CONTRACTS were due to be signed by the end of October formally establishing Karelian Trains, a joint venture of RZD and VR which will operate international passenger services between Helsinki and St Petersburg.

The company will have a charter capital of €1m, according to RZD Vice-President Mikhail Akulov, and each parent company will hold 50% of the shares.

Registered in Helsinki, Karelian Trains will manage the operations and lease rolling stock belonging to VR and RZD. Services are now expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2009, using tilting dual-system electric trains capable of 220 km/h which will cut the current journey time between the cities by around 2 h to 3½ h. Each seven-car trainset will be able to carry 300 passengers, with one business class coach, five second class coaches and a restaurant car with a smoking compartment.