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California Budget Delays HSR

Several organisations supporting a new high speed railway in California are making efforts to stop a November 2004 vote on the project, because it would probably not be approved due to the current budget crisis. "It is better not to have a vote than to have it and lose," said one supporter. See also official page. (December 15th 2003, thanks Jakob Christoffersen)

Japanese Maglev Reaches 581 km/h

A manned Japanese maglev train has attained 581 km/h and broken the previous speed record, held by an unmanned maglev. The German-built maglev in Shanghai recently reached 501 km/h, and the record for conventional rail, 515 km/h, was set by a French TGV in 1990. See also stories at Washington Times and Ny Teknik. (December 4th 2003)

EU Connects Portugal to HSR Net

Portugal will build five new high speed railways by 2018, including four which will connect to neighbouring Spain. The EU is expected to cover more than half the €12,5bn cost while the Portuguese government will pay between 10 and 20%. Construction will start 2006 and trip times from Lisbon and Oporto to Madrid will be reduced to three hours. See also second AFP story and DN story in Swedish. (November 11th 2003)

Spain Opens Slow HSR

A 450km high-speed railway between Madrid and Lleida in northeastern Spain was opened October 11th. The speed is so far limited to 200 km/h due to difficult shifting soil. Ecologists and geologists say up to 10 sinkholes have opened up in the past 18 months in different spots close to the rail route. The project is part of a broader project for a high-speed rail link Madrid and northeastern Barcelona, Spain's second largest city, by 2005. (November 6th 2003)

Disney Brings Passengers to HSR

A planned high speed railway across central Florida will run directly to the Walt Disney World resort from Orlando International Airport, bypassing the taxpayer-funded Orange County Convention Center en route to Tampa, the Florida High Speed Rail Authority decided October 27th. Disney sold the authority on the potential revenue gained if the train's first leg followed the Central Florida GreeneWay toll road from the airport, instead of taking the Beeline Expressway to the convention hall, located in the International Drive tourist district in Orlando. Governor Jeb Bush is against the project, though a referendum has okayed it. (November 6th 2003, thanks Jakob Christoffersen)

Eurotrain Succeeds TGVs, ICEs and ETRs?

Can we make it go faster? French SNCF, German DB and Italian FS are discussing common specifications for a next-generation fast train. It is hoped a single train would lower costs by 20% while perhaps going faster than the current 300 km/h industry standard, and be ready by 2010. The European competition authority might stop the project if co-operation gets too cozy. • German DB has accelerated a test train from 0 to 300 km/h in six kilometers. Ordinary ICE3 trains take 20 kilometers to reach this speed. See also Ny Teknik story in Swedish, Reuters story in French, and La Tribune articles in French. (October 23rd 2003)

Wireless, Internet-less TGVs

TGVs to Bordeaux are being equipped with wifi wireless ethernet which allows passengers with laptop computers to access preloaded content such as news and weather. The trains also have a GSM/GPRS link to the internet, and passengers may use this for sending and receiving emails without attachments, but it is not possible to surf the web. The service will be tested from November to March. Stations along the way are also being equipped with wifi. These station networks form a gateway, or "hotspot" to the full internet and are open to the public. Full internet on trains is available on some Montreal-Toronto trains in Canada, as well as Linx trains in the Nordic countries, and London-Scotland GNER service. Also, since July 2001, TGV passengers may rent a DVD terminal and movie from certain stations for €10. See also SNCF PDF (680kb). (October 20th 2003)

High Speed Reaches Britain

CTRL Phase 1 Opens

The first half of the UK high-speed Channel Tunnel Rail Link is due to open today, cutting 20 minutes from the journey time to London from Paris and Brussels. But it could cost taxpayers double the original estimate, the Observer reports. See also BBC photos. (September 16th, thanks Matt Carlson)

Eurostar Breaks British Record

swish! The Eurostar service reached a major milestone Wednesday the 30th as one of the trains reached 334,7 km/h on the new Channel Tunnel Rail Link, phase 1, the eastern part which will begin commercial service on September 28th. The western phase 2 will start service in 2007. Phase 1 saves 20 minutes and costs £1,9bn, while phase 2 saves another 15 minutes and costs £3,3bn. The time savings apply both to London-Paris and London-Brussels, with the former clocking in at 2 hours 15 minutes, and the latter at 2 hours flat in 2007. See also map, stories at, the Independent, BBC and CNN, and press releases at CTRL and SNCB. (August 1st 2003)

330 km/h Eurostar Testing in England

A Eurostar train loaded with engineers and scientific equipment will be tested in England at 330 km/h on Tuesday the 8th. The testing will be part of getting ready to open the 74km first phase of the channel tunnel rail link, and will take place between Ebbsfleet in Kent and the mouth of the tunnel. The second phase of the CTRL involves building a tunnel beneath London from St Pancras to Stratford in East London where it will re-emerge above ground on its way to Ebbsfleet. (July 6th)

19 Dead in Spain

At least 19 people died and about 40 were injured in a head-on train collision in Spain between a high-speed passenger train and a freight train on Tuesday the 3rd. The passenger train, with about 90 people on board, was en route from Madrid to the south coast city of Cartagena. The passenger train was given permission to leave Chinchilla station, on to the single-line track and into the path of the oncoming freight train. Train operator RENFE says the crash was due to a human error as the signalling system was working perfectly. The impact was so great that the engine of the freight train catapulted over the top of the passenger train, the first carriage of which was totally destroyed by fire. (June 4th 2003, reported by Matt Carlson)

Cut-Price Airlines Catch up to Eurostar

National Express Bails Out

Eurostar Logo National Express is giving up its 40% share in Eurostar UK, which is losing an estimated £100m a year. Passenger numbers this year are down by 8% because of intense competition from low-cost airlines on the London to Paris and Brussels routes. It is expected that National Express will pass its shareholding to SNCF, which is keen to secure a majority stake in Eurostar UK. Eurostar is being restructured and will run as one integrated company rather than three separate businesses (one for each country served) with their own fleets and depots. (May 15th 2003)

Passenger Volumes Down 14%

Cross-Channel travellers are taking to the skies with cut-price airlines. Despite a drop in some fares of as much as a quarter, the Eurostar trains have suffered a 14% decline in passenger numbers over the past two years. Lower profits may mean that London and Continental Railways, which owns 50% of Eurostar, will not have money to build its high speed railway between London and the Chunnel. With passenger numbers less than half the original forecasts and still falling, the gap between fare income and charges for using the tracks is widening. See also BBC story. (May 3rd, thanks Nic Newman)

Kent and Eurotunnel Team Up on Housing?

