Cross-border services between Russia and Finland rose by more than 20 per cent in the first half of 2013.

More than 283,500 people have used the St Petersburg-Helsinki service so far this year.

The increase has largely been attributed to the growing popularity of the St Petersburg-Helsinki Allegro route, with 215,500 people using it between January and June compared to 165,400 last year – an increase of 30 per cent.

The high-speed Allegro service, which launched in 2010, is the first joint venture between Russian Railways and Finnish operator VR.

Announcing the results, Russian Railways said: “The launch of the Allegro services on December 12, 2010 reduced the travel time between Helsinki and Russia’s northern capital St Petersburg from six hours 18 minutes to just three hours 36 minutes, which not only facilitated an increased flow of tourists, but also strengthened business ties between the two countries.”