Russian Railways Look for High-Speed Rail Network Bids

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Jan. 31 – Foreign investors will be invited to Russia to design, build, finance and maintain a new high-speed rail network, state-run Russian Railways announced Friday.

Russian Railways, which operate the world’s biggest passenger rail network, has created a subsidiary to handle the project, High-Speed Rail Lines, which will present potential bidders in March 2011, and reveal an international tender for the Moscow – St. Petersburg route in December this year.

Extensive high-speed lines stretching from Samara to St. Petersburg for the 2018 World Cup will cost US$68 billion and will be built under a concession system that will run over the next three decades.

A 3,000 kilometer line towards the Urals Mountains will connect Moscow to Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Samara and Yekaterinburg, while plans are also for a rail line to Kiev and Minsk.

Construction will commence in 2013, and the line should be complete by 2017, before the World Cup in Russia in 2018, according to The Moscow Times.

The estimated price works out to be 14 million to 22 million euros per kilometer, but will vary from section to section depending on the local geography, said Denis Muratov, general director of High-Speed Rail Lines.

He said, Moscow – St. Petersburg line may cost about $20.4 billion, excluding land purchases. The state will have to acquire 8,000 hectares for the route.

The state will cover up to 70 percent of construction costs, with the remainder coming from outside investors.

Most of that money is likely to come from international financial institutions, including the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Muratov said. Sberbank, VTB and VEB banks may also allot funds.

The 660km line will have high-speed trains which can reduce the travel time between Samara and St. Petersburg to two and a half hours from the current four and half hours. The trains will have a maximum speed of 400 kph and will carry up to 8 million passengers a year.

The Sapsan train built for Russia by German engineering giant Siemens made its first commercial run between Moscow and St. Petersburg in a record time of 3 hours and 45 minutes on last December.

Sapsan trains have replaced the earlier day trains to St. Petersburg that used to take 5-6 hours to travel between Russia’s two largest cities. Regular night trains travel between the two cities in 8 hours.

At present it takes 27-36 hours by train from Moscow to reach the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, 18-21 hours to the southwestern city of Kursk, and 16-21 hours to reach Samara in the Volga Region.

Preliminary maps revealed by Russian Railways show the new line running through the Tver, Novogorod and Leningrad regions, parallel to the current Oktyabrskaya rail line on the western side, though the exact route has not yet been finalized.

The line is just one segment of a new high-speed network that the government hopes to have in place by the time several hundred thousand foreign football fans descend on Russia in summer 2018.

Earlier this January transport Minister Igor Levitin told reporters that company could spin off its high speed rail operations and sell shares to outside investors as part of its major fund-raising plan.