Russia and China have agreed to launch their first jointly developed high-speed freight train in 2019.
The announcement was made by Alexander Misharin, first vice president of Russian Railways, at the Strategic Partnership 1520 forum in Sochi on Thursday, 8 June. He said: "The technical requirements for this special rolling stock are about to be completed, and together with our Chinese colleagues we planned to launch it in 2019."
Misharin said the train would be used to move perishable goods, and would be able to move them at a top speed of 400km/h.
A number of companies are working on the project, including Russian investment group Sinara, Siemens and Chinese train maker CRRC.
They may launch the production of the new train at the Ural Locomotives enterprise, which is a joint venture of Sinara and Siemens formed at the site of the former Ural Rolling Stock Manufacturing Plant in 2010.
One of the lines that the train will use is the $16.9bn high-speed link between Moscow and Kazan, which is due to be completed in 2022. The aim is to extend this 770km line to China, creating the first high-speed standard gauge link between the two countries.
China plans to extend a $6.2bn 20-year loan to Russia to pay for the infrastructure, and has also made a $1.9bn contribution to the equity capital of the train development project.
The time of travel between Moscow and Kazakhstan would be cut from 14 hours to about three.
Mr Misharin also signalled Moscow’s interest in electrifying the 600km Iranian rail line between Tehran and Tabriz, in the north of country. This would follow on from the recently completed electrification of the Tehran to Inche Burun, at a cost of $1.3bn.
According to Iranian news agency PressTV, the project will include 32 stations and 95 tunnels and will be financed from the $5bn credit line for infrastructure projects agreed between the two countries. Russian state lender Vnesheconombank will grant another $2.1bn loan on top of that.
The project is set to begin next year and to take three years to complete.
Image: Russia’s existing high-speed train, the Sapsan, on route to St Petersburg (Sergey Korovkin)