RUSSIA: Sapsan services were extended from Moscow to Nizhny Novgorod with a ceremonial launch on July 30. 'Now this city, with its population of over a million, will be linked to Moscow and St Petersburg by a high speed, reliable, and comfortable means of transport', said RZD President Vladimir Yakunin at the city's Moskovsky station.

Sapsan services have carried over 880 000 passengers since the launch of the Moscow - St Petersburg route on December 17, with average occupancy almost 86%, according to RZD.

'Sapsan is becoming a symbol of everything new and progressive', said Yakunin. 'It is not only changing the profile of domestic rail transport. Sapsan represents our country's prudent approach to development, with an emphasis on breakthrough technology'.

Work began in 2006 to modernise infrastructure on the 460 km Moscow - Nizhny Novgorod line to accommodate the Siemens-built Velaro RUS trains. This included reconstruction of 54 platforms, upgrading 139 km of overhead line and fencing 331 km of the route. The trainsets are designed for running at up to 250 km/h, however the average speed on the Nizhny Novgorod route is around 160 km/h because of the use of existing infrastructure.

Four of the eight Sapsan trainsets are equipped for both 25 kV AC and 3 kV DC for this service. The daily through train leaves St Petersburg at 15.00, calling at Moscow at 19.20 and arriving in Nizhny Novgorod at 23.25. The return working leaves at 15.05 and arrives in St Petersburg at 23.24.