RUSSIAN Railways continues to prepare the ground for signing a detailed contract with Siemens for supply of high speed trains (RG 2.05 p61), with RZD President Gennady Fadeyev announcing on May 5 in Moscow that the German company will assemble the trains in Russia.

Technology transfer looks set to be the key issue in the contract, due for signature by the end of September. Russian companies have recent experience with high speed train technology - the six-car Sokol prototype train developed by the Russian High Speed Railway Co and intended for services at up to 280 km/h between Moscow and St Petersburg was rolled out in July 1999 at Tikhvin. Around 60 companies were involved, and although the test programme revealed that the Sokol technology was not mature enough to allow a move to a production build of 1520mm gauge high speed trains, valuable experience was gained.

RZD notified Siemens last month that it had identified 69 Russian companies as potential suppliers of major items of equipment, and these included several who had been involved with Sokol such as Torzhok Carriage Factory, Tikhvin Transport Machinery and the research organisation Aurora. Tver Carriage Works and Novocherkassk Electric Locomotive Works were also among nominated companies.

Russia's commitment to modernising its 86660 route-km network is now beyond doubt, and funding is gradually being put in place. Fadeyev signed a memorandum of understanding with the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development at the end of April, with a view to loans being agreed in 2006 and beyond. EBRD First Vice-President Norin Doyle said that the bank expected to complete 'several large-scale joint projects' with RZD over the next few years, drawing particular attention to plans for high speed services on the 654 km Moscow - St Petersburg route. As envisaged at the time of the Sokol project, an initial fleet of 60 trains will be needed.