TRIALS with a Finnish Pendolino trainset between Helsinki and St Petersburg are planned in the near future.

In a Letter of Intent signed on March 14, Executive Director of VR Group Tapio Simosom and Vice-President of Russian Railways Mikhail Akulov agreed to establish a joint venture to buy and operate high speed trains between the two cities. The JV is to be registered by the end of June, after which a tender will be called for six trainsets at an estimated cost of €11m each. Five are needed for the planned service, which could halve the current 6h journey time, with the sixth spare or undergoing maintenance.

A decision in principle to upgrade the present service of three loco-hauled trains a day each way had been taken at a meeting in Moscow on February 2 between RZD President Vladimir Yakunin and VR Group President & Chief Executive Officer Henri Kuitunen. Pendolino builder Alstom has been chosen as a ’possible partner’. n