FIVE MONTHS of trials have been completed with the prototype Sokol (Falcon) high speed train developed by the Russian High Speed Railway Shareholding Co (RAO VSM). The results have now been assessed by an inter-ministerial committee, which published its findings in August. The committee found that the six-car train's main components functioned satisfactorily, with a smooth ride and efficient disc and magnetic rail brakes, but that much remained to be done before the train can be accepted for regular service.

Some traction components are not sufficiently reliable, and protection against snow and water is not adequate. Modifications are needed to the powered bogies, and dynamic performance at 210 km/h is not satisfactory. Interior fittings do not all meet fire-resistance and toxicity requirements, and noise levels give cause for concern.

Officials at the Rubin Central Design Bureau of Marine Technology, the lead design company for Sokol, believe that the train can be modified to meet the required standards, but another 12 months plus further funding will be needed.