Photo André Sintzoff - Mercurio Kent, the region between London and the channel tunnel, is looking at allowing about 10 000 Britons live across the channel and commute to work in London by paying new cheap fares through the Channel tunnel. For Kent the scheme would help ease the pressure of meeting its target of 116 000 new houses by 2016 set by the deputy prime minister. But its success would hinge on whether the £60 Eurotunnel return fare between Ashford and Lille could be reduced to about £15. (May 3rd, photo André Sintzoff - Mercurio)

Lacroix, Darling

un joli vert French SNCF is redecorating 183 TGV train interiors in a style composed by fashion designer Christian Lacroix. Second class will have mostly purple seats, with some breaking off in red, and baggage racks in the middle of the coaches. First class seats will have electrical outlets and will be mostly gray, with rebelious souls being offered a lovely green. But SNCF has toned down the original colours after asking what passengers thought. très chique Lacroix, working with MBD Design and seat maker Compin, thus won a competition announced by SNCF in November in which three groups designed their own coaches. Chiqueifying the interiors costs 10% of a new TGV train, and the whole project will cost €270m. See also AP story, press release, story in German, TIME profile of Lacroix, and the Absolutely Fabulous "Lacroix, darling" song by Pet Shop Boys. (May 9th 2003, photos: MBD Design)

Madrid-Barcelona HSR Delayed Indefinitely

Velaro ICE3 train The opening of Spain's €7bn high speed rail link between Madrid and Barcelona has been delayed indefinitely due to caverns opening up under the track and problems with signalling. Between July and October last year there were five deaths, which unions attribute to the breakneck speed of the work, which has been contracted out by GIF, the Spanish rail administration. Train operator Renfe has ordered 16, 350 km/h Velaro ICE3 trains from Siemens to run on the new railway, as well as 16 Talgo350 trains. See also more Talgo350 photos. (March 20th 2003, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

Florida Chooses High-Speed System This Fall

The top contenders to build and operate the first leg of Florida's constitutionally mandated high-speed rail system say it will cost taxpayers between $2,1bn and $2,7bn over 30 years to get the line up and running. One consortium, led by Bombardier, wants to run diesel trains at 241 km/h. Another, called Global Rail, advocates an electric train. A third bidder is pitching a monorail and a fourth,, sees a swissmetro-like system of vacuum tubes and vehicles moving at 483 - 6437 km/h (300-4000 mph) in an intercontinental system. The state's high-speed rail authority is not expected to endorse a route or team until next fall. If the project eventually moves ahead, trains are not expected to run until 2007. If it comes to naught, a transit triangle, anchored by a high-speed leg from the airport to Disney World, would give the region an alternative train system. (March 7th 2003, thanks Jakob Christoffersen and John Brydle)

Canadian HSR Edges Nearer

HSR May Find Money in Greenhouse Funding Canada's transport minister hopes a high-speed rail link in Central Canada will become a reality in five or six years. Sources say the government is considering funding high-speed rail using money earmarked in last week's budget to meet its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The plan is to spend C$3bn to improve the Quebec City-Montreal-Toronto-Windsor corridor. In a press conference, the minister raised the prospect of road pricing for Canada's largest cities and a high-speed Montreal-Toronto rail corridor this decade. (February 26th 2003)

More Rail Money in new Canadian Policy? Canada has released a new document on transport policy. Called "Straight Ahead", it builds on an evaluation of the Canada Transportation Act of 1996, which among other things made it easier for freight railways to transfer track to shortlines, or abandon it. The document says that commercialisation, privatisation and deregulation have served the sector and country well, but tweaks are needed. The new bill would require freight railways to carry goods at a regulated rate wherever there was only one railway for shippers to choose from. A brochure outlining the policy contains two sentences which can be seen as a victory for those advocating user fees for roads and more public funding for railways:

“Some infrastructure, such as rail lines, is paid for directly by users, while infrastructure like roads is paid for out of general tax revenues. Because most users choose their transportation method based on what it costs them to use it, establishing the right prices for transportation use (including the cost of building and maintaining infrastructure, the cost of any environmental impact, and the ‘social’ costs, such as accidents and congestion) will contribute over time to a more efficient system.” (February 27th 2003, thanks John Brydle)

JetTrain Goes North

Lab Rat for Acela?

A very well-placed source tells Erik that Bombardier's JetTrain is being used as much as a prototype for redesigning the Acela's cracking yaw damper structure as a public relations machine. The turbine loco isn't going anywhere in the USA unless both Amtrak and the FRA decide the retrofit makes the loco satisfactory for USA service. The JetTrain is based on Amtrak's 250 km/h Acela tilting electric train. See also "What are yaw dampers?". (February 19th 2003)

Airlines and Bus Companies Take Notice

Bombardier's 240 km/h turbine-powered locomotive has generated a lot of press coverage during the tour of Canada. The federal minister of transport is said to be a fan, and money may come in this month's annual budget. But The Fair Transport Policies coalition fears that the mere announcement of a pro-fast-train policy for Via will hurt airport authorities by shaking the confidence of debtholders. Editor's remark: Can there be a better endorsement of the splendour of high-speed rail, than the fear of its competitors? See also more stories at Globe & Mail and Yahoo. (February 5th 2003, thanks Jakob Christoffersen and John Brydle)

Fast Loco Tours Canada

Bombardier is bringing its 240 km/h turbine-powered JetTrain to Canada for show-and-tell demonstrations with federal officials and rail operators. Bombardier has identified the Montreal-Toronto and Edmonton-Calgary routes among 13 potential markets for its product. Upgrading the Montreal-Toronto route for the JetTrain would cost C$1,4bn. The Minister of Transport wishes to inject as much as C$3bn into nationwide rail improvements, both freight and passenger. Quebec has issued tenders to study a rapid passenger link to connect Montreal and New York, in addition to a parallel study under way for a fast rail link between Montreal and Boston. Also, Florida will close a bidding process for a fast-train link in February and Bombardier will submit its JetTrain proposal. See also stories from Canadian Press and Edmonton Journal. find (January 28th 2003, thanks John Brydle)

Acela Yaw Dampers Fixed? An insider tells Erik that Amtrak believes Bombardier has developed an acceptable redesign for the cracking yaw damper structure that attaches the bogie to the power car sides. The redesign includes structural repairs to the fractured side trusses of the power cars. Laboratory validation of the new design is still required; however, Amtrak officials are cautiously optimistic that this mechanical arrangement, which attaches the Alstom bogie to the Bombardier locomotive, will resolve most of the problems. See also "What are yaw dampers?". archive (December 22nd 2002)

ICE3 in Brussels for training run, Dec 11thICE3 Slowly to Brussels Three pairs of ICE3s will run daily between Brussels - Köln - Frankfurt am Main starting Monday the 15th. But as they have not yet been authorised to run on the new high-speed line between Leuven and Ans, they take about 14 minutes longer than planned, and just fail to make convenient connections at Brussels with the Paris - Brussels Thalys TGVs. (December 13th 2002, reported by Alan Reekie who also took the photo)

Shanghai TransrapidShanghai Maglev Reaches 405 km/h The world's first commercial Transrapid magnetic levitation train has been tested at 405 km/h. The $1bn project will connect Shanghai's three-year-old Pudong International Airport with the new Pudong financial district in seven minutes, compared to a half hour by taxi. The CNN article wrongly states that conventional high-speed trains only go 257 km/h; they actually go 300 km/h. See also BBC article from August, and official site. archive (December 4th 2002)

Amtrak Sues Bombardier Back Amtrak is "countersuing" Bombardier, asking for more than $200m in damages, because the 240 km/h Acela trains have suffered numerous mechanical problems that have led to frequent service delays and cancellations since their introduction in December 2000. Bombardier filed a suit against Amtrak last November, saying that Amtrak provided inaccurate information about the dimensions of tunnels, electromagnetic interference and track geometry. Both companies recently issued conciliatory public statements. (November 29th, thanks Bengt Mutén)

Salt Spray Cancels Eurostars All Eurostar trains had to be cancelled for over 24 hours on Tuesday the 29th after powerlines near Calais were short-circuited by saltwater spray blown onshore by storms. Service has since been restored, but thousands of passengers were inconvenienced. (November 6th, thanks Alan Reekie)

Oz HSR Revived? Plans for a high-speed train link between Melbourne and Sydney, Australia, have been revived yet again. Victorian Premier Steve Bracks on Monday the 28th backed calls by an industry lobby group for a very fast train on the route, which is the third busiest air corridor in the world. Federal Transport Minister John Anderson shelved plans for a high speed train which would eventually have linked Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne earlier this year, saying taxpayers would have been asked to pay A$50bn. David Bromage comments: The A$50bn headline figure was for a fully taypayer funded maglev, the most expensive of all options considered. Conventional high speed trains, either fully or partly privately funded, would have cost much less. find (October 29th 2002, thanks David Bromage)

