Allegro – the best link between Helsinki and St. Petersburg

Posted: 15 May 2009 | | No comments yet

Tapio Simos describes the impact that the Finnish-Russian train Allegro will have on the line between Helsinki and St. Petersburg.

Tapio Simos describes the impact that the Finnish-Russian train Allegro will have on the line between Helsinki and St. Petersburg.

A high-speed rail service between Helsinki and St. Petersburg will start up next year when Allegro, a Finnish-Russian train, comes into service in the summer of 2010. VR’s goal is to make the Allegro the best link between Helsinki and St. Petersburg. The number of passengers is expected to triple within five years.

This high-speed rail link is intended to shorten the journey time between Helsinki and St. Petersburg at first to three and a half hours and later to three hours, down from the current five and a half hours. All border-crossing formalities are being relocated onto the moving trains.

Passenger numbers on the Helsinki- St. Petersburg line are expected to triple within five years of the introduction of the high-speed service.

In 2008, the Helsinki-St. Petersburg line carried approximately 252,000 passengers. Total journeys train between Finland and Russia amounted to 432,000, which is an 8.4% increase on the previous year.

Russians account for 60% of the passengers and Finns for 29%. International customers from other European countries, Asia and North America also make use of the service.

According to the company’s plans, three daily services will operate in each direction in the initial phase, with the number of services later increasing to four per day in each direction.

Karelian Trains responsible for rolling stock and maintenance

In 2007, Oy Karelian Trains Ltd, a company jointly owned by VR Ltd and the Russian rail company OAO RZD, placed an order for four high-speed trains.

Karelian Trains was set up to acquire high-speed trains for services between Helsinki and St. Petersburg and related maintenance services.

The train operating companies VR Ltd and OAO RZD will be responsible for customer service, timetables and pricing on the high-speed trains.

The new trains will have a dual voltage system to enable them to operate on both the Finnish and Russian rail networks. The top speed of the trains will be 220km/h (137mph).

Each train will have seven carriages and a total of 352 seats. There will be a restaurant, business class area, facilities for disabled passengers and designated seats for passengers travelling with pets.

The new trains will arrive in Finland for testing in autumn 2009.

Getting the rails ready in Finland and Russia

Increasing speeds on the Helsinki-St. Petersburg rail line requires investment in the tracks in both Finland and Russia, in addition to the new rolling stock.

Modernising the rail link between Helsinki and St. Petersburg is a priority development project for Russia and the EU. The track section belongs to the EU’s Trans-European Networks (TEN). Expenditure on the track will amount to €205 million in Finland and approximately €1,790 million in Russia.

The Russian segment of the line is being improved between 2007 and 2010. After the rail line upgrade, passenger trains will be able to run at 200km/h on the St. Petersburg-Buslovskaja line section.

The upgrade work also includes construction of a new electrified line between Petäjäjärvi and Kamennogorsk, and freight traffic will be re-routed onto the Rutshji-Petäjäjärvi-Kamennogorsk-Vyborg line.

Upgrades on the Lahti-Luumäki-Vainikkala sections in Finland will be completed in 2010.

The Allegro trainset

The Allegro trainset has been designed and developed and is built at the Alstom site in Savigliano, Italy. It is based on the ‘New Pendolino’ family and constitutes a development of the Pendolino trainsets that have been operating in Finland since 1995.

The trainset is designed to operate on both Finnish and Russian networks, thanks to its double power, signalling and radio systems. New technical solutions have been developed for the severe winter conditions.

Standard of service

For comfort and convenience:

  • Direct connection between two city centres
  • Four daily departures from both Helsinki and St. Petersburg
  • All border and customs formalities carried out on the moving train
  • Spacious and comfortable compartments
  • Restaurant car, table reservations accepted
  • Currency exchange and tax free refund

For families:

  • Space reserved for baby strollers
  • Babycare table

For business travellers:

  • PC sockets for each seat
  • Separate business compartment for 6 passengers in the 1st class section
  • 1st class
  • Breakfast or snack served
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Self-service coffee and tea available throughout the journey

Accommodating special needs:

  • Vis-a-vis seating for small groups
  • Seats for passengers travelling with pets
  • Services for disabled passengers (lift, restroom, emergency push button)
  • Seat numbers marked in Braille

Trainset features:

  • Tilting mechanism
  • Air-conditioning
  • Pressure-tight vehicles
  • Automatic internal and external doors
  • Vacuum toilet system
  • Adjustable seats, tables, foot rests
  • Two smoking rooms
  • Information and entertainment system
  • Adaptation to different platform heights
  • Wheelchair lift

Advanced traction system

The Allegro is an electric trainset with a distributed power system to operate on both 25 kV AC 50 Hz and 3 kV DC. The presence of various independent traction units ensures a high level of reliability and redundancy. Continuous current pick up is ensured by a special frame support for the pantograph that is directly connected to the non-tilting bogie bolsters.

The traction equipment, positioned under the body, includes a transformer (for AC lines) and an IGBT traction converter, an advanced technology in railway traction. Traction motors are three-phase asynchronous type for a total traction power of 5,500 kW and a total effort at rim of 226 kN.

The improved technical solutions adopted in the traction system, together with the use of composite materials, have made it possible to lower the train weight and reduce power consumption.