The Sapsan (Russian for "Peregrine Falcon") is the fastest train in Russia. It connects Moscow with St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod. The Sapsan reaches 250 km per hour on conventional railway tracks. The train was named after the fastest animal alive; Peregrine Falcons are capable of speeds of over 325 km/h. Thanks to the Sapsan, one may travel from the centre of Moscow to the centre of St. Petersburg in just 3.5 hours. This express train was designed by the German company Siemens especially for Russia. The Sapsan has significantly improved public transport and has been an important step towards the introduction of full-fledged high-speed rail.
The construction of a single high-speed line between Moscow and St. Petersburg was postponed for many years, since the project required a huge investment. In the early 2000s, Russia´s Ministry of Transport decided to develop high-speed transport by "accelerating" transit along the existing railway between Russia´s two capitals.
In order to make the basic technical and technological decisions (on which the Russian high-speed rail network would be based), Russian Railway´s specialists issued a detailed study of foreign countries´ experiences in the building and operating of high-speed railways. It then considered the proposals of various foreign companies for the establishment of high-speed rail service in Russia.
As a result, Siemens AG was selected as a partner for the project. In 2005, in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, an agreement was signed between Russian Railways and Siemens AG to start developing high-speed trains in Russia, using the technology Siemens had at its disposal. In May 2006, Russian Railways and Siemens Transportation Systems agreed to supply eight high-speed Velaro RUS trains (a version of the well-known Siemens ICE3 Velaro which had been adapted for use in Russia´s cold weather). The transaction value amounted to 276 million euros. In addition, Siemens won a contract worth 354 million euros for the maintenance of the trains for 30 years.
On 14 November , 2008 the first train arrived from Germany at the Russian port of Baltiisk. The train was named after the fastest member of the falcon family, the Sapsan (Peregrine Falcon).
The Sapsan could shuttle between the two capitals at high speeds, and Russian Railways invested more than 375 million euros in the reconstruction of infrastructure along the path of the train. A total of 225 million rubles has been spent on the reconstruction of the railroad tracks on the route between Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod.
On 30 July, 2009 a new train was demonstrated on the track from Moscow to St. Petersburg, and regular service on the St. Petersburg - Moscow line commenced on 17 December, 2009. On 30 July, 2010, the train made its first trip from Nizhny Novgorod to Moscow and St. Petersburg.
The Sapsan´s technical specifications
The Sapsan is constructed on the platform of Siemens´ Velaro (an improved version of Siemens´ ICE3 trains). Velaro trains also operate in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Spain and China. The Sapsan (Velaro RUS) train has a number of structural differences that make it stand out from its European counterparts.
The train is able to operate at temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees Centigrade and the train carriage is 30cm wider than a standard (European) carriage, a feature which is associated with Russia´s wider gauge railway (1520mm vs 1435mm in Europe).
The Sapsan can accelerate to 300 km per hour, although on Russian railways its speed is limited to 250 km per hour.
Currently there are eight Velaro RUS trains in operation. Four of them are designed to operate at a voltage of 3 kV DC (type B1), while others are designed for dual-voltage operation, at either 3 kV DC or AC 25 kV / 50 Hz (type B2).
The main Moscow - St. Petersburg line is electrified at 3 kV DC, and its length is 645 km. The Sapsan covers this distance in 3 hours and 45 minutes. The dual-voltage trains run mostly on the Moscow - Nizhny Novgorod line, which is 436 km in length; these trains have a maximum speed of 160 km per hour. The journey time between Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod is 3 hours and 55 minutes.
The length of the Sapsan train is 250 meters. It consists of 10 cars: 7 tourist class carriages, 2 business class carriages and a dining car.
The Sapsan is capable of seating 538 passengers. The weight of train is 667 tons. The cars are made of aluminium, are 25.53 metres long and are 3.26 metres wide.
Thanks to the placement of the traction and electrical conversion components (as well as auxiliary operating power components) underneath the carriages and on the roof of the train (a feature of Velaro trains), the internal volume of the entire length of the train is used exclusively for the accommodation of the train´s passengers and the Sapsan´s staff.
If necessary, the engineer can make the glass that separates the driver's cab from the passenger compartment transparent or opaque.
Air conditioning units are located on the roof at the end of each Sapsan carriage; the system is equipped with outside air intake and exhaust air is released in the space under the carriage. Thanks to the supply and distribution of air, the climate control system provides comfortable warmth in the winter and cool air in the summer. This is achieved due to the fact that (as a result of the switching of the air channels), the cool air enters the car in the summer from the ceiling and the floor; in the winter, heated air flows from the side walls of the car and the floor.
