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Rail Still At the Heart of Russian Economy

At a time of development planning and uncertainty over the country's future economic direction, the rail system retains a centrality in Russia's security and economic position.

Despite developments in transportation over the 20th century - the evolution of modern vehicles and airplanes, and the increasing access of the world's population to inexpensive car ownership and flight - sea and rail are still the most efficient ways to carry large quantities of goods over long distances.

Passenger rail is also essential to economic growth - not just for travel and tourism, but also for mobility of the labor force, said officials and analysts at last month's Passenger Forum at RIA Novosti. For urban development in particular, integrated "intermodal" transportation systems are necessary to relieve Moscow's notorious congestion.

"The main thing is access, quality and comfort of passenger services, toward which the developed transportation strategy project is directed," said Alexander Misharin, first vice president of state rail monopoly Russian Railways. "We have good examples of the development of a passenger network in [other] countries - China first of all - and we should unconditionally take [them] into account in our own programs."