RUSSIA will lay on free “hotels on rails” to lure England fans to next year’s yob-blighted World Cup – but journeys between host cities could take up to 51 HOURS.
Special sleeper trains will ferry supporters over huge distances between 11 far flung host cities across the vast nation.
And Vladimir Putin’s transport chiefs have decreed the travel, comfy hotel-style beds and on-board wi-fi will be totally free to anyone with a match ticket.
The costly £40million scheme has been launched amid fears travelling fans will steer clear of the football showpiece to avoid Russia’s ultra-violent hooligan hordes.
Supporters of England – who qualified with a 1-0 Wembley victory over Slovenia on Thursday – are particularly wary after two were left in comas by Russian thugs in Marseille at Euro 2016.
An extra 576 trains will be put into service during the tournament capable of ferrying 330,000 spectators directly to venues.
But games are being played in host cities more remote than at any other World Cup.
And timetable checks show the 1,900 mile journey between Sochi near the western Black Sea border and Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains would take 51 hours.
Other marathon World Cup train treks include the 1,865 line from Kaliningrad to Yekaterinburg taking 50 hours and 44 hours to do the 1,615 miles between Kaliningrad and Sochi.
Fans will be have to pay for food and drinks on the new World Cup trains specially added to Russia’s network June 14 to July 15 next year.
Most trains will sleep six fans together in dormitory-style accommodation while more luxurious cabins will be rolled out on some routes, complete with waiter service.
Vladimir Putin approved the expensive scheme amid fears of terrifying Marseille-style yob violence could turn the £20 billion soccer spectacle into a financial and PR disaster.
The strongman president has already cracked down on his nation’s fearsome yob army by sending his sinister KGB-style FSB agents to warn known yobs to steer clear.
Fans will be able to book free rail travel after England’s name goes into the hat for the World Cup draw in December and and match timetables become clear.
But they will only be eligible if they show their “Fan ID” – being issued to all travelling supporters – and proof of purchase of a match ticket, which start at a pricey £80.
Details of the free rail offer were disclosed this week after a successful smaller scale trial at Russia’s recent Confederations Cup soccer tournament.
Maxim Sokolov, Russia’s minister of transport, said: “The Transport Ministry is implementing a programme to provide the right for free transit.
“Russian Railways are now training personnel who speak foreign languages.
“We are planning to introduce additional stops in large Russian cities to make it comfortable for spectators.”
World Cup transport chief Terenty Meshcheryakov added: “Normally, ticket sales start 45 days before a train departs, but this needs to happen six months ahead.
“Our aim is to ensure transit between cities, and we will be able to make that happen.”
Putin kicked off the longest ever FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour across Russia at the newly-renovated Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow last month.
The gold trophy will be taken to 24 Russian cities from Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East to Kaliningrad, the country’s most westerly city, over 123 days and visiting 50 countries before it returns to Moscow in June.