Following the decisions from Poland, Belgium and Portugal to axe their proposed high speed rail projects, Russia seems to be the next to follow suit, as it has been reported that plans to extend their network in time for the 2018 World Cup has been shelved.
In January 2011, just a month after Russia won the right to host the 2018 World Cup, then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he was planning for the cities hosting matches to be linked by an €4 billion (£3 billion/$5 billion) integrated high-speed rail network. However even at the time the caveat was provided by Transport Minister Igor Levitin, who said “everything depends on investors” as in 2010 the Governmental subsidy paid the railway operators have increased to £4bn from £2.1bn in 2009.
This increase in subsidy coincided with the opening of the first of three high speed rail lines in Russia, where the general feeling about high speed rail follows many of the themes for the rest of the world; in that the services benefit the country’s moneyed elite, while severely inconveniencing the majority of the population in the regions through which the railway runs.
The town of Chupriyanovka has been blessed with a 155mph (250kph) level crossing on the Moscow to St Petersburg route which was opened in 2009 and local officials have stated; “Our town is cut into two halves for over seven hours each day. We have been cut off from the outside world”. It has also been widely reported, just as has happening in The Netherlands and the UK that its introduction has resulted in the cancellation of a number of more affordable long-distance passenger and commuter trains, and long delays for many other trains that continue to run.
Today (23rd August 2012) it has been reported in the Russian Vedomosti business daily that spending on the rail extension programme is not included in the long-term programme of Russian Railways (RZD) or the next federal budget. 70% of the proposed funding was due to come from the state, against a backdrop of Russia currently trying to balance World Cup spending worth billions of dollars with more urgent uncompleted construction demands for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi as well as the 2013 World University Games in Kazan
The Vedomosti report said the government, through Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, was not only looking at dropping the specific World Cup project, but also considering permanently dropping the development of any new high-speed rail links beyond the routes that currently exist.