Until this weekend, the daily high-speed trains from St. Petersburg to Helsinki would typically transport far fewer than the several hundred passengers each could accommodate. But on Saturday, a wave of travelers looking to leave Russia started packing trains destined for Finland.
“We’ve had full trains from St. Petersburg from Sunday onward,” Topi Simola, the senior vice president of passenger services at Finnish Railways, said in a telephone interview.
“They are leaving for good,” he said. “You can see that from the luggage they carry.”
Tatjana Erofgeva, who lives in Budapest, was visiting relatives in Russia when the invasion started, according the Finnish newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet. She took the morning train to Helsinki on Monday.
“It was the only way out of Russia,” Ms. Erofgeva was quoted as saying, noting that many countries had closed their airspace to Russian flights since the invasion of Ukraine last Thursday.
The Allegro line takes 3.5 hours to travel the roughly 250 miles from St. Petersburg to Helsinki. The service is a joint venture between the Finnish VR Group and Russian Railways, which are both state-owned companies.
The line was suspended during the pandemic, but started running again at half capacity in December. Two trains leave St. Petersburg a day, and tickets are only available to Finnish and Russian nationals.
“This route is an important way out of Russia,” Mr. Simola, the Finnish rail official, said, and his organization was negotiating with Russian Railways to increase service, aiming eventually to resume the prepandemic schedule of four trips a day.
A Russian who stepped off the train in Helsinki on Tuesday evening told the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that many people back home, including friends, were having a difficult time leaving the country because so many Russians do not have passports.
“Many are afraid because of the economic situation,” said the man, who was identified only by his first name, Anton.
“A lot of Russians don’t support the war and are trying to protest,” he told the newspaper. “But unfortunately the police are quite tough now.”