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MSM logo.png
General Information
Locale Coat of arms of Varkana.png Varkana
Seal of Aetolia.png Aetolia
Coat of arms of Ashakarra.svg Ashakarra
Seal of Echia.png Echia
Coat of arms of Kotcija.svg Kotcija
Coat of arms of Sakalia.png Sakalia
Seal of Svaneti.png Svaneti
Type High speed rail
Lines 11
No. of stations 90 (Varkana only)
Ridership 189.73 million (FY 2020 on MSM trains in Varkana only)
Began Operation 1981
Operator(s) SARK
System length 2,686 km (Varkana only)
4,956.8 km (all MSR lines)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8½ in) standard gauge
Average speed
Top speed
350 km/h (all MSR lines)
350 km/h (operational)
MSM network map 2015.png
Current network map

The MSM (Varkan: მსმ for მაღალი სიჩქარით მატარებელი, maghali sichkarit matarebeli; "high-speed train") is Varkana's high-speed rail service, operated by SARK, the national rail operator. Following the inaugural service between Klow and Kaspi in 1981 on the MSR Kaspi ("MSR") (Varkan: მაღალი სიჩქარით რკინიგზის, maghali sichkarit rkinigzis; high-speed railroad) in 1981 during the presidency of Khatia Ochiauri, the network, centered on Klow, has expanded to connect many cities across Varkana and in adjacent countries on high-speed lines. It is the second densest high-speed rail system in the world at 15.1 m/km², just behind Aetolia.


The program for the MSM was purred on by the 1964 start of the "SHINKANSEN" high-speed train. They were embodied in a joint program between SARK and industry to explore the possibility of a high speed gas turbine unit. The project, initiated in 1967 by President Inga Korsantia, was entitled "Rail Possibilities on New Infrastructures". The experimental X4300 MST railcar, predecessor of the ETG, had been tested at speeds up to 252 km/h in May 1971, and gave promising results. Since the very high speed lines envisioned by SARK called for speeds of 250 km/h to 300 km/h, SARK had Narsain build a special high speed turbotrain prototype to test out some concepts in high speed rail.

The 1971 Varkan coup d'état disrupted the MSM program as public funds went to military build-up instead. With the restoration of democracy in 1975 and the presidency of Khatia Ochiauri, the program was reinstated with massive government support. In 1975, the requirements were changed to fully electric operation, which resulted in an extensive redesign and test program. In April 1976, the Z7001 experimental electric railcar began trials. Using this vehicle, the new Y226 long-wheelbase power truck (precursor of the Y230 of the production MSM) was developed and tested, with its body-mounted traction motors and tripod cardan transmission. Body mounting of the traction motors was a major innovation; it allowed a considerable (3300 kg) reduction in the mass of the power truck, giving it a very high critical speed and exceptional tracking stability. Z7001 also served to develop a two-stage high speed pantograph, which later became the AM-PSE pantograph of the MSM 1, as well as a new type of eddy current rail brake. The eddy current rail brake exerts a magnetic retention effort, without ever making contact with the rail. The promise of high efficiency and low wear was however outweighed by problems with overheating in the rail, and the design was dropped. Z7001's suspension, of a non-pneumatic design, was completely satisfactory so it was adopted for the new high speed train, instead of the X4300's pneumatic suspension.

Over a period of 20 months, Z7001 racked up almost a million kilometers, 25,000 of which were run at speeds over 300 km/h. The highest speed reached by Z7001 was 309 km/h. Prospects were good for the MSM program, which was fully funded by the Varkan government in 1978. Construction of an electric high-speed line from Klow to Kaspi began soon after. On 27 September 1981, to great fanfare, the first MSM with paying passengers left Klow, after the inauguration by then Varkan president Khatia Ochiauri five days earlier. Thus began the long tradition of high-speed ground transportation in Varkana.


To enable high-speed operation, MSM uses a range of advanced technology compared with conventional rail, and it achieved not only high speed but also a high standard of safety and comfort.


MSM routes are completely separate from conventional rail lines. Consequently, the MSM is not affected by slower local or freight trains, and has the capacity to operate many high-speed trains punctually. The lines have been built without road crossings at grade. Tracks are strictly off-limits with penalties against trespassing strictly regulated by law. It uses tunnels and viaducts to go through and over obstacles rather than around them, with a minimum curve radius of five kilometers.

The line most heavily utilized by MSM trains is the railway between Klow and Zestafoni due to the bundling of many MSM lines in that region. When considering all traffic (freight, local and long distance passenger), the busiest line carrying MSM traffic is the Klow-Theodosia line, carrying about 200 trains per day.


