Moscow–Saint Petersburg Railway

Moscow–Saint Petersburg Railway

Infobox rail line
name = Moscow–Saint Petersburg Railway

caption = Moscow Railway Station in St. Petersburg (1851) is the northern terminus of the line.
type = High-speed railway
system = Russian Railways
status = mostly passenger service
start = Leningrad Railway Station, Moscow
end = Moscow Railway Station, Saint Petersburg
stations =
open = 1851
close =
owner = Russian Railways
operator = Russian Railways
character = Passenger and freight
stock = ER200
linelength = 649.7 km
tracklength =
notrack =
gauge = 1520 mm
el =
speed = 200 km/h
elevation = |
The Moscow to Saint Petersburg Railway is a 649.7 km railway running between the two largest Russian cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg, and through four oblasts: Moscow, Tver, Novgorod and Leningrad. It is the leading traffic artery for the whole of the north-west region of Russia, operated by Oktyabrskaya Railway subdivision of Russian Railways.


The current maximum speed on the line is 200 km/h; the fastest train takes 4h 30min. However, construction works have been under way since 2004 which will take it to 250 km/h. These are to be completed by 2008. The future trainsets are already able to operate at 300 km/h. These are a widenened version of the Siemens Velaro 3rd generation ICE train, similar to the CRH3 in China.

Since 1931, a famous train, called the "Krasnaya Strela" ("Red Arrow"), has operated on this line, leaving Moscow (Leningradsky Rail Terminal) at 23:55 daily and arriving in Saint Petersburg (Moskovsky Rail Terminal) at 07:55 the next morning and vice-versa.

Major Stations

Major stations situated on the railway include (south to north) Klin, Redkino, Tver, Likhoslavl, Kalashnikovo, Vyshny Volochyok, Bologoye, Okulovka, Luka, Malaya Vishera, Chudovo, Lyuban and Tosno.


The railway is the second oldest in the country, behind a short line connecting Saint Petersburg and Tsarskoe Selo. This railway was a pet project of Pavel Melnikov (1804 – 1880), an engineer and administrator who superintended its construction and whose statue may be seen near the southern terminus of the line, the Leningradsky Rail Terminal in Moscow.

The idea of a railway connecting the two capitals gave rise to a prolonged controversy with some reactionary officials predicting social upheaval if the masses were allowed to travel. It was decided that only the affluent would be allowed to use the line; every passenger was to be subjected to strict passport and police control.

Nicholas I of Russia, after whom the railway and the termini were named until 1923, issued an ukase ordering its construction on 1 February 1842. It was built by serfs at a cost of heavy loss of life, a fact bemoaned by Nikolai Nekrasov in his well-known poem "The Railway".

The line was finally opened after almost 10 years of construction and a great deal of financial machinations, on 1 November 1851. The first passenger train left St Petersburg at 11.15 and arrived in Moscow at 9pm the next day - 21 hours and 45 minutes later.

The Myth of the Tsar's Finger

One popular myth details how the line is completely straight apart from a 17km bend near the city of Novgorod. This urban legend states that when planning the project, Tsar Nicholas (who reputedly selected the Moscow - Saint Petersburg route by taking a ruler and drawing a straight line between the two cities on a map) accidentally drew around his own finger on the ruler, breaking the straight line on the map. Another version is that there was a small notch in the ruler. The planners didn't know whether to point this out and so the railway was built with the defect. Another version says that Russian steam locomotives of the time were not powerful enough to climb the Verbinsky gully and so the by-pass was built. This is a more likely version. There are many very strange myths about Russian and Soviet leadership and decision making.

In 2001, after 150 years of continuous use, the bend was finally straightened out reducing the entire length by 5km. [Cite news |url= |title='Tsar's finger' chopped off |publisher=BBC News |date=2001-10-21] At that period, a high speed rail line (the first in Russia) was planned to be constructed along the same route, but the project was eventually laid off due to ecological protests and concerns about the fragile environment of the Valdai Hills.

2007 explosion

On August 13, 2007 an intercity passenger train heading to St. Petersburg from Moscow derailed shortly before reaching Malaya Vishera after a bomb explosion. No one was killed, but the railway traffic was blocked in both directions for a few days. [ [ 'Explosion' derails Russian train] . BBC News Online, August 14, 2007] [ [ Russia investigates train blast] , CNN, August 14, 2007.]


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