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    Putin visits railroad test track in Moscow suburb

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    SHCHERBINKA (Moscow Region), August 4 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin visited a train testing center in the town of Shcherbinka, outside Moscow, Thursday. His visit comes ahead of Railroad Workers' Day, celebrated in Russia on the first Sunday in August.

    Putin observed the cutting-edge electric locomotive Yermak, the first to have been developed in Russia since the late 1980s. Its designers say the Russian railroad fleet has not been upgraded since that time, and many of the trains currently in operation are already beyond their service life.

    Yermak, designed exclusively for freight trains, has already passed all major tests, including a security test, and will likely be licensed by the end of the year. Designed and manufactured in the southern Russian city of Novocherkassk, Yermak costs half as much as its foreign counterparts and can save up to 15% of electrical power. The pilot locomotive took $2.8 million to build. The production cost of each new vehicle will be $700,000 less, $2.1 million.

    Yermak has the capacity to pull 5%-7% more freight than its predecessors. It has better safety features, greater hauling capacity, and can maintain a higher velocity. The driver's cab is fully air-conditioned and includes a refrigerator.

    New trains and locomotives are test-driven on the Shcherbinka center's experimental railroad, which was built in 1932 and remained the world's only railroad test track up to 1960. The trials include exposure to extreme temperatures.

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