An Irkutsk-Zabaikalsk train starts on a maiden trip today across Siberia to the Russian-Chinese frontier. The route will be prolonged to Beijing, as of June 1, to make it a transnational line.
"The Irkutsk-Zabaikalsk train is a necessity, what with private travelers' and travel agencies' skyrocketing demand for eastward routes. In particular, that is due to the 2008 Olympics the Chinese capital will host," say Russian Rail PR.
European Russia's population alone could, until now, make direct railroad trips to China and back. There is a Moscow-Beijing train, which departs from the Russian capital twice a week. Additional cars were coupled to the train in Novosibirsk, Irkutsk and Chita for Siberian passengers.
The Irkutsk-Zabaikalsk train is being evaluated for a luxury class. If it qualifies, the train will receive the name of Barguzin. It will have sleeping cars, some with compartments, others with reserved seats, plus a baggage van. The cars are painted turquoise blue, with hangings to match-a rainbow pattern of greens, yellows and blues to echo the blue water of Lake Baikal, woodland greenery, and yellow as China's long-established emblem color. Decorating the interior are birch-bark Baikal and Siberian landscapes by local artists.
Information is offered in Russian, English and Chinese. The passengers are welcome to use cellular phones, computers, printers and copiers.
Police will accompany the train all along its way to protect passengers and their belongings.