Russian Railways seeks tie-up on Indian high-speed plans

St Petersburg, June 18 (IANS) Russian officials are in talks with their Indian counterparts to help the country set up high-speed railways projects, a top railway official said here.

Vladimir Yakunin, president of Russian Railways, said they were keen to tie up with Indian Railways for the planned high-speed rail links, as the country has expertise in this area.

Yakunin, who was talking to journalists on the sidelines of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, said that Russia and India had a relationship in technological matters, both defence and civilian, and this is likely to continue in the future.

He said earlier he had himself held discussion at top level with Indian politicians and officials on improving the signalling and safety infrastructure in India, so that the accidents happening on the Indian Railways network could be avoided.

Yakunin told IANS that the Russian Railways had some of the most advanced systems in place in these two areas, “but for some reason, there was no finalisation even after several rounds of talks two years ago”.

Yakunin, who has led the Russian Railways for the last 10 years, said discussions with Indian officials took place recently for a high-speed rail project in India, and “hopefully, something concrete should emerge soon”.

He said Russia already has several high-speed rail links and has plans to set up over 4,000 km of lines which can run trains at 400 km an hour. In addition, around 7,000 km of fast lines would be built that will be capable of running trains at 140 km to 200 km per hour.

The plan for expansion may “run into some rough weather” because of the sanctions against Russia after the Ukrainian crisis, according to Yakunin, but he said they will be able to “overcome the problem”.

China recently pledged to provide at least $5 billion to Russia for its rail network.

Yakunin, 66, is said to be close to President Vladimir Putin, and like him, calls St Petersburg his home. His name was listed in the individuals placed under personal sanction by the United States and the European Union because of the Ukraine crisis.

He said he took that as an award. “The list is of people who have done something good for the society and the country.”

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny had accused him of corruption but Yakunin brushes this aside, saying these were “meaningless allegations”. He was named by observers in Moscow in a list of five people recently who could succeed Putin, if and when the time came.

Russian Railways is spread over 85,000 km and has 1.3 million employees. It carries around one billion passengers a year and 1.2 billion tonnes of freight, fourth highest in the world behind the US, China and India. Its earnings have dipped by around 10 percent since the pre-sanction days.

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