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Russian railways halt ticket sales over time change dispute

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Russia’s railways on Friday halted ticket sales for trains leaving after late October amid confusion created by the authorities’ failure to decide in good time whether to put the clocks back this winter.

Last year Russia cancelled putting the clocks back at the end of summer time, in a move over which ordinary Russians were not consulted and resulted in many grumbling about getting up on dark mornings during short winter days.

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Then-president and incumbent Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the move’s champion, defended it at the time as preventing trauma to “unlucky cows” being milked an hour later.

Re-elected to the Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin swiftly announced the move by his protege would be reassessed taking public opinion into account.

But it was only on Thursday that the head of the parliament’s health committee submitted a bill calling for Russia to stay in winter time all year round, paving the way for the switchback.

Russian Railways (RZD) now face a nightmare situation, since trains that travel across its vast domestic area of operation or go abroad will have to be re-timetabled at short notice if a move to winter time is approved.

“Since the State Duma is discussing a bill on Russia’s moving to ‘winter’ time from October 28 2012, RZD is forced to temporarily halt the sale of tickets for long-distance trains that leave after October 26,” the state monopoly said Friday.

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An Internet poll by a ruling party deputy found that 55 percent backed a return to winter time.

“We call for putting the clocks back an hour to winter time, then 54 regions will live on astronomical time,” said the author of the time change bill, Sergei Kalashnikov, quoted on the ruling party’s website.

A senior member of United Russia party, Andrei Isayev, backed him, telling RIA Novosti news agency that “this will mean that schoolchildren don’t get up at the crack of dawn.”

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With cities from the western exclave of Kaliningrad to the Kamchatka on the Pacific nine time zones away, Russia is used to time change confusion. RZD simplifies this by keeping all timetables on Moscow time.


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