The MSM uses 1,435 mm (4 ft 8½ in) standard gauge all over the network. Continuous welded rail and swingnose crossing points are employed, eliminating gaps at turnouts and crossings. Long rails are used, joined by expansion joints to minimize gauge fluctuation due to thermal elongation and shrinkage. MSM track construction has a few key differences from normal railway lines. The radii of curves are larger so that trains can traverse them at higher speeds without increasing the centripetal acceleration felt by passengers. The radii of MSR curves have historically been greater than 5 kilometers: new lines have minimum radii of 7 kilometers to allow for future increases in speed. MSRs can incorporate steeper gradients than normal. This facilitates planning and reduces their cost of construction. The high power/weight and adhesive weight/total weight ratios of MSMs allow them to climb much steeper grades than conventional trains. The considerable momentum at high speeds also helps to climb these slopes very fast without greatly increasing energy consumption.

A combination of ballasted and slab track are used, with slab track exclusively employed on concrete bed sections such as viaducts and tunnels. Slab track is significantly more cost-effective in tunnel sections, since the lower track height reduces the cross-sectional area of the tunnel, thereby reducing construction costs by up to 30%. All tunnels have entrance hoods to mitigate tunnel boom effects.

Signal system

Because MSMs on MSRs travel too fast for their drivers to see and react to traditional lineside signals, an automated system called "track-to-train transmission" is used for signalling. Information is transmitted to trains by electrical pulses sent through the rails, providing speed, target speed, and stop/go indications directly to the driver via dashboard-mounted instruments. This high degree of automation does not eliminate driver control, though there are safeguards that can safely stop the train in the event of driver error. An MSR is divided into signal blocks of about 1,500 meters with the boundaries marked by blue boards with a yellow triangle. Dashboard instruments show the maximum permitted speed for the current block and a target speed based on the profile of the line ahead. The speeds are based on factors such as the proximity of trains ahead (with steadily decreasing speeds permitted in blocks closer to the rear of the next train), junction placement, speed restrictions, the top speed of the train and distance from the end of the MSR. As trains cannot usually stop within one signal block, which can range in length from a few hundred meters to a few kilometers, drivers are alerted to slow gradually several blocks before a required stop.

Electrical Systems

MSMs travel at up to 350 km/h in commercial use. All are at least bi-current, which means that they can operate at 25 kV, 50 Hz AC and at 1.5 kV DC. Trains to Svaneti, Sakalia, Echia and South must accommodate other voltages, requiring tri-current and quadri-current MSMs. MSMs have two pairs of pantographs, two for AC use and two for DC. When passing between areas of different supply voltage, marker boards remind the driver to turn off power, lower the pantograph(s), adjust a switch to select the appropriate system, and raise the pantograph(s). Pantographs and pantograph height control are selected automatically based on the voltage system chosen by the driver. Once the train detects the correct supply, a dashboard indicator illuminates and the driver can switch on the traction motors. The train coasts across the boundary between sections.


Functioning on the third generation of trains, which started operations in 2007, MSM trains have only two variants, the long-distance bilevel MSM with a restaurant car, and the medium to short-distance monolevel MSM, without restaurant car. Each train is formed of a varying number of carriages paired with new power cars, with a total power output of 9.6 MW (12,900 hp) and a top speed of 350 kilometers per hour under 25 kV. Each MSM trainset weighs 383 t (377 long tons; 422 short tons) and is numbered in the 4400 series. The livery is the same as that of earlier generation MSM sets (silver and blue).

MSMs have semi-permanently coupled articulated un-powered coaches, with Jacobs bogies between the coaches supporting both of them. Power cars at each end of the trains have their own bogies. Trains can be lengthened by coupling two TGVs, using couplers hidden in the noses of the power cars.


The MSM trains adhere to a high standard of technology: all cars are fully air-conditioned and nearly every seat features a headphone jack which enables the passenger to listen to several on-board music and voice programs as well as several radio stations. All cars are equipped with free wi-fi service. Each train is equipped with special cars that feature in-train repeaters for improved mobile phone reception as well as designated quiet zones where the use of mobile phones is discouraged. The newer trains also have larger digital displays in all coaches, displaying, among other things, SARK advertising, the predicted arrival time at the next destination and the current speed of the train. All trains feature a disabled toilet and wheelchair spaces.


The MSM system is a polycentric network. Connections are offered in either 30-minute, hourly or bi-hourly intervals. Furthermore, additional services run during peak times, and some services call at lesser stations during off-peak times.


The MSM has had a significant beneficial effect on Varkana's business, economy, society, environment and culture in ways beyond mere construction and operation contributions. That does not include the savings from reduced reliance on imported fuel, which also has national security benefits. MSM generates social benefits, which stem from time savings, increase in reliability, comfort and safety, as well as the reduction of congestion and accidents in other modes.

