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Russia built a train so futuristic nobody wants to buy it

The Russian train prototype is so far ahead technologically, would-be buyers are afraid they can’t use it

(Meduza) – Promoters called it an “iPhone on wheels,” but the R1 — a train prototype designed by the Russian state corporation Rostec — won’t be coming to a railway station near you. According to Vasily Brovko, the company’s special projects director, the R1 will never be mass-produced, despite its futuristic appeal.

“The R1 is certainly very beautiful. I’m very interested in industrial design, and I’m working to develop it in Russia, but we have a serious gap between our designers and manufacturers. That’s what happened with this project. Everybody liked the R1, and it generated what it’s fashionable to say was ‘hype,’ but it never went to market and it’s never going to market. First, there’s no undercarriage, and second a designer train turned out to be poorly suited to repairs. If someone had broken something on one of these trains, it was completely unclear how you were supposed to order a replacement part and how long you’d have to wait,” Brovko told the news agency TASS.

The train prototype was first unveiled in 2014 at the international industrial exhibition “Innoprom,” where it generated considerable buzz, without ever leading to anyone ready to pay for the real thing. At the exhibition, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev personally inspected the R1 prototype.

Dmitry Medvedev checks out the R1 prototype at the 2014 Innoprom exhibition, “ATOM”

The company previously hoped to sell the trains to state officials in Ingushetia and Russian cities hosting the FIFA 2018 World Cup.

Rostec says it still hopes to use many of the design concepts developed in the creation of the R1 in future projects by Uralvagonzavod, one of Rostec’s machine building subsidiaries.

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