«High-speed Railway»
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News

28 april

Swifter than Sapsan


Russia’s creaking rail infrastructure is set for a further injection of speed with plans to slash journey times between Moscow and St. Petersburg to just two-and-a-half hours.

An all new high-speed rail corridor is expected to be built to cover the 660 km route between the two capitals, with the superfast services set to be running in time for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

And, with that tournament in mind, there are also plans to extend the high-speed network as far as Samara and Yekaterinburg, with stops in fellow host cities Kazan and Nizhny Novgorod.

State-owned monopoly RZD has already introduced Sapsan services between the two cities — and also to Nizhny Novgorod — but the sleek German-designed wagons are shunted into the slow lane by substandard track.

The top speed for Sapsan trains is currently 250 km / hour, and journey times between the two capitals are more than four hours despite track upgrades which commuters blamed for last summer’s chaos on routes shared with the new services.
 
Planes downed

Demand for affordable and fast connections between Moscow and St. Petersburg have made Sapsan a huge success.

With one way fares starting at around 2,500 roubles the rail link is competitively priced against most airlines, and takes passengers from city centre to city centre without the hassles of getting to Moscow’s notoriously unappealing airports.

As a result Vedomosti reports that plane passengers are down 30 per cent, with the train taking the strain.

Those figures suggest that more and faster trains could eliminate the airlines altogether.
 
International backing

A tender is expected to be announced for the project in December, with Skorostniye Magistrali (High-speed Route) general director Denis Muratov previously hinting that Germany’s DB, France’s SNCF and Spain’s RENFE could all be among the bidders for the 500-700 billion rouble ($18 billion — $25 billion) project.

The winner would be expected to raise half of the initial costs, with the Russian authorities making up the rest.
 
Potential problems

However, while a route has been largely worked out, mostly running slightly to the south of the existing railway line, most of the land remains in private hands.

And the on-going protests over the planned Moscow-St. Petersburg highway show that public opinion is far from united in support of enhancing Russia’s transport infrastructure.


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