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Russia to Join the High-Speed Rail Club

Russian Railways chief Yakunin has agreed with Putin on 150 billion rubles to be allocated for the project from state coffers.

Published: June 26, 2013 (Issue # 1766)



  • Russian Railways has considered running Alstom AGV trains on the Moscow-St. Petersburg high-speed railroad.
    Photo: Wikimedia

International rail giants together with state and foreign investment banks are already eyeing the role they can play in one of the most expensive infrastructure projects in the world — the high-speed rail line to be built from Moscow to Kazan, 800 kilometers east of the capital.

Last week at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, President Vladimir Putin announced plans to uncork the National Welfare Fund, or NWF, and spend 450 billion rubles ($13.6 billion) on three major infrastructure projects in the near future.

One of them is a new high-speed rail line to connect Moscow and major cities to the east: Vladimir, Nizhny Novgorod, Cheboksary and Kazan.

Costing an estimated 928 billion rubles, it will become so far the only true high-speed line in the country with trains hurtling along its tracks at up to 400 kilometers per hour. The trip from Kazan to Moscow, which today can take close to 13 hours, will be reduced to 3.5 hours. And it will take an hour on average to travel between major cities on the line.

The existing express train service from Moscow to St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod, as well as from St. Petersburg to Helsinki, is not technically considered to be high speed since those trains rarely run at 220 kilometers per hour.

A Mountain of Money

Russian Railways president Vladimir Yakunin said earlier that project work would start this year and would take a year to complete. Transportation Minister Maksim Sokolov said the whole line could be built as early as 2018, in time for the World Cup, which has Kazan scheduled as a venue.

While time is short, the officials stress that at this point what they have for the project is preliminary calculations and political will. As for financing, it is clear that even if the whole sum announced by President Vladimir Putin were to materialize for the Moscow — Kazan rail line, it will only cover roughly half of the needed amount.

Seventy percent of the total sum required to build the line is meant to come from state funds, and the rest is to be provided by private investors, banks and other sources.

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