HSR South of London? First Great Western is investigating a new 322 km/h (200 mph) railway line linking the South West with London. If implemented, the new service could cut journey times from Plymouth to London from an average of four hours to two hours and 20 minutes, and from Cardiff to London to 70 minutes from two hours. See also second story. (October 28th 2002)

Belgian East HSR Opens in December Testing of trains on the high-speed railway from Brussels eastward to Liège (and later to Köln) began August 19th. The tests are being done at a top speed of 10% over the allowed limit, thus 220 km/h for conventional trains, and 330 km/h for Thalys (Paris-Brussels-Köln/Amsterdam) trains. Switches/points/turnouts are being tested at 176 km/h for the diverging train path. The signalling system, TBL2 (train balise locomotive), is also being tested. The project also includes a new station at Liège. See also testing documentation, more details and enthusiast page. (October 26th 2002)

see ya!Bombardier Unveils JetTrain Bombardier has developed a 240 km/h turbine-powered locomotive powered by a Pratt & Whitney jet engine. It is designed to offer the speed and acceleration of electric trains without the cost of building electrified rail lines, is 20 % lighter than a conventional diesel unit, and has twice the acceleration. It also passes strict US crashworthiness standards. It has been developed together with the Federal Railroad Administration and was unveiled at Union Station in Washington DC Tuesday the 15th. See also CNN story, Bombardier documentation, and Ny Teknik bulletin. (October 16th 2002, thanks Mario Flores)

ICE3 trainHourly 300 km/h Service in Germany German DB AG is doubling the frequency of its new 300 km/h Köln-Frankfurt ICE3 service to once an hour. The trip along the new railway, opened to commercial service August 1st, takes 76 minutes, compared to 2 hrs 15 minutes on the older line along the Rhein river. The first month saw average occupancy of 50% in second class, and 60% in first. See also DB AG press release and Eurail Press bulletin. archive (September 12th 2002, photo DB)

Eschede Trial Revists Tragedy

Did Delay Save Second Train Crash at Eschede? The traffic control man at Eschede station, a witness in the Eschede case, has said that the crashed ICE 884 train was a minute early, and another train in the other direction was a minute late. Had both trains been on schedule, they would have arrived at the collapsed bridge simultaneously, he said. The court is finding out if two DB AG engineers and an employee of the wheel maker are culpable in the crash. (September 12th 2002)

Eschede Trial Begins The trial has begun in Germany against two senior officials at DB AG and an engineer at a wheel manufacturing plant. The three men are accused of not ensuring that the wheels were properly tested before fitting or that systems were in place to detect defects. Their negligance may have caused the Eschede crash in 1998, which occurred after a wheel ring broke and got caught in a point/turnout/switch. 100 people died. See also separate Eschede ICE Crash page. (August 28th 2002)

Bombardier Fixes Acela Suspension

Half of Acela Trains Back in Service Moving faster than expected, Amtrak put half of the 18 fast Acela Express back in service Monday the 19th between Washington, New York and Boston. Amtrak President David L. Gunn gave full credit for the progress to manufacturer Bombardier. Bombardier sent more than 80 welders and mechanics to shops from Boston to Washington to speed up the work on cracked stainless-steel brackets that mount shock absorbers to the locomotives of the trains, Gunn said. See also Amtrak press release and earlier Washington Post stories from August 18th, 17th, 17th again. The brackets hold yaw dampers in place. Read more about yaw dampers. (August 19th 2002)

Acela Suspension Problem Cancels Trains Amtrak yesterday (Tuesday the 13th) removed all of its high-speed Acela trains from service after discovering cracks and breaks in a bracket on the wheel sets of at least eight of the 18 trains. The cracks are in the yaw damper bracket of the power car, or locomotive. The yaw damper is a type of shock absorber that reduces lateral motion. There are four dampers on each power car. Amtrak Chief Operating Officer Stan Bagley said that under the best of circumstances the train could be running next week, but he said there were no guarantees. Bombardier shares dropped to their lowest level since late 1998 on Tuesday. As recently as August 6th, Amtrak announced cuts in Acela Express service due to reliability problems. See also CNN stories 1 and 2, Reuters story, Amtrak press releases 1 and 2. (August 14th 2002, thanks Mario Flores)

First Transrapid Coaches Delivered The first three Transrapid maglev coaches have been delivered from Germany to Shanghai, China, where they will be used in a 30 km maglev link between the city and airport. See also Ny Teknik story. (August 12th 2002)

Low-Fares Airlines and Supertrains

DB Meets Low-Fares Airlines German DB AG is complaining to the European Commission that airlines are unfairly exempt from taxes on domestic German flights. Airlines like Germania, Deutsche BA and Lufthansa offer return tickets for €111 which is cheaper than rail on some routes. These low prices are only possible due to low taxes, says Hartmut Mehdorn, DB's board chairman. DB has also produced a study showing that competition is not harmed by DB's owning the tracks through its infrastructure division. However, competitor Connex notes that their trains get milk-train timetable slots resulting in Duisburg - Heidelberg taking six hours, while DB's own trains take 3 and a half. (July 12nd 2002)

adSave an Hour German DB AG is advertising its new Köln-Frankfurt high-speed "Neubaustrecke" line with a "one" campaign signifying that the trip time is being cut by one hour to 75 minutes, with trains running at 300 km/h. The line also offers time savings for points beyond the end stations. DB has put up 34 ones, up to six meters high, along the motorway and in railway stations. The official inauguration will be July 25th when chancellor Gerhard Schröder will take the train. See also DB's Neubaustrecke page. archive (July 13th 2002)

Eurostar Goes On Wrong Line A Eurostar train with nearly 500 passengers on board sparked a full-scale emergency after a signal error directed it on to the wrong tracks outside London on May 28th. A Eurostar spokesman said the driver had gone through a correct green signal but was unable to explain why the train was then directed towards the wrong station. Investigators will look at whether they were set in the wrong direction, whether the green signal should have been at red until the points changed, or whether human error or faulty equipment was to blame. See also BBC story. (June 20th 2002, thanks Dave Peilow)

Köln-Frankfurt railwayHSR Raises Revenue 166% German DBAG is charging 77% more for Köln-Frankfurt tickets after the new high-speed railway, which will cut travel time in half, opens August 1st. The railway still expects passenger volumes to increase 50%, giving a revenue increase of 166%. See also DB poject page. archive (May 10th 2002)

EU Approves CTRL Subsidy The European Commission has approved state aid measures for the Channel Tunnel rail link after Railtrack, which is bankrupt, decided not to purchase a section of the infrastructure. See also Ananova bulletin from February. (May 3rd 2002)

Oz HST Killed Again

Australia Cancels Speedrail Follow-up Study The Australian government has abandoned plans for a high speed rail network along the east coast because it would cost between A$33bn and A$59bn. A scoping study has been disbanded before it was completed. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services, John Anderson, said to have continued with the study would have been an exercise in false hope. The preliminary study, which only cost A$2.3m of the original A$20m budget allocation, had allowed the government to conclude that further investigation was not warranted.

