The first tourist train travelling through Russia’s Arctic region carrying passengers heading for Norway set off from Saint Petersburg station on Wednesday with 91 passengers aboard for the inaugural trial journey.
“The Arctic fascinates everybody,” said Nurlan Mukash executive director of the German Lernidee Erlebnisreisen tour group behind the project.
“This destination has been covered by Canadian and Norwegian tourist agencies but, this has not been the case for Russia,” he added.
The train, named “Zarengold” (“The Tsars gold” in German) complete with two restaurant cars will travel from Saint Petersburg through Petrozavodsk, the historic town of Kem and Murmansk.
At Murmansk, by far the largest city north of the Arctic Circle, the tourists will get off the train and continue by bus to Kirkenes in Norway before ending their journey with a boat trip to Oslo or by air to the island of Spitsbergen.
The whole trip will take 11 days and allow passengers to discover areas difficult to access by other means, according to the organisers.
For the inaugural “ test journey” the 91 tourists came from seven countries including the US, Germany, Norway and Russia.
“In future we hope to run trains regularly,”said Mukash, adding that the train was expected to run twice next year and four times in 2021.
Russia hopes to become the top economic and military power in the Arctic, foreseeing new trading routes as global warming breaks up glaciers.