Sun, 10 Dec 2023

Kiev's high-speed hopes derailed by Nordic state
16 Mar 2023, 23:10 GMT+10

Kiev has asked Finland for four trains that are part-owned by Russia

Ukraine has asked Finland to hand over several passenger trains that used to run between Helsinki and St. Petersburg and are part-owned by Russia. For this last reason a Finnish state railway operator said it's unable to deliver the vehicles itself, though it noted that talks on the matter are underway.

The request for four Allegro high-speed trains was made by the CEO of Ukrainian railway company Ukrzaliznytsia Alexandr Kamyshin when he met with Prime Minister of Finland Sanna Marin during her visit to Kiev last week. The prime minister's office described their encounter as "spontaneous."

According to local media reports, Kamyshin approached Marin at a Kiev railway station as the Finnish delegation was leaving the capital, handing over "a piece of paper that resembled a card rather than an official letter," which was addressed to VR Group, Finland's government-owned railway company.

Vice President of Ukrzaliznytsia Alexandr Shevchenko told news agency STT that Ukraine could use the trains for transporting people to and from the areas that Kiev's forces captured back from Russia. The trains themselves would fit Ukraine's track width.

VR Group received the Ukrainian request on Tuesday via government channels. The same day, Topi Simola, the company's director for urban transport, told STT that the company could not hand over the trains to Kiev or make any decisions on its own about the future of the Allegros, as they're owned by Karelian Trains, a company co-owned by VR and Russian national railway operator RZD.

"We have had negotiations between RZD and the company's financiers about what will happen to this company and the trains in the future," Simola said, describing the situation as "quite simple." The final decision, he asserted, hinges on consensus among Karelian Trains' owners.

The Allegros were built in 2010 to shuttle between Helsinki and St. Petersburg and can travel at 220 km/h (137 mph). However, the trains stopped operating in late March 2022 due to the sanctions the West had slapped on Russia over the Ukraine conflict. Later, VR Group wrote down the vehicles, with all four trains currently being stored in the company's depot in Helsinki.

According to Simola, while the Allegros have gone through some minimal maintenance, it would still take some time to get them back on tracks.

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