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Moscow – Saint Petersburg Railway

Moscow Railway Station in St. Petersburg (1851) is the northern terminus of the line.
Type High-speed railway
System Russian Railways
Status mostly passenger service
Termini Leningrad Railway Station, Moscow
Moscow Railway Station, Saint Petersburg
Opened 1851
Owner Russian Railways
Operator(s) Russian Railways
Character Passenger and freight
Rolling stock ER200
Line length 649.7 km (403.7 mi)
Track gauge 1,520 mm (5 ft 0 in)
Operating speed 200 km/h (124 mph)

The Moscow to Saint Petersburg Railway is a 649.7 km (403.7 mi) railway running between the two largest Russian cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg, and through four oblasts: Moscow, Tver, Novgorod and Leningrad. It is the leading traffic artery for the whole of the north-west region of Russia, operated by Oktyabrskaya Railway subdivision of Russian Railways.



Siemens Velaro RUS in waiting hall of Moscow Terminus (St. Petersburg)

The current maximum speed on the Moscow-St. Petersburg line is 200 km/h (124 mph); the fastest train takes 4 hours and 30 minutes. However, construction works have been under way since 2004, which will take it to 250 km/h (155 mph). The Siemens-built Velaro RUS train, aka Sapsan, will debut operationally on this line in December 2009 with a maximum speed of 250 km/h (155 mph), but running below their capacity because of difficulties upgrading all the tracks. Nevertheless, it is expected that the Sapsans will trim the Moscow-to-St. Petersburg time to 3 hours and 45 minutes. For this Sapsan project, Russian Railways spent nearly $1 billion for its eight Siemens Velaro trains.

The future trainsets are already able to operate at 300 km/h (186 mph). They are widened versions of the Siemens Velaro 3rd generation ICE train, similar to the CRH3 in China.

Since 1931, a famous train, called the Krasnaya Strela ("Red Arrow"), has operated on this line, leaving Moscow (Leningradsky Rail Terminal) at 23:55 daily and arriving in Saint Petersburg (Moskovsky Rail Terminal) at 07:55 the next morning and vice-versa.

Major stations

Major stations situated on the railway include (south to north) Klin, Redkino, Tver, Likhoslavl, Kalashnikovo, Vyshny Volochyok, Bologoye, Okulovka, Luka, Malaya Vishera, Chudovo, Lyuban and Tosno.


Leningrad Railway Station (1851) in Moscow, the southern terminus of the line

The railway is the second oldest in the country, behind a short line connecting Saint Petersburg and Tsarskoe Selo. This railway was a pet project of Pavel Melnikov (1804 – 1880), an engineer and administrator who superintended its construction and whose statue may be seen near the southern terminus of the line, the Leningradsky Rail Terminal in Moscow.

The idea of a railway connecting the two capitals gave rise to a prolonged controversy with some reactionary officials predicting social upheaval if the masses were allowed to travel. It was decided that only the affluent would be allowed to use the line; every passenger was to be subjected to strict passport and police control.

Nicholas I of Russia, after whom the railway and the termini were named until 1923, issued an ukase ordering its construction on 1 February 1842. It was built by serfs at a cost of heavy loss of life, a fact bemoaned by Nikolay Nekrasov in his well-known poem The Railway.

The line was finally opened after almost 10 years of construction and a great deal of financial machinations, on 1 November 1851. The first passenger train left St Petersburg at 11:15 and arrived in Moscow at 9pm the next day - 21 hours and 45 minutes later.



The Tsar's Finger

For many years the line was completely straight apart from a 17-kilometre (11 mi) bend near the city of Novgorod. This became the subject of an urban legend stating that when planning the project, Tsar Nicholas (who reputedly selected the route by taking a ruler and drawing a straight line between the two cities on a map) accidentally drew around his own finger on the ruler. The planners were supposedly too afraid to point out the error and constructed the line with the bend. In reality, the line was originally built without the curve. Known as the Verebinsky bypass, it was constructed in 1877 to circumvent a steep gradient that caused severe problems for steam locomotives. Trains heading to St Petersburg would pick up so much speed that they could not stop at the next station, while those heading for Moscow could not get up the hill without the assistance of four locomotives. It has been suggested that the late 19th century writer Nikolai Grech originated the story about the Tsar's finger being responsible for the curve.[1]

In 2001, after 150 years of continuous use, the bend was finally straightened out reducing the entire length by 5 kilometres (3.1 mi).[2] At that period, a high speed rail line (the first in Russia) was planned to be constructed along the same route, but the project was eventually shelved due to ecological protests and concerns about the fragile environment of the Valdai Hills.


