MOSCOW: Russia has dropped plans to extend its existing high-speed rail links to 2018 World Cup host cities because of budget constraints, a newspaper report said Thursday.
The highly publicized initiative had represented one of the planks of President Vladimir Putin's promise to use the football tournament to revitalize Russia's far-flung regions and gain long-term benefits from the costly event.
The Vedomosti business daily cited several unnamed government officials as saying that spending on the rail extension program was not included in the long-term program of Russian Railways (RZD) or the next federal budget.
Russia is currently trying to balance World Cup spending worth billions of dollars with more urgent construction demands for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi as well as the 2013 World University Games in Kazan.
The state-owned railway company issued no immediate comment on the report.
Vedomosti said the government was responsible for 70 percent of the links' funding but provided no figure for the proposed cost.
It said the idea of doing away with the project was promoted by First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov in his capacity as Putin's point man on football event preparations.
The report said the government was also mulling the idea of permanently dropping the development of high-speed rail beyond the routes that exist today.
Russia currently runs fast trains between Moscow and Saint Petersburg and a second line linking the capital to the Volga River city of Nizhny Novgorod.