Saturday, 3 September 2011

The St Petersburg to Moscow Train

The Sapsan train from St Petersburg to Moscow is a Eurostar class high-speed train taking around four hours. There's an alternative slow overnight sleeper and an early morning non-stop train taking 3 hours 45 mins. Its very spacious and comfortable as you would expect in first class but the standard of service is incredible

Slippers, eye shades and ear plugs are at passenger seats. On departure passengers are offered drinks - of any description; followed by a restaurant style lunch at your seat, served in three separate courses on crockery, with proper cutlery and some nice Spanish wine. If you require a taxi train staff will pre-book one to meet you on arrival - amazing!

Admittedly its Russia's flagship rail service but its a flag that's impresively waved and other rail operators could do with seeing what all the fuss is about.

The first class carrige is completely full unlike the fleets of empty first class carriages that trundle the length and breadth of the UK because of their ridiculously high prices. The late booking fare for a first class seat on the Sapsan is £95 for 680km, in the UK this would be a cattle-class fare with the high probability of no seat on popular routes. It seems that Russian's understand good business better than the Brits - filling all the seats makes more sense than charging twice the price and running half empty.

It was also nice to hear anouncements refer to passengers as passengers rather than travel units, customers, punters, mugs or however else UK rail operators perceive their passengers.

Arriving at Moscow's Leningradsky station is a bit disorienting as all signs are in cyrillic, no latin script alternatives, let alone English (there was a fair bit of English in St Pete's). You also need to buy a rail card to use the metro, which are great once you've got one.
So you do need to prepare for a Moscow arrival, I on the other hand met a really friendly Russian on the train who gave me metro access on his ticket and put me on the right metro line for my hotel - thanks Yakov.

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