David Bromage comments: "The methodology the study used was flawed from the start. It assumed that the project would need to be fully government funded and ignored two previous proposals to build the line with private funds. Both projects were abandoned because of government inaction and indecision. It also ignored that fact that around A$30bn would need to be spent on a second airport in Sydney, and there is strong opposition to this." David is one of three editors of (April 10th 2002)

Fewer Passengers at Eurostar The number of Eurostar business and leisure travellers fell 6,6% in the first quarter of this year, but the company said there were signs of a revival in both markets. An analyst said it is too soon to judge whether Eurostar would miss the target of more than 10m passengers in 2006, because the new high-speed Channel Tunnel Rail Link in Britain will change the market by cutting 35 minutes off travel times. See also CTRL site and Eurostar site. find (April 16th 2002)

Safety Inspectorate Slams X 2000 Maintenance Again The Swedish Järnvägsinspektionen authority has found inadequacies in X 2000 maintenance in Euromaint's main Hagalund shop in Stockholm, including excessively worn brake pads, leaky brake systems, incorrect wheel dimensions, etc. Järnvägsinspektionen found unacceptable conditions in the shops a year ago and a follow-up inspection a few weeks ago turned up more problems. A third inspection was made last week, and a subsequent report may disallow work at the shop. But informal contacts suggest Järnvägsinspektionen is happy with progress. find (April 17th-18th 2002, thanks Carl Henrik Jonasson)

New Beijing-Hong Kong HSR China is planning to build a high speed rail link from the capital Beijing to the southern city of Guangzhou, cutting the journey time from almost 24 hours to just 10. The new train line would link to a planned high speed connection to Hong Kong. However, first priority is completion of China's first long distance high speed rail link, from Beijing to Shanghai. But work on this project has yet to begin - amid reports of differences of opinions among officials concerning wether maglev or conventional technology should be used. find (April 18th 2002)

Acela Neck-And-Neck With Airlines Amtrak's fast Acela train appears to be running neck-and-neck with the Delta Air Lines and US Airways shuttles along the heavily traveled Boston-to-Washington corridor. Acela ridership is 5,5% ahead of projections for the current fiscal year. Still, Acela's initial projections of 3.9 million annual riders at full capacity look rosy, CNN writes. find (April 23rd 2002)

TGV Est Under Construction Construction of the 300km, €3,13bn Paris-Strasbourg Ligne à Grande Vitesse Est Européenne started at the end of January and will be completed in 2006, putting the two cities 2h18m apart, down from 4 now. Trains will reach 320 km/h, taking 3h45m to reach Frankfurt. €1,9bn is coming from the French government, the train operator SNCF and the track company Réseau Ferré de France. The rest is coming from regional and local authorities, the European Union, and Luxembourg. In comparison, SNCF and RFF funded 90% of the TGV Méditerranée, completed last summer. See also SNCF press release with PDF links at the bottom. find (March 7th 2002)

SJ Squanders Value of X 2000 Trademark SJ's once prestigious X 2000 trains have become an embarassment to the Swedish rail industry. On-time performance has fallen from 90% in 1997 to 60% now. "The problem is a direct result of the big cutbacks in SJ's maintenance division in the late 90s," says Dick Rydås at the railway inspectorate to the Göteborgs-Posten newspaper. Also, insufficient maintenance is resulting in broken amenities like tilt, reading lamps, and automatic doors. SJ has 43 trains, each of which went over 1400km per day untill October. In fairness, broken wheels and axles are due to design errors, and a one-year wait for the first of 14 new motors ordered for the power units isn't SJ's fault either. find (January 14th 2002)

Fewer Passengers, More Destinations at Eurostar Eurostar could add Amsterdam and Rotterdam to its network after the completion of HSL Zuid, the Amsterdam high speed link to the Belgian border, in 2007. It is also looking at services direct between London and Charles de Gaulle airport so travellers can connect directly to and from intercontinental flights. Both moves would be a response to falling passenger numbers. Ticket sales fell 3% last year, but market share increased to 64,6% of the London-Paris market and 46,3% of London-Brussels. find (January 31st 2002)

smile for the camera!DSB Presents Smiling IC4 Danish DSB has presented the first of 83 new 200 km/h four-car IC4 trains. The car bodies are of aluminium, and the train is powered by four Iveco diesel engines of a type also used for trucks/lorries. It is made in Italy by Ansaldo and has been given a friendly inviting look. One of the four cars is low-floor and has space for wheelchairs, bicycles, and baby carriages. The new trains will enable DSB to expand the fast InterCityLyn services, and shorten the trip time København-Ålborg by 35 minutes. See also drawings, article about designing the trains, and Yahoo story. find (December 5th 2001)

Sharp Turns at TEE

TEE Logo DB Denies Disliking Tilting Trains DB has confirmed for Eurailpress that they will buy tilting trains in the future. The reason they cancelled their part of the TEE tilt-train order was that none of the industry's offers satisfied the expectations of the call for tenders. The ÖBB and SBB are now reconsidering the number of trains to order, also compatibility with German ICE sets is no longer a requirement. See also the soundtrack! (November 22nd 2001, thanks Tobias Köhler)

No New TEE Trains for DB AG German DB AG has decided not to buy any more tilting trains as they are not reliable enough. This causes problems for the TEE Rail Alliance, DB's passenger joint venture with the Austrian and Swiss railways. Under the TEE brand, DB was supposed to buy 50 tilting TEE trains, Swiss SBB 34, and Austrian ÖBB 32 trains. The Swiss and Austrian railways are going ahead with their procurements, and the TEE project will continue. In a separate development, train crews are no longer changed at the border for Zürich-Stuttgart and Zürich-Frankfurt trains. find (November 14th 2001)

Bombardier Sues Amtrak

Says Amtrak Provided Inaccurate Data Bombardier manufacturer of Amtrak's fast Acela trains, says Amtrak provided inaccurate information about the dimensions of tunnels, electromagnetic interference and track geometry. They repeatedly told Amtrak that poor track could be dangerous, though the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) had approved the track specifications or granted waivers to Amtrak. Bombardier also complained of Amtrak's inablity to make decisions, saying they took two years to decide on draperies for passenger-car windows, 18 months to choose a chime to warn that doors were closing, and two years to determine the placement of appliances in the galley car. See also Bombardier press release, Montreal Gazette story, Cyberpresse story.

Delivered the Trains Late, Says Amtrak Amtrak counters that because the trainsets do not meet contract specifications when operated on track that complies fully with all FRA requirements, they are having to run slowly. The trains were also delivered more than a year late, with continuing delays for the last five trainsets. These and other shortcomings give Amtrak the right to demand $250 million in claims against Bombardier, Amtrak says. Editor's comment: these lateness penalties are probably what it's all about. Bombardier feels they shouldn't have to pay. (November 9th 2001)

Contruction Starts on Shanghai Maglev The first part of a magnetic levitation train line was laid Friday the 2nd in Pudong, starting an 18-month construction project with German technology. Premier Zhu Rongji and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder were present for the construction kickoff. The line is expected to make China the first nation to operate such a line for profit. The track will have been completed by October next year, which assures that the train line is put into use in spring of 2003. China has already built its own 100 km/h maglev vehicle, but the Shanghai maglev will use German trains capable of over 400 km/h. find (November 7th 2001)

ICE Testing on Köln - Rhein/Main NBS Testing with ICE3 trains on Europe's newest high-speed railway has begun, and engineers plan to reach 300 km/h on the 177 km long railway by the end of January. Commercial service will being in August 2002 and halve the travel time from Köln to Frankfurt, to 59 minutes. Airports in both cities will be part of the network. See also more info from DB AG. (October 23rd 2001)

