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Next Stop for Russia's High Speed Rail America?

3. December 2009 by James 0 Comments

Russia and America have much in common. Both are continental nations, both have strong armed forces, both have large and diverse populations and both lag far behind the rest of developed nations in terms of high speed rail. But thanks to Russia, the United States may soon have high-speed rail, too.


The Sapsan

For more than a decade Siemens, the German builder of high-speed trains, developed Sapsan, Russian for peregrine falcon, to fit the demands of the Russian government to have a comfortable, European style, high-speed train that would travel great distances in Russia’s harsh winter climate.


All Aboard

Russia’s first high speed rail train is set to pull out of the station on December 18 for regular runs between Moscow and St. Petersburg.  The 401 mile trip which now takes more than 8 hours by car or regular train will only take 3 ½ hours by the Sapsan high-speed train. A flight between the two cities on average takes 5 hours with check-ins, security, and traveling to and from the airport.


First of Its Kind

The Sapsan will be the first high speed train that will have no locomotive. Sapsan will have electric motors attached to the wheels of all the train cars. Just like the monorail at Walt Disney World, passengers will be able sit in the first car with the engineer. Sapsan has a top speed of 255 miles per hour and a cruising speed of 217mph. Officials state it will be about a year until the train will be able to reach top speeds on the entire route due to some areas where the tracks are still being upgraded.


Russia/U.S. Connection

Siemens believes that Sapsan will be the key to finally bringing the United States into the high speed rail family, where the Federal Department of Transportation has targeted 11 high-speed rail corridors. Siemens and the other high-speed rail competitors are hoping that $13 billion that Congress set aside for high-speed rail as part of the economic stimulus package will prove that rail can work in the U.S. Siemens will present the Sapsan as its entry for the high-speed link planned between San Francisco and Los Angeles targeted for 2020. Alstom, the maker of the French TGV trains, Bombardier and Hitachi are also bidders for the contract.  The Moscow-St. Petersburg route is about the same distance of the proposed San Francisco-Los Angeles route.


The Future

Russian state railway spent more than $1 billion on track improvements and eight Sapsan trains for a planned four-times-a-day service. Officials hope to expand the Sapsan routes to other cities very soon.


With the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics and Russia’s 2018 and 2022 World Cup bid, high-speed rail in Russia is on the fast track. Siemens hopes that success in Russia will spell success for high-speed for its former Cold War adversary.