NEW RAILWAY LINE TO LINK MOSCOW, BRUSSELS

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MOSCOW, June 8 (RIA Novosti) - A railway line to directly link Moscow and Brussels is opening June 11, spokespeople for Russian Railways have announced.

Until now, Russian nationals have been able to travel by rail without transfer only as far as Cologne or Aachen. But they have had to make transfers in order to get to destinations in Belgium or the Netherlands.

"Today, it is becoming more and more prestigious to travel by train, including across Europe. Attesting to this is the high demand for the increasing number of international lines organized by Russian Railways," spokespeople for the company say.

The trip from Moscow to Brussels will now take only 37 hours and 55 minutes; the journey back will be just 36 hours 49 minutes long. The quality of passenger service on the new line is expected to be better than the average while the fares won't be too high. (9,170 rubles, first class; 7,404 rubles, second class). Round trip tickets will be even less expensive: 16,806 rubles, first class; 10,700 rubles, second class (the U.S. dollar currently sells at 29 rubles).

According to Aeroflot, Russia's main air carrier, a plane ticket for a Brussels-bound flight will cost you nearly 18,000 rubles if you are traveling in economy class or 21,000 rubles, in business class.

According to Russian Railways Inc., the Kaliningrad-Berlin line, opened in December 2003, has proved highly popular both with residents of the German capital and people living in Russia's western enclave, on the Baltic Coast.

Russia's national railway operator is beginning to make use of innovative European technologies. One example is the tourist line Berlin-St. Petersburg, to open in 2005. Trains of the Spanish manufacturer Talgo will be used for that line. They are fitted with a mechanism for transition from the wide Russian track to the narrower European.

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