A bridge model of similar design to the Canton Viaduct at the October Railroad Museum in St. Petersburg

In 1842 Tsar Nicholas I summoned George Washington Whistler to work as a consulting engineer on the Moscow-St. Petersburg Railway. Whistler designed a unique bridge for the Boston and Providence Railroad in 1834 known as the Canton Viaduct and is said to have designed two similar bridges on the Moscow-St. Petersburg Railway but this has never been confirmed. There is a bridge model of similar design to the Canton Viaduct on display at the Oktyabrsky Railroad Museum in St. Petersburg.


2007 explosion

On August 13, 2007 an intercity passenger train heading to St. Petersburg from Moscow derailed shortly before reaching Malaya Vishera after a bomb explosion. There were 30 injuries and no deaths, and railway traffic was blocked in both directions for a few days.[3][4][5] Two men from the Ingushetia region of North Caucasus have been charged in relation to this incident.[5]

2009 explosion

On November 27, 2009 four cars from train No. 166 derailed while travelling between Moscow and St. Petersburg.[6][7 ] The derailment was a terrorist act caused by the detonation of 7 kilograms (15 lb) TNT equivalent.[8] At least 27 people were killed and 96 injured.[9][10] In a secondary explosion on 28 November, directed at investigators, Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee, was injured and hospitalised.[9]

The incident was reported to have similarities with the 2007 explosion on the same railway line.[5]


There are 32 direct express train services daily from Moscow to Saint Petersburg, from which the following are a selection. [11]

Train No. From - Via - To Moscow S. P. Duration Comment
166A Moscow - S.P. 19:00 23:30 4h 30m "Nevskiy Express", the fastest among the direct express trains.
032V Moscow - S.P. - Helsinki 22:50 06:02 7h 12m The international trains also runs through this line
054Ch Moscow - S.P. 23:40 08:35 8h 55m The slowest among the direct express trains.
002A Moscow - S.P. 23:55 07:55 8h 00m "The Red Arrow" sleeper train.
004A Moscow - S.P. 23:59 08:00 8h 01m "The Express" sleeper train.
038A Moscow - S.P. 00:30 08:48 8h 18m "The Megapolis" sleeper train.

As shown in this table, the fastest train connecting Moscow with Saint Petersburg now takes four and a half hours. There are now three sleeper trains. The international trains to the nearby countries, such as Finland and Estonia, pass through this line.

"Sapsan", the high-speed train imported from Germany, is expected to trim this trip to 3 hours and 45 minutes.


  1. ^ O'Flynn, Kevin (2001-10-24). "Tsar's Finger sliced off on the Moscow express". The Guardian.  
  2. ^ "'Tsar's finger' chopped off". BBC News. 2001-10-21.  
  3. ^ "Russian train derailed by 'bomb'". BBC News. 2007-08-14. Retrieved 2009-12-02.  
  4. ^ Vishera, Malaya (2007-08-14). "Russia train blast is 'terrorism'". Reuters. Russia: CNN. Retrieved 2009-12-02.  
  5. ^ a b c "North Caucasus group in Russia train bomb web claim". BBC News. 2009-12-02. Retrieved 2009-12-02.  
  6. ^ Train derails between Moscow and St Petersburg
  7. ^ Part of Moscow-St. Petersburg train derails, several killed
  8. ^ "Радиостанция "Эхо Москвы" / Новости / Новости Эха / Суббота, 28.11.2009 / На месте крушения Невского экспресса могло находиться еще одно взрывное устройство". Retrieved 2009-11-28.  
  9. ^ a b Abdullaev, Nabi (2009-12-02). "2nd Train Blast Injured Bastrykn". The Moscow Times. Retrieved 2009-12-02.  
  10. ^ "Радиостанция "Эхо Москвы" / Новости / Новости Эха / Суббота, 28.11.2009 / По предварительным данным, 26 человек погибли и 96 пострадали в результате крушения Невского экспресса". 2008-06-29. Retrieved 2009-11-28.  
  11. ^ The ticket reservation system of RZD (as of July 1, 2009)


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