High Speed Rail - Sokol-250
The destinies of trains are similar to the destinies of people. There is no sadder story in the world of Russian transport than the full drama of "Falcon". Unfortunately, from the very beginning of the project, the interaction between the Russian Open Joint-Stock Company "High Speed Highways" (RAO VSM), which was established in December 1991 and the Ministry of Railways was not well adjusted. Most of the scientific centers of the defense complex took part for the first time in the creation of railway rolling stock, so the designers lacked specific railway knowledge. During the discussion of the project, there were regular disagreements with railway specialists on technical issues.
The domestic high-speed train "Sokol-250" [Falcon] (ES250, formerly VSM250) was designed, built and tested. Many innovative ideas were applied in it. It was supposed that it would become a milestone before the creation of a more high-speed train: Sokol-350 (indexes 250, 350 - the estimated maximum speed of the trains being developed), which, among other things, was supposed to be equipped with a system with a body tilt for high-speed passage of curves. During the tests, a speed of 237 km / h was achieved.
The Sokol was one of the projects of utmost importance for the national pride. The Soviet Union was already at the brink of a collapse by then and the new Russia with stronger economy had not yet been born for many years. So the times were tough both economically and structurally. The institutions which had been supporting the development for decades, were gone all of the sudden. Even so, the project progressed steadily. The hopes were high.
RAO "High-Speed Railways" in 1994 concluded an agreement with FSUE "TsKB MT Rubin". In accordance with this agreement, Rubin transferred the technical design and working design documentation for the prototype of the Sokol-250 train to RAO VSM. By 1998 construction of the high speed line from St Petersburg to Moscow looked certain to be postponed indefinitely. Before thd summer 1998 economic crisis, total demand for Sokol-250 trains up to 2010 had been estimated at 950 to 1000 coaches. The prototype Sokol high speed train built to run on the 650 km route had begun its test program. President Boris Yeltsin's revocation of the decree authorising construction of the new line did not cancel the Sokol program as the trains would be able to run on existing routes upgraded for higher speeds.
The developers insisted on new unconventional and untested technical solutions and materials. According to the leadership of RAO VSM, this thesis was the basis for the discrepancy between the design of the train and the normative and technical documents adopted in the Ministry of Railways. As a result of continuing contradictions, since 1995 branch scientific organizations had actually been excluded from participation in the development of the electric train. Problematic issues on the technical solutions adopted by the developer during this period were discussed at the Ministry of Railways in July 1996, and the specialists expressed, in the main, a negative attitude to the decisions made by the developers.
RAO "High-Speed Highways" (VSM) was declared bankrupt in 1998. The project was designed in the Central Design Bureau Rubin. After the bankruptcy of RAO "VSM", the ministry nevertheless continued to finance the creation of the Falcon-250. The total cost of the project has already exceeded 450 million dollars.
The first vehicles of the production build took shape at the Transmash Ltd factory 160 km east of St Petersburg, which was awarded the contract to fabricate the trains following a call for tenders from the Ministry of Railways in April 1998. The experimental 6-car train of the Sokol-250 train was completed in October 2000 at the Tikhvin machine building plant Titran (car bodies were built on the site of the Almaz shipbuilding company).
The construction of the Sokol-250 prototype was started in 1999 and by 2001 the train below was finished for the test run, which would prove the train to be "unsatisfactory". Due to a number of reasons (primarily political-economic), the train was never brought to operational level. The test runs in 2001 were unsatisfactory (this was widely published info, although the chief designer did not agree), called by the head of Ministry of Transport "historical mistake" with the price tag of 450 million dollars. The Commision found a total of 50 problems in the train.
In 2002 there was a second trial, with less problems, but it didn't help to save the project. In 2003, all work on the electric train was completely discontinued. The whole complex of works, including carrying out of experimental tests on sixty thousand kilometers of run, cost only 799.23 million rubles ($33 million).
In all countries the creation of a high-speed train takes 8 to 10 years. And in the years of the creation of the Falcon, in the late 1990s, Russian creators did not lag behind the European ones in any way. Everything was being implemented at the same speed with which these processes were going on in the West.
Although in general for the majority of parameters the electric train met the requirements specification and met the requirements of world standards, for a variety of reasons the commission made a rather unexpected conclusion about the impossibility of further operation of the electric train with passengers. The tests also showed that the train was not capable of developing a speed of 250 km / h, which was foreseen by the design assignment.
Gennady Fadeyev, who torpedoed this project when he was the head of the Ministry of Railways, was personally responsible for the disintegration of this direction. At the meeting of the Investment Committee of the Ministry of Railways, the head of the department Gennady Fadeev mentioned "Sokol" as an example of an unsuccessful project. "The Intergovernmental Commission has declared it completely unfit, and all the talk that it can be brought to mind is simply the pumping out of millions and a waste of money," the minister said.
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