The introduction of tilting Pendolino emus, extensive track upgrades,
and streamlined customs procedures have brought journey times on the
443km route down from 6h 18min to just 3h 36min.


A morning and
afternoon train will operate in each direction until May, when the
frequency will double to four trains per day. Allegro replaces RZD's
Repin and VR's Sibelius services, which have been withdrawn, although
the overnight Helsinki - Moscow locomotive-hauled service will

The dual-voltage Sm6 trains operate at up to 200km/h on
Russian territory, and can reach a maximum of 220km/h on Finland's
Kerava - Lahti line. The fleet of four trains was ordered from Alstom
in 2007 by Karelian Trains, a rolling stock company jointly owned by
RZD and VR, and built at Alstom's Savigliano plant in Italy. Each
seven-car train seats 344 passengers, 42 of them in first class, and
also features a business compartment for six passengers, equipped with
audio and DVD players.

Allegro is expected to carry around 250,000
passengers during its first year of operation, and RZD anticipates
ridership will double within seven years and triple by 2020.

has modernised the 157km St Petersburg - Buslovskaya line for 200km/h
operation and to reduce conflicts, freight services are being diverted
via the Ruchyi - Kamennogorsk - Vyborg line. The centrepiece of this
Roubles 79.7 billion ($US 2.6 billion) project is a new 64km
double-track electrified line between Petäjärvi and Kamennogorsk, with
the aid of Roubles 28 billion from the Russian Investment Fund.

Finland meanwhile has invested Euros 200 million in the upgrading of the Lahti - Kouvola - Vainikkala line.

elimination of locomotive changes at the border and streamlining of
customs procedures, with passports being checked on the train, has made
a significant contribution to the reduction in journey time. Amendments
were made to Russian law to accommodate the new border procedures.

says he would also like to see a relaxation of the visa requirements
for Allegro passengers and RZD has already put this proposition to the
Russian government. At present travellers arriving in St Petersburg by
ship are allowed to stay in the city for 72 hours without a visa, but
this waiver does not apply to those arriving by rail.

The Finnish
government argues the revision of visa rules will promote flexible
movement of people between the two countries and allow Allegro to
attract a higher proportion of Finnish passengers to the route. At
present 60% of rail passengers travelling between Helsinki and St
Petersburg are Russian.