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Dec 12, 2010

Putin, Halonen to open Petersburg-Helsinki speed railway service.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Finnish President Tarja Halonen on Sunday will make the first trip from Helsinki to St. Petersburg on the Allegro high-speed train.

Halonen will embark on the train to Helsinki and the Russian prime minister will join her in Vyborg. The travel time from the capital of Finland to St. Petersburg will take slightly more than 3.5 hours, instead of 6 hours and 18 minutes earlier. The reduced travel time is achieved through the use of a more technically advanced train and also quicker border formalities that the passengers will pass as the train moves.

Allegro trains of the French company Alstom, cruising at speeds of over 200 kilometres per hour that are embodiment of modern high technology, will be used for passenger transportation.

The contract for the supply of four electric dual power supply Pendolino Sm6 was concluded with Alstom in 2007. The trains are designed based on the New Pendolino trains, which is a logical development of the Pendolino trains, which have been used on Finland’s railways for already several years. Owing to the twin electric power supply, alarm and radio communication systems this train can be used in both Finland and Russia.

Pendolino is an Italian family of tilting trains used in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Slovenia, Finland, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, China and shortly in Romania, Ukraine and Russian Federation. Based on the design of the Italian self designed ETR 401 and the British Advanced Passenger Train, it was further developed and manufactured by Fiat Ferroviaria, which was taken over by Alstom in 2002.

The idea of a tilting train became popular in the 1960s and 1970s when various rail operators, impressed by the high-speed rail services being introduced in France and Japan, wondered how they could similarly speed up travel without building a dedicated parallel rail network (as those two countries were doing). By tilting, the train could round curves designed for slower trains at higher speeds without causing undue discomfort to passengers.

The Finnish model, the Sm3, is based on the ETR 460, adapted to the specific requirements of VR (formerly the Finnish State Railways) and to the cold climatic conditions. The first two units were made in 1995 by Rautaruukki-Transtech, a rolling stock company which was part of Spanish Talgo until 2007, but is now back in Finnish ownership as Transtech Oy. Currently there are a total of 18 units operating.

The electrical traction equipment, with continuous power of 4000 kW, includes GTO chopper/inverter and asynchronous motors. The trains for VR are composed of six vehicles: two traction units, each of which consists of two motor coaches with a 4QC/inverter/converter with four traction motors (one for each bogie), plus a trailer coach with high voltage equipment (25 kV and 50 Hz) and traction transformer; and two end coaches with aerodynamic driving cab. One of the trailer coaches (TTC) has a special featured bar section.

On August 28, 2007, Karelian Trains, a 50-50 joint venture between Finnish VR and Russian Railways, ordered four 1520 mm gauge seven-car Pendolinos for use on 220 km/h Saint Petersburg–Helsinki services expected to start in 2010. The bogies will be specially constructed to allow for 220 km/h speed both at the Finnish gauge 1524 mm and the Russian gauge 1520 mm. The model will be an improved version of the model in use by VR, with specifications better adapted to winter conditions solving the previous coupling problems. The journey time between Helsinki and Saint Petersburg will be reduced from five and a half hours to three and a half hours at first and later to three hours. On December 29, 2008, it was announced that the rail link will be named Allegro. On January 15, 2010, the first of the four Allegro trains arrived by a cargo ship called Tongan to Vuosaari harbour in Helsinki.

The Sm6 Allegro is a high-speed train designed to run between Helsinki, Finland and St. Petersburg, Russia. The service is scheduled to start on December 12, 2010 and it will be run by Karelian Trains, a 50–50 joint venture between VR Group (Finnish Railways) and Russian Railways (RZD). The Sm6 appears similar to VR's earlier Sm3 Pendolino series, but the unit is based on the later 'Pendolino Nuovo' or 'New Pendolino' designs and its construction differs from the Sm3 in many ways. Unlike the Sm3, which have a Fiat-designed hydraulic tilting mechanism, the Sm6 is equipped with Alstom's newer tilting bogies with pneumatic operation. The top speed of the train in passenger traffic will be 220 kilometres per hour (140 mph). The aim is to reduce travel time between the two cities from 5.2 hours to three hours. The travel time in year 2011 will be 3:36. The Sm6 is equipped to operate on both the Finnish and Russian standard railways. The units have a dual electric system for using both the Finnish 25 kV, 50 Hz alternating current and the Russian 3 kV direct current, the wheelsets are built to run at over 200 km/h speeds on both the Finnish 1524 mm and the slightly narrower Russian 1520 mm gauge, the doors are equipped with a retractable step to make boarding from both Finnish 550 mm high and Russian 1100 mm high platforms easy and the units are equipped for both the Finnish and Russian signal systems, which differ substantially.


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