Russian Railways (RZD) president Mr Vladimir Yakunin said at InnoTrans in Berlin last September that delays in finalising a funding structure for high-speed construction meant that the 659km Moscow – St Petersburg line would not be completed in time for the start of the tournament.

However, while the financial structure has still not been decided, the government's recently-published socio-economic plan for the period to 2030 envisages construction starting on the Moscow – St Petersburg line and the first phase of the Moscow – Kazan – Yekaterinburg line in late 2013 or early 2014.

According to the press service of the Ministry of Transport, the Moscow – St Petersburg line will be tendered first and both projects will be completed by 2018.

"The Moscow – St Petersburg project is fully prepared for implementation," explains Mr Denis Muratov, general director of high-speed rail for RZD. Muratov says the federal government will set a budget for of Roubles 795bn ($US 26.5bn) for the projects over the next five years, including Roubles 10.6bn for monitoring and project management, Roubles 76.6bn for land acquisition and preparatory works, and Roubles 707.9bn for construction.

He also adds that the total capital cost of the projects, including private sector investment, will be around Roubles 1.2 trillion. The socio-economic plan anticipates further high-speed development over the next 17 years, which will take to the total investment to Roubles 6 trillion by 2030.

The Moscow – St Petersburg line will have a design speed of 400km/h and will reduce journey times between the two cities to less than three hours. Projected traffic is expected to be 5 billion passenger-km in 2018, rising to 7.5 billion passenger-km in 2030.