Moscow launches new $3bn suburban rail scheme

Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a ceremony inaugurating the new public transportation network in Moscow

Moscow on Thursday unveiled the latest addition to its sprawling public transportation system, aiming to rival the suburban rail links of Paris and Berlin and divert commuters away from cars.

Called Moscow Central Diameters, the network reaches suburban towns in the Moscow region mainly using the existing railways but upgrading the trains and claiming to provide a more convenient and cheaper service.

The first two links launching on Thursday connect suburbs west of Moscow to towns in the south and north, passing through Moscow's central train stations.

The network will eventually include five such links.

Officials have put the price tag for the scheme at 200 billion rubles ($3.1 billion), though newspaper Kommersant reported that the projected cost ballooned to 931 billion rubles.

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has overseen the completion of several major infrastructure projects in the capital to upgrade clogged roads and introduce modern public transport.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was participating in an inauguration ceremony after the new system launched on Thursday morning. 

Some of its first passengers complained on social media that it was already malfunctioning, with trains arriving at wrong platforms, schedules mixed up and ticket validation machines not working.

The MCD is billed as Moscow's answer to the popular RER system in Paris, Berlin's S-Bahn and London's Overground. 

The Moscow government says it will reduce traffic on the city's existing transport infrastructure by 10 to 12 percent and improve transportation access for 3.7 million people.