Russia confirm free train travel between host cities for World Cup
Football fans travelling to Russia for the 2018 World Cup will be able to save considerable sums of money following confirmation all train transportation between the 11 host cities will be free of charge for next summer's event.
To book a ticket online one should first do two things: purchase a ticket to a football match and get himself a Fan ID, which in place will also grant a visa-free entry to the country.
The Confederations Cup, which took place between June 17 and July 2, has been considered a success in Russia. The lack of incidents involving fans is only one of the reasons. The other is the free transportation that earned plaudits by those coming from all over the world -- from Chile to New Zealand.
A total of 60,382 additional train tickets were issued for the 16 matches during the tournament. As many as 3,108 of them were booked by fans from Chile, who overwhelmingly outnumbered the other six visiting national teams supporters, with fans from Mexico coming second with "only" 426 purchased tickets. Host country fans were obviously in a different league here with 55,255 free tickets booked.
"We killed two birds with one stone," the head of the 2018 World Cup Transportation Directorate, Terenty Mescheryakov, told ESPN FC. "There were two issues to deal with -- how to accommodate thousands of fans coming to Russia and how to provide them with easy transportation between the host cities.
"Having implemented this service we've solved both issues. The vast majority of our trains start at night and arrive in the morning so that the fans can sleep and move to the next destination at the same time. Therefore, instead of having to search for a place to stay in a possibly already-packed city after the match, they can just board the train, have a sleep and arrive at the new city for the next match."
"Actually, this service was one of the advantages of our World Cup bid, as no other had anything like it," he continued. "Plus, it's something that no other World Cup or European Championship host ever did for the fans. Yes, there was free transportation for journalists during some of the tournaments, but we are gladly providing this service for all the fans."
Answering the obvious question -- how the Russian Railways company reacted to the news they had to reconcile losing huge profits during the event? -- Mescheryakov said that the government took care of this issue.
"When Russian president Vladimir Putin first announced this idea in 2009, of course, all parties concerned had to discuss both -- the realization and the consequences. Eventually, it was decided that the Russian Railways will be compensated every single penny that could have been spent by fans on their services by the government," he concluded.
A total of 64 matches will be played in 11 cities -- Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, Volgograd, Saransk, Rostov-on-Don, Yekaterinburg and Sochi -- from June 14 to July 15.
The free tickets will be made available online soon after the draw, which is to be held on Dec. 1 in Kremlin.
Artur Petrosyan is a Russian journalist based in Moscow. Twitter: @arturpetrosyan