The Russian Railways expects high-speed trains manufactured by Patentes Talgo SA (Spain) to begin operating on the Moscow-Kiev route in the fourth quarter of next year. Each train will consist of 20 cars, including 16 first- and second-class cars for transporting passengers, two technical cars, one dining car, and a bistro car. The express train will accommodate 414 passengers. The first train will be delivered to Russia in March next year.

The trains will make stops in Bryansk in Russia. As for Ukraine, the State Railway Administration (Ukrzaliznytsia) will determine where it will make stops. The express train will cover the distance of 857 kilometers in approximately seven hours, four of which will be spent on the Russian segment of the route and three on the Ukrainian segment. "I am absolutely sure that we can find a good organizational solution for our project. Two pairs of trains per day with a travel time not exceeding seven hours will connect the capitals of Ukraine and Russia. Implementation of this project is planned for the fourth quarter of 2014," said the Russian Federal Passenger Company’s General Director Mikhail Akulov.

As reported, the fastest train is currently the train No. 2, which travels between the capitals of the two countries in eight and a half hours. All other trains spend 10-11 hours. Thus, passengers will be able to save up to three and a half hours by traveling on daytime express trains. However, ticket prices will be higher. In particular, travel through Russian territory will cost 30% more than travel on conventional trains.

Why will express trains that are capable of reaching a speed of 200 kilometers per hour travel at the average speed of 122 kilometers per hour on this route? This is due to infrastructural constraints, which hamper the development of high-speed traffic. The Russian Railways and Ukrzaliznytsia chose the fastest and most inexpensive option for the daytime train services because high-speed trains require construction of a separate railway line, the cost of which ranges from USD 20 million to USD 30 million per kilometer. Implementation of such a project would have required huge investments and time.

Express trains that are capable of reaching a speed of 200 kilometers per hour will travel at the average speed of 122 kilometers per hour on this route

It is possible to organize train services that take seven hours to cover this distance at the end of next year if the existing infrastructure is upgraded, and this will be much cheaper. Moreover, according to Ukrzaliznytsia, investments by the Ukrainian side may not be required.

"It is possible that tracks will not be upgraded. As of today, we have a high-speed system with the average speed of about 106.5 kilometers per hour in our segment of the route while their new rolling stock can increase this average speed by 15-30%, taking into account the structural peculiarities of the trains, such as tilting. Therefore, they have the ability to increase the speed of entry into bends, in contrast to conventional rolling stock,” said Ukrzaliznytsia’s Deputy General Director Pavlo Chekalov.

However, the final figures will be shown by the results of the calculations and research that will be conducted by a specialized research institute. Trains need to travel at a speed of 117 kilometers per hour to ensure a three-hour travel time in the Ukrainian segment of the route. If this cannot be achieved, then the travel time through Ukrainian territory will increase and it will be necessary to either reduce the travel time on the Russian side or invest in infrastructure. "For now, our preliminary calculations show 3 hours and 26 minutes," said Chekalov. According to him, the research institute should submit the results of its work by December 1 this year. "The calculations are needed by December 1 because we are working intensely based on the train timetable for 2014-2015," he said. According to him, radical changes to the timetable are not required to organize daytime train services.

The question is whether such a train will be competitive, considering the fact that a night train that takes only an hour and a half more to cover the distance but is 30% cheaper. In addition, the seven-hour travel time does not allow the new express trains to compete with air transport. Travel on the train No. 1/2 currently costs UAH 850 and the express train is more expensive. For UAH 860, a passenger can purchase a one-way ticket on a flight operated by Ukraine International Airlines and spend only about two hours of travel time, excluding the time spent on registration and formalities at the airport. A ticket for a flight operated by the Transaero airline company costs about UAH 1,000 while the Aeroflot airline company offers the cheapest ticket at UAH 840. The big question is whether passengers will want to spend seven hours on the road for a higher fee.

The two pairs of trains that the Russian Railways proposes to operate are unlikely to justify themselves

Nevertheless, experts believe that the train service has certain advantages because the traffic jams on the way to any of the airports in Moscow should not be discounted.

However, the two pairs of trains that the Russian Railways proposes to operate are unlikely to justify themselves. "I do not believe in the efficacy of the two pairs of trains. If the trains depart early in the morning and arrive in Moscow a few hours after lunch, it will be inconvenient and they are unlikely to be in demand. But there is potential demand for a train that departs from Moscow at 17:30 and arrives in Kiev at 23:30 (local time), and, of course, for a mirror train from the capital of Ukraine,” transportation expert Aleksandr Kava told the Center for Transport Strategies.

Kava also believes that the Russian Railways will not be able to set inflated rates because competition in the railway and aviation industries is very strong on this route. Therefore, the carrier will have to reckon with the established prices if it wants to gain its share of this market.

"However, in the future the railway industry should still consider constructing a new high-speed railway line that will allow the distance to be covered in three or four hours. This will require considerable investment, but this investment will pay off because both airplane and railway traffic currently reaches up to 3 million people per year,” he concluded.