TIME is running out for the Russian High Speed Railway Co (RAO VSM). At a meeting of shareholders held in January, several major decisions were taken. Most significant was to hand to the Ministry of Railways the project to build and operate the Sokol high speed train (RG 9.99 p567).

The six-car prototype has yet to turn a wheel under its own power. Minister of Railways Nikolai Aksyonenko visited the dedicated Sokol workshop near St Petersburg on January 14, where he set August as a deadline for a trial run between St Petersburg and Moscow. The minister has tasked Transmash of Tikhvin with ensuring that the train is in full working order, and he has told the presidents of the October Railway and the Moscow Railway to complete upgrading of the St Petersburg - Moscow line by the end of July for the Sokol trials.

RAO VSM has also had to hand over its ambitious station project in St Petersburg, for which loans from two British banks were agreed in 1997. Russia’s financial crisis in August 1998 led to the loans being blocked by the finance ministry. They have now been released, on the condition that the project is handed to the government. It appears that RAO VSM is now effectively bankrupt.

  • Ticketing equipment with smart card compatibility has been installed at Moscow’s Kievskaya and Rizhskaya termini. It is now being fitted at Savyolov and Kurski, and installation should be complete at all 11 major stations in by the end of May. Gates are to be fitted throughout the commuter area over the next two years in an attempt to eliminate fraudulent travel, currently put at 30% of all trips. Moscow Railway President Guennadij Fadeyev told the Ministry of Railways on February 2 that ’last year we carried twice the number of inhabitants of the country free of charge on our EMU trains.’