From -40 C to +40 C, Russia’s high-speed trains keep rolling

For a country like Russia, which spans nine time zones (and it used to be 11), railway travel has always been vitally important … and high-speed rail is helping connect the nation even more effectively. That’s why Russian rail operator RZD is investing around €600 million (about $781 million) to double the capacity of its high-speed train fleet starting in 2014.

The eight new Velaro RUS trains will be more than fast, though. They’ll also be efficient and sturdy, both pluses on a route from Moscow to Saint Petersburg where temperatures can range from -40 degrees C (-40 F) to 40 degrees C (104 F). (The accompanying photo shows the train being tested in a climatic wind tunnel.) Traveling at speed of up to 250 kilometers per hour (155 mph), the Velaro Rus cuts one full hour from the trip, compared to previous trains used on the route.

RZD has operated eight of the Siemens-built trains on the Moscow-Saint Petersburg line since late 2009. Through a combination of continuous monitoring and so-called “predictive maintenance,” Siemens has helped make sure the trains stay in service more than 98 percent of the time.

The Velaro RUS model features what’s called “distributed traction,” in which all the drives and technical equipment are arranged under-floor over the entire length of the train rather than only in the power cars at each end, as with conventional trains. The design increases the train’s seating capacity by about 20 percent, enables more powerful acceleration and makes climbing easier on steep gradients. It also makes the train more economically efficient to operate compared to conventional trains, according to Siemens.

The company adds that the order for the new trains, to be delivered under a 30-year maintenance agreement, helps establish Siemens’ position as the most successful non-Russian rail vendor in the world’s largest country. It also considers Russia to be “one of the most expansive rail markets for decades to come.”

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