АО «Скоростные магистрали»
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14 января 2011

World Cup highlights Russia«s need for speed

by Evgeniya Chaykovskaya at 14/01/2011 15: 20

Sapsan speed train


The bill to give Russia a world-class World Cup rail network is set to top 4 billion euros.

But by 2018 the government is determined to have sleek modern express trains shuttling between the 13 host cities as the country hopes to put on its best face for fans from all around the world.


Not an easy ride

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s decree to connect the 13 World Cup venues with high-speed train links is a tough task in the current financial climate and a rising budget deficit.

“I think that we have to correct the programme for development of high-speed railways, speed up timetable for the opening of objects and look into new routes,” Putin said at a meeting of the government presidium on Thursday.

“We will also have to join the host cities for games of the football world cup 2018 into a single high speed train network.”

Head of RZD, Russia’s rail monopoly, Vladimir Yakunin criticised the plan, arguing that the distances of about 600 km between most of the cities did not merit the trains travelling at 400 kph.

Instead he said Sapsans, that are already running between Moscow, St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod are better suited with their speed of 250 kph, Gzt.ru reported.


Existing Sapsans are not enough

RZD has already bought eight Sapsan trains — and a 30-year servicing contract — for 600 million euros.

The popular Moscow-Petersburg route has already been increased to five services a day, and with no plans to cut down those services RZD will need to buy more of the German-built trains, with costs pushing towards 2 billion euros.


Track modernisation needed

However, while travelling on Sapsan may not be as quick as Vladimir Putin would like, they at least have the advantage of already being adapted to Russian wide tracks.

However, the condition of the tracks themselves has to be improved significantly, which has proved both expensive and disruptive.

For example, modernising the tracks between Moscow and St Petersburg cost almost 15 billion roubles, and further 9 billion was spent on the route to Nizhny Novgorod. With comparable costs on each of the routes used in the World Cup, RZD will have to spend 100 billion roubles (2.5 billion euros) on modernising the tracks.

Moreover many commuters blamed the Sapsan work for delays to suburban services during the summer.

At times Moscow stations were swamped by hordes of angry passengers clinging on to the outside of trains in a desperate bid to complete their journeys.


One step at a time

However, while the numbers seem high now, the expenditure will be done in the course of seven years, and not in one big chunk.

Putin was quick to remind the government at the meeting that work on Russia’s railway infrastructure has already started. “Last year we gave the railways more than 180 billion roubles. In 2009 — 103.2 billion roubles,” Putin recalled on Thursday

Large-scale projects such as the Novorossiysk tunnel and a modern rail links to ports on the Gulf of Finland have consumed much of this budget.

In 2011 about 350 billion roubles is expected to be invested in RZD.

“Of course this investment will have a big effect if system tasks will be solved at the same time,” Putin said.

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