In 2009, Russian Railways made an order with Siemens for a development of an electric multiple unit train adapted to the Russian environment. The new trains were planned to be used in Sochi for suburban passenger traffic during the 2014 Winter Olympics, and then to be partially transferred to other train lines. Now, three and a half years after the Games, you can travel on the Lastochka (Russian: Ласточка, lit. ‘Swallow‘) on 26 lines, mostly to and from Russian’s largest cities: Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Yekaterinburg.
These trains are amongst the most modern of all the Russian rolling stock and, even if they do not reach such high speeds as the Sapsan (also built by Siemens) or the Strizh, they can cruise at 155 Km/h (close to 100 Mph) and cut travel time almost in half compared to old Elektrichkas.
If you are planning a short or medium duration train trip in the European part of Russia (let’s say under 4 hours), do check if the line is served by Lastochka. These trains are not only much faster, but also significantly more comfortable than the Elektrichkas and, due to their “third-class only” configuration, only cost about 25-30 percent more than the slower alternatives and in excess of 50% less than the high speed trains Sapsan and Strizh. Also check that your stop is served by the Lastochka you want to take as the trains on the same lines stop at a different number of station depending on the time of the day, so the fact that the morning and evening Lastochka stop at the station you want to travel to does not mean that the afternoon one will, too. The trains most popular with commuters (early morning and 4 to 6 PM in the evening) tend to be very full with standing room only, so if you are planning to catch one of those I suggest you get to the station at least half an hour before departure.
Train cars are built with an aluminium alloy and offer very large panoramic windows. Inside seats are in a 2-2 configuration, as pictured above (meaning two seats on each side of the central isle) and 3-2 configuration (three seats on one side of the isle, two on the other) with 50% of the seats looking in each direction. Most of the seats also enjoy a fold-up tray table on the back of the seat in front, airplane style and most trains also offer a service of on-board refreshments (tea, coffe, snacks, sweets and sandwiches) that comes on an airplane trolley (not free). I wrote most trains because the most popular ones for commuters in and out of Moscow and Saint Petersburg are usually full to the brim with people standing and the trolley service is not offered on those.
The train is composed of 5 carriages, the first and last of which also offer dedicated space for voluminous luggage and toilets. On the most popular routes they often combine two of such trains to create a 10 carriage express that can accomodate all commuters.
The Lastochka proved so successful and popular that the city of Moscow chose this train for the Moscow Central Circle, a 54-kilometre-long (34 min) orbital over-ground addition to the city’s Metro network that opened on September 10, 2016.
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