Take a ride on the Sapsan train - the most convenient way to travel between Moscow and St. Petersburg city centers
The sleek Peregrine Falcon, when it begins its renowned hunting dive, achieves speeds of 330 kilometers per hour (205 miles per hour), making it the fastest of all the animals on land or in the air. In December 2009, Russian Railways brought into service the “Sapsan” (Russian for “Peregrine Falcon”). Although it only travels at a maximum speed of 250 kilometers per hour (155 miles per hour) at present, when new high speed rail lines are built between St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Nizhny Novgorod, the Siemens Velaro RUS EVS electric trains will be able to duplicate the maximum speed of the bird for which it was named.
The convenience of the train service already rivals that of air service. Although flight times between Pulkovo Airport outside St. Petersburg and any of the seven airports that service Moscow (Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo, Vnukovo, Myachkovo, Ostafyevo, Bykovo, and Ramenskoye) take only an hour, and the rail service currently takes four, it is not unusual for passengers to spend three hours or more in total going to and from the center of both cities. With the Sapsan, passengers in St. Petersburg only need catch the train at the Moskovsky Station in the morning, and by noon, they are at Leningradskaya Station in Moscow.
The convenience of the train service already rivals that of air service
This is a far cry from the journey between Moscow and St. Petersburg that travelers had to endure when the railroad line first opened in 1851. The journey by rail took upwards of two days’ worth of bumpy rides over snow and hills. The ride on board this EMU train is as smooth as any modern train or urban commuter rail, or airport tram experience seen anywhere in the world. (An “electric multiple unit” is a type of train where each car has its own locomotion, the combined power of which allows the train to move unusually fast, speeding up and slowing down much more safely.)
Beside speed, the Sapsan train caters to the requirements of the modern luxury and business traveler. Whereas comfortable seats are reserved for business and first class on an airplane, the Sapsan’s first and second class seats both provide passengers with the same experience. The first class seats, however, provide additional leg space and WiFi access, service that has increased in demand (and expectation) exponentially since the trains first went into service.
Attempting to improve upon the airline model, the Sapsan offers automatic check-in, much like you would see at any airport. Booking can be done with greatest convenience online, and boarding simply requires a passport - the number is recorded at the time the passenger places the reservation.
Of course, service is far removed from any of the Soviet-era gruffness, with attendants providing a modern level of friendliness and courtesy, defining anew the meaning of Russian luxury travel. The cabins are kept impeccably clean, with all accommodations well-maintained. And unlike in any airline flight, passenger luggage can be accessed from storage by the attendants, should a passenger need anything from their suitcase.
Eventually, if the Russian Railway Ministry has its way, the Sapsan RUS EVS will be employed along an extensive system of new high-speed rail lines that will extend across Eurasia, removing bottlenecks at the nation’s airports, improving travel efficiency for businessmen going between cities, and providing more luxury travel options for those who want to see this great country for themselves. At such speeds as this train is able to deliver, perhaps a railroad line to North America through a tunnel under the Bering Strait is not so far-fetched after all.
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