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31 Jul, 2009 13:14

Russian railways ups speed

Germany’s Siemens plans to deliver around 40 electric trains for Russia’s 2014 Olympics in Sochi, under an agreement signed on board the first Moscow-St.Petersburg trial of Russia's first high-speed train.

An everyday journey for Europeans – a new departure for Russians. Russian transport officials and the media are testing the first ever Russian high speed train – Sapsan.

Built by German engineering giant, Siemens, it travels at 250 km per hour cutting the journey time from Moscow to St.Petersburg to just over 3 and a half hours. Russian Railways President, Vladimir Yakunin, says the half a billion euro project was fully financed from the company funds.

“This train is purely commercial when we talk about the very high speed train development – the government should finance at least part of the cost.”

Yury Saakyan, from the Institute of Natural Monopolies Problems, says with the revenues down 10% in the first half, Russian railways will struggle to sustain previous levels of investment.

“Their strategic program of development implies that by 2030 the company should build 12 and a half thousand kilometers of such rails. It wont happen without state support.”

Despite the crisis, Russian Railways hope the law on Public-Private cooperation in high-speed train development will be passed soon. My trip from Moscow to St.Petersburg has indeed taken 3 hours 45 minutes. But if I go to somewhere in Siberia or in the Far East – the journey could last for a week! Many say, it’s not because Russia is that big, it’s because all the other Russian trains apart from this one travel at an average 60 km per hour.