As part of a proto-phase of the electrification of ground transports in Varkana, the establishment of high-speed rail in the country was seen as an alternative to the polluting and fuel-dependent motor vehicles and airplanes as long-distance means of transport. Effectively over the years, MSM increasingly took over shares in transportation mode for long-distance travel, and remained relatively stable at around 15% until the Varkan revolution. Since new lines were constructed, a more affordable fare system and an efficient network reform put in place, by the 2010s, the use of MSM skyrocketed and now stands at 65% of long-distance travel inside the country.

According to a SARK study, there is a "4-hour wall" in high-speed rail's market share, which if the high speed rail journey time exceeded 4 hours, then people would likely choose planes over high-speed rail. For instance, from Klow to Palaiochori where the fastest high-speed rail journey takes 1 hour and 30 minutes, high speed rail have 95.7% market share whereas planes have 4.3%. The situation is the reverse on the Klow to Capua route where the fastest high-speed rail journey takes 4 hours, and rail only has 40% market share and planes 60%. In the 2010s, commercial domestic air travel was banned in Varkana, making the intercommunal long-distance travel within the country completely dominated by rail travel.

List of lines

The existing MSM lines are:

Code Line Start End Length Operator Opened
km mi
MSR Kaspi Klow Central Kaspi Central 167.1 103.8 SARK 1981
MSR Tsqaltubo Klow Central Tsqaltubo 247.9 154.0 SARK 1982
MSR Alazani Klow Central Gali 438.3 272.3 SARK 1983
MSR Anaklia Klow Central Anaklia 297.5 184.9 SARK 1985
MSR Mtkavari Agara Adygekale 348.1 216.3 SARK 1988
MSR Palaiochori Klow Central Palaiochori Lambros 287.3 178.5 SARK 1993
MSR Tufo Kaspi Central Tufo Airport 119 74 SARK 1994
MSR Chernisi Klow Central Chernisi—MSM 517.4 321.5 SARK 1995
MSR Mizia Pitsunda Mizia 546.4 339.5 SARK 2011
MSR Theodosia Senaki—MSM Theodosia–International 235.1 146.1 SARK 2014
MSR Okumi Tsqaltubo Okumi—MSM 336.1 208.8 SARK 2016

In practice, the MSR Tsqaltubo and MSR Okumi lines, the MSR Kaspi and MSR Tufo lines, the MSM Theodosia and Aetolian?? lines, the MSR Alazani and Aetolian ?? lines, and the MSR Anaklia and Aetolian ?? lines are contiguous respectively. MSM operates some trains on connected neighboring high speed rail tracks, while a few foreign companies do the same on MSM tracks up to certain stations. Most other lines are physically connected at various stations, but there is no through service between those lines. Additionally, some lines run parallel with each other on the same tracks.

Future lines

Line Speed Length Construction began Expected start of revenue services
km/h mph km mi
MSR "Valley" 360 220 643 400 2016 2020
KMR Senaki 820 510 127.5 79.2 N/A 2050

Rolling stock

Equipment type Operated top speed Seating
Overall length Width Weight,
empty (t)
full (t)
at 25 kV (kW)
Power-to-weight ratio,
empty (W/kg)
km/h mph m ft m ft
MSM 1 270, 300 (rebuilt) 170, 190 (rebuilt) 345 200 660 2.81 9.2 385 418 6,450 16.75 1978
MSM 2 300 190 485, 459 (rebuilt) 238 781 2.90 9.5 444 484 8,800 19.82 1988
MSM 3 320 200 377, 361 (rebuilt) 200 660 2.90 9.5 383 415 8,800 22.98 1992
MSM 4 Three Capitals 300 190 750 394 1,293 2.81 9.2 752 816 12,240 16.28 1993
MSM 4 Network 300 190 596 319 1,047 2.81 9.2 665 718 12,240 18.41 1993
MSM 5 320 200 512 200 660 2.90 9.5 380 424 8,800 23.16 1994
MSM TZ 300 190 377, 374 (rebuilt) 200 660 2.90 9.5 385 415 8,800 22.86 1997
MSM 6 320 200 361 200 660 2.90 9.5 383 415 9,280 24.23 2005
MSM 7 320 200 509 200 660 2.90 9.5 380 424 9,400 24.74 2011
MSM 8 360 220 460 132.1 433 2.985 9.79 272 320 6,080 22.35 2012
MSM 9 360 220 740 132.1 433 2.985 9.79 278 345 6,250 22.48 2018
MSM X 820 510 520 132.1 433 2.985 9.79 380 428 8,500 22.37 2050

MSM technology outside Varkana

Railways using MSM technology are not limited to those in Varkana.


Under contract

  •  Vasaras &  Sakalia: MSR "Valley" between Mizia and Digora has been agreed by the Sakalian, Vasari and Varkan governments, which will connect Varkana's MSM network to Vasaras. Construction begun in 2016 and is scheduled to be completed in 2020.

Proposed subject to funding

Potential opportunities

See also