Records set by the Sapsan
The Sapsan is the fastest train ever to be used in Russia. Despite the fact that it operates on a normal track, in 2010 the Sapsan set a land speed record for Russia - 290 km per hour.
This train is also the most powerful operated by Russian Railways. Its power in continuous operation is 8,800 kW, or 11,800 horsepower. For comparison, the power of the Sapsan is equivalent to the capacity of two VC-1 trains, twenty-three Lamborghini Gallardo supercars, or one hundred and twelve Lada Kalina Sports. At the same time it is 25 km per hour faster than the Gallardo, and 180 km/h faster than the Kalina Sport.
Previously, the most powerful passenger train to operate using Russia´s national railways was the predecessor of the Sapsan, the ER-200, which is currently being withdrawn from service. Its 10,320 kW (13,800) capacity was impressive, but the Sapsan can accelerate to 250 km/h using less power; the ER-200 was only capable of reaching 200 km/h. The Sapsan is more streamlined, lighter, and more energy efficient than the ER-200. This gives the Sapsan the ability to reach a higher speed while using less power.
In addition, the Sapsan is the safest train in Russia. Its cars are welded from extruded sections of long AlMg4.5Mn aluminium alloy, which is also used in the aviation industry. This lightweight alloy is very resistant to damage, which is why it is widely used in the construction of aircraft. Fire resistant material and impact-resistant shatterproof glass is also used in the manufacturing of the Sapsan. The ergonomic shape of the Sapsan´s carriages features no sharp corners or plating edges; completely ruling out a threat to passengers.
The train features fully automated navigation control systems. The systems are managed using GLONASS/GPS satellite technology, which is integrated with Russian Railways´ existing information centres. The system will determine the timetable of trains, carry out diagnostics of the railways´ infrastructure, and automatically drive the Sapsan. The implementation of the system has reduced the risk of accidents by 15%, and reduces energy consumption by 42 mil kW/h.
The Sapsan is a world leader in terms of occupancy. The average occupancy rate for the trains during their entire period of operation (taking boarding at intermediary stations into account) was 84.2%. For high-speed trains, these results should be recognized as very successful, as in Europe the average occupancy rate for such trains is about 60%. The occupancy rate of France´s TGV is around 74%. According to the high-speed transit department of Russian Railways, since the Sapsan´s start of operations along the St. Petersburg - Moscow - Nizhny Novgorod route in March 2011, these routes have carried more than 2.5 million people.
The combination of high occupancy and competitive prices for tickets has made the Sapsan a highly profitable project. According to Russian Railways President Vladimir Yakunin, the train´s net profit margin exceeds 30%.
Thus, the cost of the acquisition and maintenance of the Sapsan can be recouped in just six years. For comparison´s sake, airlines are only able to recoup their expenditures after 10-15 years. In 2011, Russian Railways plans to contract for the supply of an additional eight Sapsan trains through third parties.
The Sapsan competes with aviation, as it possesses several advantages in comparison with air travel. Chief among them is the fact that the time required to travel from Moscow to St. Petersburg via the Sapsan is less than that of doing so using a passenger aircraft, and at a comparable or lower ticket cost. There is also the undeniable advantage of the train´s precise timetable: when the Sapsan is more than 30 minutes late, Russian Railways will return its passengers a full refund.
The Allegro is a high-speed express train that runs between St. Petersburg and Helsinki. In December 2010, it replaced the Sibelius, a passenger train that operated regularly on this route. The emergence of the Allegro, which can reach speeds of up to 220 km per hour, reduced travel time between St. Petersburg and Helsinki to 3.5 hours.
Now it´s faster to get to Finland by train than by airplane.
Now Finland can be reached by train faster than by airplane. The emergence of high-speed transit between St. Petersburg and Helsinki represents a long-awaited event. This is a step towards the establishment of closer ties - not only between Russia and Finland but between the CIS and the European Union as a whole. By increasing the mobility of the population, the next stage of rapprochement may be reached between our country and the European Union.
