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Taking the train to Russia for the World Cup? You might end up in a bus

Track maintenance work will disrupt rail services between Helsinki and Russia during the Midsummer holiday and the first weekend in July.

Rikkoutunut juna radalla.
VR's Allegro train provides a fast rail service between Helsinki and St. Petersburg. Image: Juha Varanka

The football world is abuzz as the finals of the World Cup kick off in Russia on Thursday. However some fans hoping to travel from Helsinki to St. Petersburg and Moscow via rail could find obstacles in their way.

In addition to local fans heading to the games, many tourists will be using Finland as a transit point. State rail provider VR said Wednesday that many services are already sold out. However many sports tourists may find that instead of sitting in a train carriage, they will be taking a three-hour bus ride to the eastern border because of rail maintenance work.

On Wednesday VR said that during the Midsummer weekend (22-24 June) and the weekend of 7-8 July, some train rides will have to be replaced by buses. Moreover, VR's Tolstoi train will not be in service and the last Allegro train in the evening will be cancelled during that period.

The track maintenance means that passengers will have to sit tight for an additional 5.5 hours for the trip from Helsinki to St. Petersburg. The journey will begin with a bus ride from Helsinki to Vainikkala on the border, where fans will then transfer to the Allegro to complete the journey by train.

VR said that the bus ride may come as a surprise to many who’ve bought their train tickets early, because they would not have been informed of the change at the time of purchase.

Repairs to old section of track

VR Russia traffic manager Viktoria Hurri noted that the rail work is intended to ensure smoother rail traffic during winter.

“The track work is in everyone’s best interests, because the rail will undergo fundamental improvements. We need to remember that the games will continue through the entire month and the maintenance work will only take place for a short time,” she commented.

Hurri added that the timing of the project was discussed in advance with the Finnish Transport Agency, which is responsible for the repairs.

“However the end result was that from the perspective of domestic travel, a quiet period like Midsummer is the most rational time for rail repairs,” she noted.

The planned maintenance work will concentrate on a section of track in Luumäki.

“Long gears will be changed in Luumäki. They are so old that they create a lot of traffic problems. The work is essential for trains to continue to travel to Russia without any problems.”

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