The state-run Russian Railways (RZhD) kicked off a regular direct train service between Moscow and Paris on Tuesday with much fanfare, hailing it a testament to Franco-Russian cooperation.
The route operated during tsarist and Soviet times but was canceled in 1990. Since 2007, European trains travelling to Paris have taken one Russian train car per week.
The new train service left Moscow’s Belorussky Station at about 9 a.m. local time and will arrive at the Gare de L’Est in Paris on Tuesday after completing a 38.5-hour journey, the RZhD press service said. The train has several deluxe cars and 1st and 2nd class compartments, all of them sleepers. The service can reach speeds of up to 200 km/h.
The cheapest fare is 330 euros, and the most expensive ticket costs 1050 euros. For comparison, the price of an average Moscow-Paris one-way plane ticket is almost half the price.
The new train service has proven popular, with tickets sold out until the end of 2011, said the Russian Railways CEO Vladimir Yakunin. Tour operators name wealthy francophones who don't like flying or those who are fond of comfortable train journies as the new service’s target customers.
The new train service will operate three times a week during winter and five times a week during the summer. It will travel through Vyazma, Smolensk, Orsha, Minsk, Brest, Terespol, Warsaw, Poznan, Zhepin, Oderburk, Frankfurt am Oder, Berlin, Hanover, Fulda, Frankfurt am Main, Saarbrücken, Forbach and Mets Vila.
Russian Railways on December 6 announced that a woman from Russia’s Nizhny Novgorod became the 10 millionth passenger to buy Russian train tickets via the internet. The company gave her two 1st class round-trip tickets on the Moscow-Paris express.
Foreign cities already connected to Moscow via regular train routes include Beijing, Berlin, Budapest, Helsinki, Prague and Ulan Bator, Mongolia. There are no direct train connection Between Moscow and the capitals of Great Britain, Norway and Sweden.
In 2010, Russian Railways resumed a Moscow-Nice direct train connection after being out of service for more than 100 years. The train has carried over 6,000 passengers since then.