RUSSIA: Meeting on March 14, the board of Russian Railways formally adopted a master plan for converting the circular freight railway that runs round the city for use by local passenger trains. The 54 km line is to be electrified throughout, and 30 new stations built by 2011. Under an agreement between RZD President Vladimir Yakunin and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, the project will be managed jointly by Moscow city government and Russian Railways.

Work has already begun on Stage 1, which will see five stations established on the southwestern segment at Moskva City, Kutuzovo, Potylikha, Luzhniki and Ploshchad Gagarin. The objective is to have a pilot service operating by September 2008. The southwestern section has been given priority because it will connect with the radial line serving Vnukovo airport.

Rebuilding the ring is expected to cost up to 5bn roubles. An initial tranche of 200m roubles has been provided by Moscow Railway to cover reconstruction from Presnya to Kanatchkovo, and further funding will come from the city government.

The ring line is intended to relieve the overcrowded metro network. Passengers will be able to interchange to and from metro services at 12 stations, and a further seven will provide connections to RZD commuter services. Services will be operated by a fleet of seven-car Class ED4MK suburban EMUs, which will be built by Transmash at Demikhovo. The ring is expected to carry 900 000 passengers a day with trains running at intervals of 10 to 15 min. The line will still be used by freight trains.

H According to Vadim Morozov, First Vice-President of RZD, a new central station is to be built in the heart of Moscow. Located in the vicinity of the Three Railway Stations square, the new station will be served by the Moscow - St Petersburg high speed line and the airport express services to Sheremetyevo, Vnukovo and Domodedovo. To be built on a 300 000 m³ site currently occupied by railway warehouses, the station is to be developed by the Aeroexpress company. Total cost of this project is put at 697bn roubles by 2020; Morozov says half of this will come from the national budget and the rest will be provided by RZD and the city government.