Friday, July 20, 2018

Russian Railways responds high-speed rail finance report

In response to the reports that the government will not help finance high-speed rail links for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Russian Railways has called into question how large numbers of people will be transported during the tournament.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected to flock to Russia when it hosts the World Cup, Inside World Football reports.

The last World Cup drew 400,000 more visitors than usual to South Africa, while the 2006 World Cup drew one million people to Germany.

It is estimated that during the 2018 tournament, 500,000 people will need to be transported across Russia, a far larger country than other recent hosts, as many of the host cities are great distances apart.

Kaliningrad is 2,500 km from Yekaterinburg in the east, which is another 2,000 km from Sochi in the south, Inside World Football reports.

A recent article in the Russian newspaper Vedomosti said that Russia would not be funding new rail lines to link the cities as previously planned, adding that funding was not included in the budget for the next three years.

A new rail network would cost $177 million, with 70 percent be funded by the Russian state, Inside World Football reports.

As proposed, more than 100 trains would run on the network, with four branches connecting the host cities.

Russia's infrastructure was a concern brought up by FIFA during the World Cup bidding process. It said that the country relies on air travel and that more frequent flights would have to be put in place, a need that will only grow without the addition of high-speed rail lines.

Fast trains exist between Moscow and St. Petersburg and along the Volga River between Nizhny Novgorod and the capital. High-speed rail lines would bring down travel time, which as estimated could already take longer than 24 hours.

Russian Railways said it has made cost estimates for the rail lines but that it has not received an answer from the government.

"The questions of financing of construction of high-speed railways are the area of responsibility of the state and Russian Railways will fulfill the decision that will be taken about it," the company said, Inside World Football reports.

The statement also questioned how else fans will get around during the event.

"At the same time we consider these are railways that could mainly arrange movement during such a big event and otherwise this question could remain open," the company said, according to Inside World Football.

FIFA will confirm host cities at its executive committee meeting at the end of September.