ON SEPTEMBER 5 Alstom announced it had been awarded a €120m contract by Karelian Trains to supply four 1520 mm gauge Pendolino tilting trains for use on 220 km/h services between Helsinki and St Petersburg.

In May Alstom had been named as the sole bidder for the contract, which includes an option for two further trains. Signed on August 28, this is the first main line rail contract Alstom has won in Russia, and President of the company's transport business Philippe Mellier said the deal 'represents a major step in the development of Alstom's presence in the Russian transport market, and also strengthens the group's long-standing successes in Finland'.

The trains will be delivered from Alstom's Savigliano factory in Italy in early 2009 and are expected to enter service on the cross-border route during 2010. The design will be derived from the 18 S220 Pendolinos used by Finish national railway VR, with the same front-end and interior fittings. The seven car trains will have a total of 352 seats, including a business class section, and customs and passport checks will be carried out onboard in a dedicated car.

Cross border running requires 25 kV 50 Hz and 3 kV DC traction power supplies, and the trains will be fitted with safety and signalling systems required for the Finnish and Russian networks. Top speed will be 220 km/h, cutting the 450 km journey between Helsinki and St Petersburg from 5 1/2 h to around 3 h.

The trains will be operated and managed by Karelian Trains, a joint venture between Russian Railways and VR. In July an October Railway spokesman said they will be branded 'Allegro'.