High-Speed Rail Service Begins in Russia

Today, the Sapsan high-speed rail service began running between Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The two cities are about 400 miles from each other, and the 3 hour, 45 minute trip costs around $95. To go from DC to Boston (around the same distance) it takes six and a half hours and costs $200. Awesome. Anyway, trains go 155mph now, but could be upgraded to 200 if conditions make it feasible in the future.

The trainsets were designed and built by Siemens in Germany based on the ICE III trainsets for Deutsche Bahn. The thing is that it’s much colder in Russia, and the tracks are significantly wider. So the trains are hardened against cold and snow and their frames are built out to meet the invasion-proof Russian gauge. Although I think they look pretty damn sweet, I would like it if they had painted them with the safety orange detailing that’s been standard on elektrichkas for a while.

Russian Railroads, the state-ish rail corporation has been upgrading the century-old route for high-speed service for almost a decade, so it’s been a pretty exciting time there. Even Google is in on it. This notwithstanding the recent bombing of the service the Sapsan will replace, the Nevsky Express. Eventually, it will also reach Helsinki and Nizhny Novgorod, a city that is a lot like the Chicago Philadelphia of Russia, except that nobody outside of Russia seems to know it exists.

Anyway, it adds to the amusingly diverse options for travel in the former Soviet Union. Here’s a video about the train that makes international trade deals sound awesome.

2 Comments

  • Glenn
    December 18, 2009 - 10:58 am | Permalink

    “Nizhny Novgorod, a city that is a lot like the Chicago of Russia, except that nobody outside of Russia seems to know it exists”

    Chicago? With a population of about 1.5M, Nizhny is more like the Detroit of Russia – it’s a center of auto manufacturing (GAZ), and lots of defense palnts (aircraft, submarines, and missiles).

    Chicago is a giant compared to Nizhny (which BTW is a fabuous town – lovely views of the Volga River, very walkable city).

  • December 18, 2009 - 11:12 am | Permalink

    Fair enough Glenn. Nizhny (maybe people have heard of “Gorky”) is indeed a great time.

    I was going to compare it to Philadelphia, but I wanted to point out that it’s the third city, like Chicago is. Detroit, though, is falling apart. Nizhny Novgorod is growing and becoming a strong financial center – my company was proposing designs for office towers. I wanted point out that it’s a great place, and Detroit don’t do that.

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