There is nothing like a major sporting event to make a country invest heavily in its infrastructure – South Africa did it this year with the 2010 FIFA World Cup, London is doing it for the 2012 Olympic Games and Russia is set to do it for their World Cup tournament in 2018. This week, Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin confirmed that the country would invest in a high speed rail system by promising a line that would connect all of the country’s host cities – Moscow, Kazan, Samara, and Ulyanovsk – by 2018.
Now if you are American, you may not be completely familiar with the FIFA World Cup (despite the USA doing reasonably well in recent tournaments), but it is the world’s largest sporting event. This month, there was much chagrin here in the UK, when the country lost the bid for the 2018 World Cup to Russia, with Qatar winning the right to host the tournament in 2022. (Of course, Qatar has planned to transform their infrastructure accordingly by then, including the completion of the world’s longest bridge.)
In a press statement, Putin said, “[The tournament] will be a powerful incentive for the development of high speed rail services in the European part of Russia.” He made the announcement after he and Finnish President Tarja Halonen had embarked “an inaugural journey on the French-made high speed Allegro train linking Helsinki to St. Petersburg.”
So with the U.S. planning high-speed lines in Florida and California, China increasing their own networks, Europe fully embracing the concept, and now Russia investing the same infrastructure for the World Cup, it would appear that the age of the high-speed rail has well arrived.