SNCF Says CTRL Too Expensive SNCF has announced its opposition to using the coming Channel Tunnel Rail Link because the track access charges will be too high. "We will pay fees that will make it hard to have a viable Eurostar service," says Louis Gallois, chairman of SNCF. Eurostar is paying £250m this year in tolls: £170m for the tunnel, £40m for 350km of high-speed line in France and £40m for 100km of "classic" railway in the UK. The first stage of the UK high-speed link would add a further £100m, making the cost per km 12 times as high in Britain as in France, the SNCF says. But London & Continental Railways, which is building the CTRL, says the cost of track access in the UK would rise to a total of £100m for the first section, not the current £40m plus another £100m as SNCF maintains. (October 18th 2001, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

Fewer Americans on Eurostar A sharp fall in the number of Americans using Eurostar's high speed Channel tunnel train has forced the company to put back by a year - to 2004 - the expected date for moving into profit. Americans normally account for one in 10 passengers on Eurostar trains, but the impact of the terror attacks of September 11 led to a 70% fall in US bookings, the company said. David Azema, chairman and chief executive, said: "This has been the most difficult quarter for us since the Channel tunnel fire in the fourth quarter of 1996." (October 11th 2001)

Photo of Kjell NilssonSJ Boss Resigns Over Maintenance Swedish SJs managing director Kjell Nilsson has resigned after two recent cases of broken axles on the X 2000 trains, Sept 8th and 10th. These bring the total number of such incidents to five, and he says he cannot guarantee the safety of the passengers, though he does not consider the trains unsafe. Nobody was hurt in the incidents, but ensuing safety checks caused delays. SJ is now only a passenger train operator after the company was split January 1st. Maintenance now falls under Euromaint, which is looking for a new owner. Mr Nilsson wanted to buy Euromaint to gain better control over maintenance of its trains, but the government would not allow that. Editor's comment: Mr Nilsson could easily increase safety by lowering the overambitious availability goals for the X 2000 trains. There would then be more time to maintain the trains. (September 18th 2001)

Germany Gets Double-decker ICEs? A DB AG spokeswoman has confirmed for the Handelsblatt newspaper that DB AG is planning on getting double-decker ICE trains to meet anticipated demand. Double-decker high-speed trains already run in France and Japan. Though DB AG is interested in purchasing a next-generation high-speed Eurotrain in collaboration with SNCF, DB AG is not attracted by the double-decker TGV and wants a modular design which easily can be adapted to single-deck or double-deck. Formal technical documents detailing DB AGs needs should be published by the end of the year. (September 11th 2001)

not so fast young manICE3 reaches 368 km/h The German ICE3 reached 368 km/h on Monday the 3rd on the high speed line Wolfsburg-Rathenow. The test was an important step towards certification for the planned 330 km/h services. According to this source, the ICE3s have so far been crawling along at an anemic 230 km/h in regular service. Europe's new supertrain thus has a long way to go to break the German record of 407 km/h set in 1988 by the InterCityExperimental, not to mention the French world record of 515 km/h set in 1990. See also Die Welt story. (September 7th 2001, thanks Toma Bacic; photo Christian Splittgerber)

New HSR North of London Studied The British Strategic Rail Authority is spending £1.3m on a study of a new high-speed rail line north of London. Capacity will be insufficient by 2010 if no new line is built, the SRA says. In July, the SRA announced that neither of the two competing bidders for the existing line would win the franchise. Instead, current franchisee GNER will continue for two years. (August 30th 2001)

Federal Florida HSR Funding The US Senate approved a spending bill on August 1st providing $4.5 million to begin planning a high-speed rail system linking Orlando and Tampa. The appropriation matches money approved by the Florida Legislature earlier this year. The funding, part of a sweeping $60 billion transportation bill, is not included in the House version. But House and Senate negotiators are expected to approve the money when they meet to work out their differences. (August 30th 2001)

More Friction Over Taiwain HSR A rumour says that the Japanese group building Taiwan's Taipei-Kaohsiung high-speed railway is at odds with their client. Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp wants to order certain components of the railway from Europe, while Japan's "Shinkansen" consortium wants an all-Japanese system. The issue is sticky as THSR Corp angered a rival European consortium when it abruptly switched over and announced it was buying the track and trains from the Shinkansen consortium. (August 13th 2001, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

swoosh!New TGV Record - 1100 km in 3,5 hrs A TGV Réseau made the 1067km run from Calais by the Channel tunnel to the southern port city of Marseilles in just three and a half hours on Saturday the 26th. The train averaged 306 km/h (190mph). The public relations coup was staged to generate publicity for the 251 km new TGV Méditerranée line from Lyon (Valence) to Marseille. The new line will have TGV Duplex, TGV Réseau and TGV Sud-Est trains, all painted in blue/silver and running at a top speed of 300 km/h. The new line, which opens for commercial service on June 10th, is aimed at generating between 5m and 6m additional passenger journeys a year, an increase of 30 per cent. See also official site with statistics, photos and other info; ABC story, AFP story, press release, and TGV map. (May 27th 2001)

China Considers Giant Maglev Project China will build a 1250km long Transrapid maglev train track between Beijing and Shanghai if the 33km airport link in Shanghai, under construction, proves successful, says Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Ronghi. Also, a faction in the provincial parliament in Bavaria wants a Transrapid maglev München-Augsburg-Stuttgart (about 200km) instead of a planned high-speed railway. (May 24th 2001)

HSL Zuid Contracts Awarded The Dutch government on Thursday the 10th awarded its biggest ever private sector contract - a €2.59bn deal to lay and maintain track and power equipment for the high-speed rail link being built from Amsterdam to Brussels. It goes to a consortium including Germany's Siemens and two UK project finance houses. Siemens is to supply the electrical machinery, while the track will be laid by BAM NBM, a large Dutch construction group. The link is due to come into service in 2005, significantly cutting journey times. An Amsterdam-Rotterdam trip will take 35 minutes instead of an hour, while fast trains from Paris to Brussels will be able to continue northward at similar speeds. See also PR. (May 14th 2001)

HSR Study in Florida The Florida House of Representatives passed a bill 88-14 Monday the 30th that would set up a 10-member High-Speed Rail Commission to study the costs of a high-speed rail system and other high speed rail issues. Voters approved a constitutional amendment last November that directed legislators, the cabinet and the governor to proceed with the development of a high-speed rail system. (May 2nd)

TEE Lives German DB AG, Swiss SBB and Austrian ÖBB are procuring 116 trains for "middle distance", ie up to 400 km. They would run at 200-230 km/h and have been concieved in the "TEE Rail Alliance". TEE, which stands for Trans Europ Express, was a name for such services during the seventies. It started as first-class only, but later added second class, and was finally transmogrified and diluted into EuroCity. (April 16th 2001, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

HSR in Turkey Bidding for the Istanbul-Ankara rapid train project will be launched April 20, while trains will start running in 2003. The trip will take 135 minutes, and the speed of the trains will be 230km/h. See also story. (April 12th 2001, thanks Toma Bacic)

Sokol Flies in Russia Russia is in the final stages of constructing a high-speed train link between Moscow and St Petersburg, becoming the first east European country successfully to develop a high-technology rail system. The new Sokol or Falcon electric train - made entirely with Russian technology - will start running in August. It will link the country's two largest cities in three hours and 40 minutes. Previously the trip took a little less than five hours. (April 2nd 2001)

Renfe Buys 32 HSTs Renfe has ordered 16 ICE3 and 16 Talgo350 trains for the high speed line Madrid - Barcelona, which will go into service 2002 to 2004. The total value of the contract is Ptas111 000m. A maintenance contract with the manufacturers for the first 14 years has been signed. The ICE3 trains will have eight cars seating 404, and the Talgo350 trains will have twelve coaches seating 318. See also El Pais story in Spanish and Siemens PR in English. (March 27th 2001, thanks Tobias Köhler)

