Services on the 650km Moscow - St Petersburg route were launched on August 20 and will supplement the existing Sapsan service, which uses Siemens Velaro RUS 250km/h high-speed trains.

The St Petersburg - Samara service launched on August 21, and will reduce travel times between the two cities to just over 18 hours compared with a current minimum of 33 hours via existing services.

The Talgo Intercity Strizh class tilting coaches have been adapted for both 1520mm gauge and Russian weather conditions. The coaches are lighter than existing rolling stock, and are capable of negotiating curves at speeds up to 25% faster than existing RZD fleets.

The new routes follow the launch of Strizh service between Moscow - Nizhny Novgorod in June 2015 to replace RZD’s Sapsan service, with a 20 minute improvement in journey time. A Moscow - Berlin international service followed in December 2016, using Talgo variable-gauge coaches.

It is hoped that the services will encourage more passengers to travel by rail by offering a comfortable, safe and environmentally friendly alternative to air travel.

The news follows the launch of a new Lastochka (Swallow) intercity service between Moscow, Yaroslavl and Kostroma in July, which reduces travel times on the route from six hours to four.