History of the high-speed route
An agreement between the presidents of Russia and Finland on the establishment of high-speed transit between St. Petersburg and Helsinki was reached in 2001. On 28 March, 2003 The Ministry of Railways of Russia issued a decree "On the organization of high-speed passenger transit on the St. Petersburg - Buslovskaya Octyaberskaya Railway." However, the project required that the railway´s infrastructure be modernized considerably. Since 2006, along the Petersburg - Buslovskaya line, repair has been performed on more than 292 km of railways, and more than 50 passenger platforms have been modernized. Some railway modernisation was also required of the Finnish side.
The project was a joint venture between Russian Railways and the Finnish railway company Suomen Valtion Rautatiet (VR) - Oy Karelian Trains. Shares in the joint venture were equally distributed. In September 2007, Oy Karelian Trains signed a contract to supply four high-speed trains from the French company Alstom.
In November 2010, a French high-speed electric train, which was named the Allegro (Italian for a cheerful musical tempo) made its first test run between Helsinki and St. Petersburg and back. On 12 December, 2010, the Allegro went into service offering regular passenger service on this route. From 30 May, 1992 until that day, the passenger train 'Sibelius' had operated on the route between St. Petersburg and Helsinki.
Since the introduction of high-speed transit, travel time between two cities has decreased from 6 hours and 18 minutes to just over 3.5 hours. The maximum speed the Allegro reaches in Russia is 200 km per hour, and in Finland the train reaches a speed of 220 km per hour. Allegro trains stop at Vyborg, Vainikkala, Kouvola, Lahti, Tikkurila and Pasila.
The characteristics of the train
The Allegro is a passenger train of the Sm6 Pendolino family, and is produced by the French company Alstom. Its tilting technology allows it to turn at an angle of up to 8 degrees during travel without reducing speed, as is the case with conventional trains; the train carriages´ ability to tilt compensates for centrifugal force. This `Pendolino´ technology (pendolo means pendulum in Italian) was originally developed by Fiat Ferroviaria of Savigliano, Italy, which is now owned by Alstom.
The Allegro train was specifically designed for northern weather conditions.
Allegro trains were specifically designed for cold northern conditions; they are equipped to prevent the accumulation of snow and ice on the undercarriages of cars. These high-speed express trains are designed as a double-system - they are designed for use on lines with a direct current (3 kV) when operating in Russia and AC (25 kV, 50 Hz) in Finland. The Allegro is equipped with safety devices that are designed to work on the railway network in Finland and in Russia. The train equipment meets the technical requirements that have been set by the EU and Russia.
The maximum operating speed of the Allegro is 220 km per hour, and its travel time totals 3 hours and 36 (48) minutes. The train consists of seven cars: one first-class carriage, five second-class cars and a second-class dining car. The length of the first car is 25,000mm, while the subsequent cars are 27,200mm in length. The train´s height is 32,000mm. The train can accommodate a total of 342 passengers plus two seats for disabled people. The first class carriage can accommodate 42 passengers, while the second class carriages accommodate an additional 295 travellers. In addition to the 42 seats in the first-class carriage, there is a meeting area which can accommodate six people. First class features leather seats; seating is arranged on a 1+2 basis. The second class carriages accommodate 295 passengers in rows of 2+2 seats.
One car features everything passengers with disabilities need to travel: special places, lifts, and special restrooms.
One of the cars features a children's play room and a changing table for babies, as well as a place for passengers with pets. All of the train carriages are equipped with heating and air conditioning, and drinking water can be provided upon request to passengers. Passengers have free Wi-Fi internet access. Service on the train is provided by an international crew, which is specially trained and tri-lingual. All cars are designated as non-smoking areas.
The Allegro today
On 29 May, 2011 four pairs of high-speed Allegro trains began to run between St. Petersburg and Helsinki instead of two. During the week, the average occupancy of the Allegro trains is 50-60%, but on weekends and holidays, the occupancy rate increases dramatically, to almost 100%. In Finland, the train is also very popular with the Finnish train operator, VR-Group, which notes that in some regions of Finland, the Allegro accounts for 90% of all tickets to St. Petersburg that are purchased. All border and customs-related formalities are conducted en-route aboard the train. A special zone aboard the train is reserved for border guards and customs officers on the train. When crossing the state border between Russia and Finland, passengers must have a valid passport and visa. In February 2011, Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb said that in the near future, a bilateral agreement may exist between Russia and Finland under which Allegro passengers will be able to stay for three days in the host country without a visa. If this step is taken, it would mean not only more comfortable travel for the Russian and Finnish passengers on board the Allegro, but will also constitute another step in the forging of closer ties between the two countries.