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New Petersburg-Tallinn Train Link Cancelled

Published: May 11, 2007 (Issue # 1270)

Russian Railways (RZD), citing economic factors, cancelled its St. Petersburg-Tallinn rail link just weeks after restarting the service.

Coming on the eve of Victory Day celebrations, however, the move was seen as the latest twist in the dispute between Russia and Estonia over the relocation of a Soviet war memorial in Tallinn. The spat appears to be spreading to affect trade and transportation links, with a pro-Kremlin youth group agitating for a boycott of Estonian goods by St. Petersburg retailers and consumers.

“From May 26, for commercial reasons, including the extremely low passenger numbers and subsequent losses incurred, we are planning to cancel the running of the train,” RZD said Tuesday in a statement.

The operation, co-run with Estonian partners, lost almost 390,000 rubles ($15,000) in April, RZD said.

Daily rail services between St. Petersburg and Tallinn resumed March 31 after a four-year break.

There are no plans to end rail services between Moscow and Tallinn. That route carried more than 10,000 passengers in April.

Estonian investors were skeptical Wednesday about RZD’s commercial arguments for ending the St. Petersburg service.

Tiit Pruuli, a member of the board at GoRail, the Estonian company that operates the service jointly with RZD, told the media the explanations presented by the Russian side appear far-fetched and lacking credibility.

“We reopened the route on March 31 following a four-year break, and the interest towards the revived route has been very substantial and forecasts promising both among the Russian and the Estonian travel agencies,” Pruuli said in a press-release distributed by GoRail on Tuesday. “Numbers of customers have increased during the month of April already, and we do not see any plausible commercial motive behind the cancellation of the route.”

“They cite an economic reason but it is difficult to believe that,” said Alar Pinsel, CEO at GoRail.

Pinsel said most of the funding for the project had come from the Estonian side and that it would take time to turn a profit. “The high season will only start in the summer, so of course it would start doing better,” he said.

Despite the setback, GoRail is still hopeful that it can convince RZD to change its mind. “Right now we are hoping that this train will stay,” Pinsel said.

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Friday, Dec. 19

Test your mastery of parlor games during Game Evening at the British Book Center. Learn how to play a variety of classic, mentally challenging games and use your newly acquired skills to crush weaker opponents. The event beings at 5 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 20

The city’s Babushkina Park on Prospekt Obukhovskoy Oborony will be invaded by dozens of rocking-and-rolling Santa Clauses during today’s Santa Claus Parade. Not only will they parade through the park but there will also be competitions amongst the festively-clad participants and a musical master class. There will also be a prize for the best-dressed Santa Claus.

Stock up your record collection during the Vinyl Christmas Sale at the KL10TCH bar on Konyushennaya ploschad today. Spend the afternoon perusing the records for sale while listening the classic, clean sound of records spinning out hits from a variety of musical genres and time periods.

Sunday, Dec. 21

The Zenit St. Petersburg basketball team returns to the northern capital this evening for a matchup with Krasny Oktyabr, a Volgograd-based basketball club. Tickets for the game, which tips off at 6 p.m. this evening, can be purchased on the club’s website or at their arena, Sibur Arena, on Krestovsky island.

Satisfy your sugar cravings during Sweet New Year, an ongoing seasonal festival at the Raduga shopping center. Each weekend of December will welcome hungry visitors to taste hundreds of different kinds of desserts made from a plethora of sweet treats. Workshops are open to visitors and seasonal gifts can also be purchased for those rushing to finish their New Year shopping.

Monday, Dec. 22

Pick out the latest fashions as holiday gifts for loved ones or as early presents for yourself during the Christmas Design Sale at Kraft on Obvodny Kanal, starting on Dec. 20 and continuing through Dec. 27. Designer clothes will be on sale every day of the week or you can buy something more festive to decorate the home while sipping on hot coffee and perusing the various master classes.

Tuesday, Dec. 23

Meet Arctic explorers Fedor Konukhov and Viktor Simonov during SPIBA’s and Capital Legal Service’s event “Arctic Expedition” this morning in the Mertens House business center at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. The meeting will discuss the explorers’ ongoing eco-social project and how companies can use the project as a unique marketing opportunity. Email by Dec. 22 if you wish to attend.

Wednesday, Dec. 24

The Anglican Church of St. Petersburg we will be holding a Christmas Eve service at 7 p.m. led by Rev Wm. Shepley Curtis of the Episcopal Church. The service will be held at the Swedish Church at 1/3 Malaya Konyushennaya Ulitsa.

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