WHILE construction of the high speed line from St Petersburg to Moscow (RG 8.98 p510) looks certain to be postponed indefinitely, the prototype Sokol high speed train built to run on the 650 km route has begun its test programme. President Boris Yeltsin’s revocation of the decree authorising construction of the new line does not cancel the Sokol programme as the trains will be able to run on existing routes upgraded for higher speeds.

The first Sokol bodyshell was moved from the Almaz Shipbuilding yard to the Shipbuilding Research Institute for initial tests on May 20. There it was subjected to a rigorous programme of vibration, compression and impact tests on special rigs. The strength and performance of the welded joints in the shell was checked, and the results of all the tests will be fed into the programme for series production of Sokol-250 sets.

The first vehicles of the production build will take shape at the Transmash Ltd factory 160 km east of St Petersburg, which was awarded the contract to fabricate the trains following a call for tenders from the Ministry of Railways in April (RG 4.98 p224). Six cars are to be built this year.

Before this summer’s economic crisis, total demand for Sokol-250 trains up to 2010 had been estimated at 950 to 1000 coaches, of which around 60 to 65 vehicles will be allocated to form sets for use on Russian Railways’ premier corridor between St Petersburg and Moscow. The others were intended to run on routes stretching from Moscow to Rostov, Novosibirsk, Kazan, and even Murmansk.

The basic formation will be 12 cars, of which four will be motored and four will carry a transformer. Both driving cars are trailer vehicles, as are two intermediate cars. Dual-voltage capability will be provided, and traction equipment will include 16 three-phase motors with a continuous rating of 10800 kW.

Later production builds could be enhanced to give a much higher performance, with the eventual possibility of a creating a Sokol-350 derivative able to run at 350 km/h. o

Main details of Sokol trainsets

Gauge mm 1520

Design speed km/h 250

Overall length m 322·8

Weight, tare tonnes 607

Power supply 25 kV 50Hz, 3 kV DC

Seating capacity:

2nd class sets 832

1st and 2nd class sets 698

CAPTION: A 12-car Sokol trainset would be formed of four 3-car units, each comprising a trailer, motor and transformer car; these will be paired so that two transformers can share a common pantograph, giving a formation of: DT-M-PTf + Tf-M-T + T-M-Tf + PTf-M-DT. Interior layouts offer a mix of first and second class seating, with bar, business saloon and semi-compartment areas