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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 June, 2004, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
Chechnya train service back on track
Train arriving in Moscow
The first train from Grozny in five years arrives in Moscow

The first train in five years from the Chechen capital, Grozny, to Moscow arrived at Paveletsky station on Tuesday.

Most tickets were booked in advance for the 48-hour journey, according to Russian Railways spokesman, Konstantin Pashkov.

Russian TV showed the head of the northern Chechen railways inaugurating the twice-weekly service between Grozny and Moscow.

Also shown were several happy passengers and their children excited about the journey.

Children in the train
Russian TV showed children enjoying the journey

As the inaugural train arrived in Moscow, passengers were greeted by their friends and relatives, journalists, a military band as well as police patrols.

Passengers were searched and their baggage examined by security personnel wielding metal detectors.

"Each passenger's documents and luggage will be checked," Tatyana Sushinova of Moscow railway police department said.

Heightened security

To reassure potential passengers about the safety of the service, Russian Railways announced that "police agents with dogs trained to sniff out narcotics and explosives will be permanently present" on the trains travelling in both directions.

Train travel between Moscow and the Chechen republic was disrupted in 1999 when the Grozny terminal was damaged and the rail track destroyed during fighting between Russian federal troops and Chechen separatist rebels.

Russian military band at Moscow railway station
Passengers alighting in Moscow were greeted by a military band

Since then direct travel between Moscow and Grozny has been limited to a coach service.

The refurbished trains on the Grozny-Moscow-Grozny service have five carriages with four-bed compartments, five reserved seat carriages and a carriage with two-bed compartments, as well as a dining car.

They can carry up to 350 passengers and will leave Grozny for Moscow on Wednesdays and Sundays. Returning trains are scheduled to depart from Moscow's Paveletsky station on Tuesdays and Fridays.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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