Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ticket Sales Rocket 27% On Northwest Railways

ST. PETERSBURG — Ticket sales on northwest Russia’s Oktyabr Railways have rocketed leaving many St. Petersburg residents — and one special forces detachment — unable to get to their destinations.

Andrei Guriyev, head of the Oktyabr Railways press service, said the 7 percent ticket sale expected for the summer season has instead become a 27 percent leap, reaching 40 percent on trains with destinations in southern Russia.

Pavel Babaitsev, head of Transservice, which operates trains for Oktyabr Railways, said that while trains in the region were 78 percent full in the summer of 1999, they were close to 100-percent full this year.

For most citizens, this has meant that getting to vacation spots like Sochi on the Black Sea coast has proved well-nigh impossible without booking far in advance.

Oktyabr Railways officials said the only chance for many was to apply for a ticket on the day of departure in the hope that someone had canceled. Others, they said, have had unscheduled extensions to their vacations as finding a return ticket has proven equally difficult.

Matters were more urgent for a group of 50 Typhoon special forces soldiers, however, whose train to the war-torn republic of Chechnya was delayed for five days — keeping the comrades they were supposed to relieve stuck in the area.

The soldiers finally moved out Saturday for a two-month tour of duty. Their responsibilities include combating terrorism and providing security in the republic’s prisons, according to General Vladimir Spitsnadel, head of GUIN, the Justice Ministry department in charge of the country’s prison system.

"Finally, we had to ask the Railways Ministry in Moscow to give us two wagons," Spitsnadel said. "And a Moscow special forces group, which is in Chechnya now, is waiting for us to replace them."

Guriyev said that tickets and wagon space were in such demand because the government had made strenuous efforts to pay off wage arrears during the run-up to the presidential elections earlier this year, and many people had decided to spend the money on their vacations.

But he also cited a shortage of train cars to transport passengers around the country.

"Since 1989, fewer and fewer people have traveled by train. Old train cars were taken out of service, and we didn’t need any new ones.

"Today, Oktyabr Railways operates with 2,500 train cars, and we really need another 300," Guriyev said.