The grand old train that brought Lenin to Petrograd from Finland in 1917 would hardly be a match for the high-speed train now in the works.

High-speed train to Finland on schedule

By Tanya Margulian

A multi-million-dollar high-speed railway running from St Petersburg to Helsinki via Lahti is scheduled to start by 1999, according to Finnish officials.

"High-speed railway transportations are especially important for St Petersburg," said Osmo Lipponen, Finnish consul general of St Petersburg.

"The distance between Helsinki and St Petersburg is very small," he said.

"But the practical distance is much longer because of the slow trains and border formalities."

Mr Lipponen said he was sure the high-speed train would promote tourism and business in an area that already has high economic potential.

The Finnish Consulate issued about 20,000 visas in December, compared to 60,000 issued by the Finnish Embassy in Moscow each year.

About 360,000 Russians visited Finland in 1994 while 150,000 Finns visited Russia.

"With the high-speed railway, you can take a train to the center of Helsinki and get off in the center of St Petersburg as quickly as if you had taken an airplane," said Mr Lipponen.

"However, going by train, you won't have to pass all the passport controls, which will save a lot of time."

The project consists of two stages. Finland has already received a FM 1.45 billion ($335 million) credit from the European Union for carrying out the project and by 1999 intends to invest another FM 1.55 billion ($358 million).

According to the Finnish estimates, the Russian part of the project will cost $55 million at the first stage and $130 million at the second stage.

Finland has already begun testing various high-speed passenger trains.

The Nopeat Etaradat Projecti was adopted in 1994 by the Ministry of Finland within the framework of the general program that provided the development of Eastern railways and was acknowledged as the most urgent one.


© 1995 St Petersburg Press

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