Putin Signs Off US$18 Billion On Europe’s Largest High-Speed Rail Project

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Moscow-St.Petersburg high-speed rail will reduce journey time to just over 2 hours

A new, 650km Moscow-St. Petersburg high-speed rail project has been signed off by the Russian President Vladimir Putin at an estimated cost of ₽1.7 trillion (US$18 billion). The route will be the longest in Europe and reduces the rail travel time between the two cities by half from the existing Sapsan express. The new project will see trains travel at up to 400km/h, against the Sapsan’s 250km/h. The project will increase the number of tracks to six from four; and is expected to be operational by 2028. By 2030, the average annual passenger traffic on the route is estimated to be around 22.6 million people.

Construction of the line received President Vladimir Putin’s approval last week. Russian banks VEB.RF and Gazprombank have already announced their readiness to take part in the financing and construction of the project. Sberbank’s vice-chairman, Anatoly Popov, has also stated that they are ready to participate in the financing of the route. All three banks are sanctioned in the West meaning they are now concentrating on Russian infrastructure projects to develop returns.

Moscow-Kazan and Moscow-Rostov-on-Don

There have also been developments concerning a route between Moscow and Kazan, Russia’s fifth-largest city and the capital of Tatarstan. This 770 km route journey will be significantly reduced from the current 12 hours to just three and a half. China has appointed China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation to build part of the line and produce trains, which will be finished by 2024. This is why the next annual BRICS summit will be held in Kazan.

CRRC are a Chinese state-owned and publicly traded rolling stock manufacturer. It is the world’s largest rolling stock manufacturer in terms of revenue, eclipsing its major competitors of Alstom and Siemens.  CRRC launched a prototype of a 400 km/h gauge changing train for international travel last year. It was said that the train would make its international debut on the Moscow-Kazan high-speed line in Russia.

This effectively means that the Moscow-Kazan route is part of the Chinese Belt & Road Initiative. CRRC considers the Moscow-Kazan route beneficial in boosting trade between the two countries, as well as providing a return on investment via future cashflow generating ticket sales.

Another route under consideration is Moscow to Rostov-on-Don is southern Russia, near to Ukraine.

The development of these new generation high-speed trains will mean that Russia will be only the third country in the world capable of producing this infrastructure, the others being China and Japan. This will offer Russian manufacturers the capability of exporting such technologies to other emerging markets needing faster connectivity, including India, Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa and South America. All these regions are part of the BRICS network. The trains will be produced in the Ural Locomotives plant, owned by Russia’s Sinara Group.

The company had previously stated that “This task will require the implementation of a wide range of supporting scientific projects in the fields of materials science, aerodynamics, 3D scanning, 3D printing and the development of digital twins. Suffice to say that the aerodynamic chamber for testing a high-speed train is more complicated than the test chamber for a jet aircraft.”

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