her booth beside the tracks.
The railway and its death toll are emblematic of life in Russia under President Vladimir Putin. The country has prospered over the past 14 years, especially compared to the economic chaos of the 1990s. Russia boasts grand projects such as high-speed rail lines, new hospitals and the Sochi Olympics.
But behind these attention-getting projects, it has also, in some places, failed to provide basic infrastructure. At Saltykovskaya, for instance, there has been no safe way to cross the tracks, just a barrier and a red light that people routinely ignore.
Sergey Sobolev, a Moscow journalist whose wife was killed by a train at Saltykovskaya station in early 2013, started a campaign to push state-owned Russian Railways to build a safer crossing point. He put the annual death toll at the station and its crossings at 20 to 25 people, while local media reports put it at up to 30.
Russian Railways said those numbers are too high and blamed accidents on pedestrians who violate safety rules. In early 2013, it said there had been nine accidents at the station in the previous two years but did not specify how many people died. It told Reuters in an email that it had introduced safety measures such as limiting the speed of trains from 120 to 60 km per hour. It said there were four accidents in 2013 and 2014, again without specifying how many people died. The company said a new underground crossing point will help further.
The state's ability to deliver services is likely to come under further pressure as recession looms. Many Russians complain that the country often comes up short. Basic amenities can be poorly built or non-existent, while the standard of living for the average citizen remains far below that in the West.