German-Japanese Tests at 385 km/h German DB AG is testing a new bogie at 385 km/h between Berlin and Stendal (halfway to Hannover). The tests are being conducted in collaboration with JR East and a company called Sumitomo. Bombardier-Talbot in Aachen has developed the new bogie which has been mounted underneath an ICE2 car. The tests aim to "reduce weight while preserving ride quality" which presumably means making suspension more efficient. (March 6th 2001)

Beijing-Shanghai HSR China will build a high-speed rail link between Beijing and the eastern port of Shanghai in the next five years. The line, with an estimated cost of $12bn, is one of several major rail projects included in the country's draft 2001-2005 five-year economic plan. Interested bidders for the 1300km project include the German Transrapid maglev group which is building an airport link in Shanghai, as well as the Siemens/Alstom Eurotrain group pitching a conventional train, and a Japanese consortium pushing a Japanese fast train. (March 6th 2001)

Russia Ditches HSR, Pays Back Investors After 30 months of heckling by foreign and domestic investors in St. Petersburg's failed $5 billion state-backed high-speed railway project, Prime Minster Mikhail Kasyanov on Thursday officially ordered the Finance Ministry to pay them back. The Finance Ministry said that this month it would begin to pay back a total of about 1 billion rubles ($35 million) worth of bonds bought by some 2,500 investors. (March 3rd 2001, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

China Builds Transrapid China began construction on Thursday the 1st of the world's first commercial Transrapid maglev. The line from the Shanghai financial district to one of the city's two airports is due to open in 2003. The German-designed train is meant to carry 600 passengers at 400km/h. After a brief ceremony alongside the planned route, the Communist Party secretary for Shanghai, Huang Ju, pushed a button to start a pile driver that began sinking the first foundation girder for a railway workshop. The German firms are supplying the trains and stations, while Chinese companies are building the magnetic track. Neither side has disclosed a price, though the Germans say their portion should cost less than DM2bn ($950m). See also International Herald Tribune story. (March 2nd 2001)

Cost Doubles for Railtrack's ECML Upgrade Railtrack has admitted that costs to upgrade the east coast mainline have soared by up to almost £2bn ($2.9bn), dealing another blow to its reputation. The cost could now be close to £4bn, double the original estimate. It raises the prospect that government subsidy will be used to meet some or all the extra funding for the project. Railtrack's reputation for managing big projects was dented by a near-trebling in the cost of the west coast mainline upgrade to £5bn. (February 15th 2001)

Treaty on French-Italian Tunnel Italy and France have signed a treaty showing their intention to build a 52 km long tunnel between Lyon and Turin, with 254 km of new track. It is still uncertain how the tunnel will be financed, and whether it will have one or two tubes. If completed, the link would halve the journey time between the two cities from the current four hours. While the Turin-Lyons link has been under discussion since 1994, the political impetus behind the scheme increased significantly after the Mont Blanc tunnel fire. The blaze, which started on a truck and killed 41 people, exacerbated French concerns over the use of the tunnel by heavy goods traffic. See also story in English, and more articles from Le Monde. (February 1st 2001, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

41 New Trains for DB AG German Deutsche Bahn is going to acquire 28 tilting trains for long-distance trains for 800 million DM. From 2004, these trains will be used on the following lines:
Hamburg - Dortmund - Köln - Koblenz - Frankfurt;
Dortmund - Hannover - Leipzig - Dresden;
Dortmund - Kassel - Erfurt;
Berlin - Halle - Erfurt - Frankfurt;
Berlin - Hamburg;
Technical details and the manufacturer of the trains are not yet known. A letter of intent for the acquisition of 13 additional ICE 3 trains for 500 million DM was signed as well. They will be primarily used on the high speed line Köln - Frankfurt. 117 locomotive-hauled intercity trains will be modernized until 2003 and painted in a white livery with red stripe, similar to the ICE. (January 25th 2001, thanks Tobias Köhler)

SAS Plans to Sell Acela Tickets Scandinavian Airlines is working to sell Amtrak tickets for passengers flying from Europe to destinations in the northeastern US. Airlines sometimes sell intra-European connections to intercontinental flights as tickets valid for travel on high-speed trains. The practise now seems to be spreading to the US as Amtrak's tilting 250 km/h Acela trains speed connections. (January 25th 2001, thanks Dennis Hage)

Transrapid in Shanghai Deal The German railway consortium Transrapid says it has reached an agreement with China to build a magnetic levitation fast rail link in Shanghai. It will be ready by the end of 2003, and will allow passengers to travel at an average speed of 430km/h between Shanghai's airport and the city centre. The 30km journey should take less than 10 minutes. If this maglev gets built, it will be world's first commercial magnetic levitation train ever built. There are currently test tracks in Germany and Japan, and maglev trains have exceeded the 515 km/h record set by a conventional train France in 1990. "For us, this is the opening of the world market," a spokesman said. See also Die Welt story, story, and official site. Meanwhile, a feasability study is underway for a maglev link for the München airport in Germany. The Transrapid has been criticised for not being fast enough to justify a system incompatible with existing railways. See critiques by Reinhard Hanstein, the International Railway Journal, and Scientific American. (January 22nd 2001)

Talgo Reaches 340 km/h Talgo's very high speed locomotive, the Talgo 350, reached 340 km/h for the first time early in December, Talgo reports. The testing took place in Spain near Madrid. (January 19th 2001)

Senator Wants New Vote on Florida HST Two months ago, voters approved a bullet train that would whisk people around Florida at lightning speed in the new millennium. Now, State Senator Ron Klein has filed legislation that would send the issue back to voters in 2002. Under Klein's plan, which would require approval by two-thirds of the House and Senate, another constitutional amendment would be placed on the ballot asking voters to repeal the train. (January 16th 2001)

California Starts HST Public Hearings Evaluating the environmental consequences of building a $25 billion statewide high-speed rail system is anything but speedy. A public hearing in Escondido this week will kick off a two-year environmental analysis for the rail system's San Diego-to-Los Angeles section and launch a process that ultimately could culminate in laying 700 miles of track in California by 2020. The proposed high-speed train line eventually would whisk San Diego County residents to the state capital of Sacramento in three hours at speeds of 320km/h. (January 16th 2001)

Eurostar Sales Up for 2000 Eurostar turned in a strong end of year performance. Sales rose by 12% to €439m ($648.6m) during 2000. Sales volumes rose by 9%, during the period, amounting to 7.67m passengers compared with a 6% rise in volumes in 1999. (January 16th 2001)

BAA and Eurotunnel Settle BAA, the British airport operator, and Eurotunnel on Thursday the 4th settled their six-month dispute over the contract to operate the retail facilities at the Channel tunnel terminals in Folkestone and Calais, heading off a potentially costly legal battle. BAA, which took over the running of concessions just as EU duty free sales were abolished, began legal proceedings last June, as losses mounted. It is thought to have lost around £20m ($29.9m) since the start of the contract in July 1999. The group said that it had based its business case on passenger forecasts provided by Eurotunnel, which had "warranted" the figures. (January 4th 2001)

Acela Pantograph Problems America's first high-speed rail service ran into difficulty on Tuesday the 12th just one day after it opened for commercial service. Amtrak's Acela cancelled its early morning departure from Washington DC after inspectors found damage to pantographs. But the day before, the train impressed Don Phillips at the Washington Post. He streaked across the countryside as airliners were stranded due to fog. (December 14th 2000)

