Rich get aboard the new Orient Express to Moscow

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The Independent Online

In days gone by, the original Orient Express carried louche British and French aristocrats east to the Balkans and Istanbul in a journey infused with glamour and mystery. But in a sign of the times, a new luxury trans-Europe train service launched this week is looking in the other direction for its wealthy patrons.

The joint venture between the Russian and French state railways hopes that oil oligarchs who need to get from Moscow to the Côte d'Azur but don't fancy flying, will opt for a luxury-class ticket on the 52-hour trip from the Russian capital to the Mediterranean port.

The service departs the Russian capital's Belarus Station on Thursdays at 16.17 and arrives in Nice on Saturdays at 19.12. The return leg departs from Nice on Sunday evening and arrives in Moscow on Tuesday night.

And the price of a round-trip for deluxe passengers with their own compartment? A snip at €2,400 (£2,000). Just about enough, though, for your average Russian oil baron to keep up appearances. And the price doesn't include the prerequisite Champagne, caviar and lobster in the train's two restaurant carriages.

The term "express" is a misnomer, the train will go at a leisurely 43mph, but that surely, is part of the appeal. And top-notch service is promised from staff that have "undergone special training in French and English languages" and – British railways take note – "psychology, ethics, culture and servicing passengers".

With stops at Venice, Innsbruck and Milan, passengers will also be able to use the service for visiting and shopping in other European cities. For those with Champagne taste but beer money, economy class accommodation costing just €306 for a one-way trip is available at the rear of the train.

The characters of thriller writers Bram Stoker, Agatha Christie and Ian Fleming all used the Orient Express to travel around Europe. And with so much new Russian money on board, plus a sprinkling of aristocracy and Eurotrash, who's to say the new service won't provide some intrigue of its own?