PARTICIPATING in the 1520 Forum conference of broad gauge railways being held in Sochi, Russian Railways Vice-President Valentine Gapanovich formally signed a €276m contract with Siemens President Hans M Schabert on May 18 for the supply of eight high speed trains.

Due for delivery from the end of 2008, the 10-car sets known as Velaro RUS will run at up to 250 km/h, carrying 600 passengers each. They will be derived from the German ICE3, but with bodies 330mm wider. Siemens and RZD are negotiating a second contract for maintenance of the trains over 30 years, which is valued at around €300m.

The trainsets will initially be used on the Moscow - St Petersburg route, but will later work between Moscow and Nishni Novgorod as well. Some sets will be equipped for both 25 kV 50Hz and 3 kV DC operation.

Work is expected to start next year on construction of the planned high speed line between Moscow and St Petersburg. Transport Minister Igor Levitin announced on April 4 that RZD is to form a joint venture with high speed line company RAO VSM to reactivate the project, which began in the 1990s but was later mothballed.

Recent studies by the Academy of Transport have estimated the cost of building the line at US$8bn, with an estimated payback period of just eight years. According to Vice-Minister A S Micharin, the state will underwrite the construction of the line, although he expects the project to be 'most attractive to private investors'. Much of the land is already owned by RAO VSM, having been acquired for the previous attempt.

  • On April 20 RZD confirmed that it will form a joint venture with VR to improve passenger services between St Petersburg and Helsinki. Karelian Express will acquire four eight-car trainsets, which will be hauled by EP10 dual-system electric locos. Initially operating at 160 km/h, the trains will cut the journey time by 20min, but upgrading the route for 200 km/h running from 2008 will increase the time saving to 90min.