RUSSIA’S PLANS for high-speed train services took a step forward on June 11, when the Nevsky Express was launched between Moscow and St Petersburg.

Formed from 12 of the 18 air-conditioned business class cars built at Tver for 200 km/h operation, the train is hauled by a refurbished CS-200 electric locomotive. It initially runs three times each way per week, offering a journey time of under 5h for the 650 km trip. Leaving St Petersburg at 07.20 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, it returns at 17.20 the same evening. A second trainset is expected to enter service in October, doubling the level of services.

In the first week the train was running with load factors between 30% and 40%. Vladimir Zimin of RZD’s October Railway said ’the train is impressing passengers with "non-Russian" standards of facilities and services, and we hope it will be fully booked when more people are aware of it’. A single ticket costs 950 roubles.

CAPTION: The Sokol 250 experimental high-speed trainset developed by RAO VSM has reached a speed of 236 km/h during trials, and is currently being tested on the Moscow - St Petersburg route