Fast Trains Ordered for Taiwan Taiwan's High Speed Rail Corp signed a T$95bn (US$2.88bn) contract on Tuesday the 12th to buy from a Japanese consortium machinery for a bullet train line linking the island's two biggest cities. The T$446 billion project will use speedy 300km/h trains to cut the journey from Taiwan's capital city of Taipei to the port city of Kaohsiung to less than 90 minutes, down from four and a half hours now. The contract follows a memorandum of understanding signed on June 13 by Taiwan High Speed to use Japan's bullet train technology, a decision that infuriated rival bidder Eurotrain. (December 16th 2000, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

Oz: Speedrail Project Cancelled The Australian federal government has abandoned plans for a high speed rail link between Sydney and Canberra. The Speedrail consortium was to use TGVs to run between Sydney and Canberra in 81 minutes. Associated with the decision was the rejection of a second international airport for Sydney. Both projects would have lowered the price of Sydney's Kingsford Smith International airport, which is to be privatised in late 2001. However, the government will consider a larger 1300km high speed rail project linking Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, the Gold Coast and Brisbane. David Bromage's comment: The state governments and the business community are furious about this. The logic of a larger project defies belief. If they baulked at the cost of a 270km line to Canberra, why propose a 1300km line all in one hit? See also articles at Canberra Times, and ABC; 1, 2 (December 15th 2000, thanks David Bromage)

Alstom Partners with Siemens on AGV? Alstom's next-generation high speed train, the AGV or Automotrice à Grande Vitesse, could turn into a partnership with Siemens which makes the German 330 km/h ICE3. Alstom has budgeted between €30m and €50m (US$26m-$43m) to develop the prototype. The 350 km/h AGV will be tested early next year between Lille and Calais in France. (December 16th 2000, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

Spain Buys HSTs Spanish RENFE intends to order between 26 and 40 trainsets capable of 350 km/h before the end of this year, within a budget of Pts111bn. Siemens is proposing an ICE and Talgo/Adtranz a Talgo 350 with between eight and 12 cars. Alstom and CAF are offering three different designs: an AVE 2000 development of RENFE's existing trains, a double-deck unit with up to 1000 seats and the AGV with distributed traction. (November 9th 2000, thanks Tobias Köhler)

Acela Launched Amtrak's Acela fast train was launched on an inaugural run from Washington to Boston on Thursday the 16th. The train's top speed between Washington and New York was 217 km/h, just 16 km/h faster than Amtrak's current intercity trains. Before the Acela can reach its top speed of 240 km/h, miles of catenary must be brought up to scratch. The tilting Acela is expected to shave 15 minutes off today's quickest trip between Washington and New York, and 45 minutes off the trip from New York to Boston. Acela begins regular passenger service on December 11th. The one-way fare to New York will be $143 in business class, compared with $120 for the Metroliner. (November 17th 2000)

SNCF Orders TGVs French SNCF awarded ALSTOM an order for 22 TGV Duplex double-deck high speed trainsets for a total amount of nearly €420m (FFr2,8bn). They will be used on the Paris-Lyons line, to complement the 30 TGV Duplex trains currently in intense service on this line and the 12 TGV Duplex trains currently being built. The Lyons line, opened in 1981, was Europe's first high-speed line and has capacity problems, which is why double-deckers are being used. The delivery of the new trains is scheduled to start in October 2002. ANF Industries (Bombardier) is part of the consortium and will participate in the manufacture of these 22 trains. Bombardier will be manufacturing the two first-class vehicles, one second-class vehicle and six carrying bogies for each trainset, for €74m. SNCF also has an option for a further 60 trainsets. See also Bombardier press release, and TGV Duplex page at Mercurio. (October 5th 2000, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

Alstom is still acquisitive after swallowing half of Fiat Ferroviaria, says Hans-Jürgen Jabs, head of the German division. Alstom will buy the rest of Fiat later and development has started on the new supertrain, the AGV Automotrice à Grande Vitesse. The AGV is a joint project with Siemens, maker of the German ICE. (September 23rd 2000)

Lisbon Airport is to become a High Speed Train Terminal by the year 2009, says Jorge Coelho, the Portuguese Social Equipment Minister, in an interview to the weekly newspaper Expresso. Aeroporto da Portela (Lisbon International Airport) is to be replaced by new facilities to be built at Ota, further North of Lisbon. It is the Minister's intention to take advantage of the then redundant installations at Portela and use part of them as the terminal of the RAVEL - Rede de Alta Velocidade (High Speed Network - the minister's prefered designation for the future high speed rail network). The design of this new 120 million € network is yet to be decided but the guideline set up by the government is to connect Lisboa and Porto with a connection to Madrid somewhere in the middle. (August 2nd 2000, reported by Paulo Ferreira)

A $600 million incentives package for Speedrail's Sydney-Canberra hst has been announced by the NSW Government. NSW Premier Bob Carr released details of a proposal by his Government to negotiate the provision of line power for the trains as well as rail infrastructure in metropolitan Sydney. This news story is written by an aviation writer. See also another story, Sydney Morning Herald story, earlier story. (July 27th 2000, thanks Alan Reekie)

British Virgin Rail has confirmed it wants to build a new 200 km long railway for passenger trains running at 330 km/h if it wins the 20-year East Coast Main Line franchise. The offer was made in March, but the Strategic Rail Authority sent Virgin and rival bidder Sea Containers back to the drawing board to make a two-tiered offer of two ten-year franchise periods. The thinking here was that the new line wouldn't be finished until the second ten-year franchise. The new line would bring mainline service to cities and towns currently not on the trunk network, and cut an hour off timings northward. Trains would continue to run on the older line, where Virgin would add diesel locos to increase acceleration and ease connections over unelectrified track. See also commentary by The Independent. (July 14th 2000, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

Borderless Europe

The German, Swiss and Austrian railways are starting a joint-venture in passenger rail and ordering 130 tilt trains late this summer. The trains will enter service in 2005. The railways are exploiting the advantage of a common electrical system in the three countries. Today, ICE1 and tilting Cisalpino trains cross the borders between these countries. The name of the new company evokes the glamour of a past age: "TEE Rail Alliance". (June 7th 2000)

The Nordic Triangle will be connected by Linx trains starting next summer, when modified X 2000 EMUs will run Olso-Göteborg-København. Oslo-Stockholm trains will follow in 2002, taking 4hrs30mins (six hours today). Göteborg-Oslo will take under 4 hours (4½ hours today), while Göteborg-København will take 3hrs15mins (4hrs40mins today). (May 16th 2000)

Rhealys is the name for a HSR joint-venture between the German, Swiss, French and Luxemburg railways for co-ordinating high-speed rail connections. The goal is to achive travel times Frankfurt-Paris in 3hrs40mins, Luxemburg-Paris in 2hrs15mins, and Zürich-Paris in 4hrs30mins. Rhealys will conduct market research and determine service and price levels, as well as prepare operations and marketing. The company will strive to standardize the different international trains in order ease interoperability. Rhealys will build on TGV Est, a 300km long new railway for 320km/h between Paris and Metz. Trains will also use an upgraded railway for 250km/h between Saarbrücken (about 100 km NE from Metz) and Ludwigshafen (near Mannheim). The trains will start running in 2006. See also DB AG press release. (May 9th 2000, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

Alstom, in cooperation with French SNCF is developing a new design of TGV called AGV. It will be the first articulated high-speed train with distributed traction rather than power cars at each end. Prototype AGV cars are under construction and should be ready to start testing in March 2001. (May 9th 2000, thanks Tobias Köhler)

Montreal-Toronto in 31/2 hrs

E ighty per cent of the new Via money will go to the Quebec City-Windsor corridor, slashing travel times between Montreal and Toronto from just over 4 hours to 3½ hours. (April 14th 2000)

Canadian Transport Minister David Collenette has announced a new funding package to revitalize Via Rail Canada worth $400 million over the next five years. "Today, the Government of Canada is acting to significantly renew passenger rail in Canada," said Mr. Collenette. This reverses a 10-year old policy to lower subsidies to Via. The money, which is in addition to Via Rail's annual $170 million subsidy from the government, is earmarked for fleet renewal, signal modernization and infrastructure improvements over the next five years to eliminate the accidents, delays and dwindling service that have plagued the 23-year-old system. See also press release. (April 13th 2000)

A high speed train link between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane has huge support, a survey has revealed. The poll, which sought the views of more than 1,000 people in communities along the proposed corridor, found that 90 per cent believed it would be good for the nation and 84 per cent thought it would benefit regional Australia. (April 10th 2000)

Plans for a maglev from Berlin to the proposed Schönefeld airport have already run into problems. If the mini-Transrapid should be built, it would mean big cost increases and delays to the rebuilding of the Lehrter Bahnhof. (March 24th 2000)

The German government has offered to pay DM1bn for a 100km maglev test track in China in an effort to get China to choose Gernany's Transrapid maglev for the new high-speed railway linking Beijing and Shanghai. Other consortia vying for the project include Alstom and Siemens with a TGV/ICE variant, and a Japanese group pushing the Shinkansen. The high-speed line is expected to cost $US15bn. The exisiting Beijing-Shanghai line is 1463km long, and the trip takes 14 hours, which is an average speed of 104,5km/h. This is an improvement over 1996, when travel time was 20h 34min. See also International Rail Journal editorial and report on China. (March 13th 2000)

Virg in wants to build a new railway for 330km/h between Peterborough and Newcastle on the East Coast main line, one of the busiest routes in Britain. The plans form part of a £5bn bid for the franchise. Virgin says it will cost £3.5bn to upgrade the track, and £1.8bn to purchase 60 very fast trains which would be built in Birmingham and would be fully operational by 2009. Virgin says its application is supported by the other East Coast train operators, Prism (which runs the West Anglia Great Northern), GB Railways (Anglia) and National Express (Midland Main Line). The rail authority will announce its decision in September. The existing operator, GNER, is also bidding to retain its franchise. See also Railway Gazette story. (March 7th 2000)

German DB AG has withdrawn its entire fleet of new ICE-T trains after one of them twice derailed in Berlin on Wednesday the 1st. The incidents happened as an empty train was proceeding to a Berlin workshop facility. It was travelling only slowly at the time and no one was hurt. The train was re-railed but came off the track once it began moving again. See also pres s release and Yahoo story (both in German). (March 5th 2000)

Taiwan's HSR project has run into more problems. Communist China, which does not like other countries recognising capitalist Taiwan as a sovereign country, has been angered by the deal with a Japanese consortium. Extended loan negotiations for the $2,2bn project in Taiwan have delayed the signing of the contract. But details of the contract would be finalised as early as this week, said a spokeswoman for Mitsui, one of the Japanese consortium leaders. (February 15th 2000)

Passenger number rose 5,5% at Thalys, the French-Belgian-Dutch-German HSTs, in 1999. Thalys is gradually making progress since it started operating in 1996: from 1,5m passengers over eight months in 1996, 3m passengers in 1997, 4,5m in 1998, and 4,98m in 1999. The trains are already grossing 101m Euros (about $100m) annually. The 300 km/h trains connect Brussels with London, Paris, Amsterdam and Köln. Passenger growth last year was 6%, while revenue increased 11%. (February 12th/January 18th 2000, thanks Alan Reekie)

Transrapid Officially Dead

Germany has finally abandoned plans to build the Transrapid Berlin-Hamburg Transrapid. Passenger fares could never have repaid the cost of building it. The German government said it would spend no more than 6.1 billion marks in taxpayers' money to subsidize it, but the sum remained available if a maglev train were to be built elsewhere. There are several suggestions for alternate use of the money, ranging from airport maglevs to new highways. (February 9th 2000)

FT.comThe German Transrapid maglev will almost certainly grind to a halt on Saturday the 5th at last-ditch talks on the future of Germany's Transrapid magnetic levitation system. The meeting between Reinhard Klimmt, the German transport minister, Hartmut Mehdorn, the new head of German railways, Deutsche Bahn, and senior representatives of the three companies building the Transrapid is not expected to resolve problems surrounding the planned 292km high-speed route between Berlin and Hamburg. Doubts surrounding the viability of the project have grown recently, spurred by a statement from Mr Mehdorn, newly appointed to run Deutsche Bahn, who said the state railway was unwilling to finance a loss-maker, no matter how advanced its technology. The consortium will demand over DM100m in compensation from the government for planning costs, and let go of 200 workers if the project is not rescued. See also Die Welt story and Yahoo Full Coverage in German. (February 3rd 2000)

A new type of Shinkansen that can run on both standard Japanese narrow-guage tracks and wider 1435mm Shinkansen tracks has completed 200 000km of high-speed testing in the United States, prompting developers of the system to feel upbeat about putting their creation into operation. (February 2nd 2000, thanks David Fry)

Arlanda Express competitor Flygbussarna is to be sold to its management and two investment companies. Flygbussarna, which runs busses from Stockholm Central station to Arlanda Airport every five minutes, was previously owned by transit authority SL. See also Flygbussarna's official site. (January 26th 2000)

Eurotrain is sueing the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corporation to prevent them from negotiating with the competing Japanese Taiwan Shinkansen Consortium. THSRC has a binding agreement to enter into a $3bn supply contract with Eurotrain, and untill December had affirmed and reaffirmed their commitment to Eurotrain and its TGV/ICE derivative. THSRC in December named TSC preferred bidder because it had a better financing arrangement than Eurotrain; financing problems had plagued the project all last year. Eurotrain also alleges that TSC is offering a signalling concept which is fundamentally different to that employed in Japan and which has yet to be designed, tested and approved. Such a process may be expected to take several years. See also press release and Reuters story. (January 18th 2000)

FT.comTaiwan High Speed Rail Corp. signed construction agreements on Monday the 10th worth T$59bn (US$1.9bn) with consortia comprising Japanese, South Korean and Taiwanese companies. (January 11th 2000)

German DB AG chief Hartmut Mehdorn says the planned Transrapid Berlin - Hamburg maglev needs more cash from the government and industry, or it won't get built. See also Yahoo Full Coverage in Geman. (January 4th 2000)

French SNCF and German DB AG plan to cooperate on the launch of a next-generation 320 km/h TGV train which would enter service in ten years' time. The two chiefs Louis Gallois and Helmut Mehdorn have who worked together in the early stages of the Airbus Industrie program, and point to the European aircraft consortium as an example of what they envisaged for future cooperation in the rail sector. (December 30th, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

FT.comTaiwan High Speed Rail has selected a Japanese consortium as preferred bidder to provide trains and signalling for the $17,4bn link. The announcement surprised Eurotrain, which was selected as preferred bidder two years ago. However, the THSRC has had trouble finding money for the project. The Japanese consortium, which includes Mitsui Corporation, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Toshiba and Kawasaki Heavy Industries, will provide finance with help from the Japan Bank for International Co-operation. The trains, signalling and communications equipment provided by the Japanese consortium represent about 17% of the cost of the project. Trains will cover the 345 km between Taipei and Kaohsiung in 90 minutes. Eurotrain is promoting a train with ICE power cars and double-decker TGV coaches, and has offered to take a 10% stake in the train and electrical system project to help clear financial logjams and ensure it won the lucrative contract. TGV technology was selected for Korea's Seoul-Pusan high speed link which was tested by President Kim Dae-Jung on December 16th. See also R euters story. (December 29th/30th, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

FT.comThe cost of upgrading British Railtrack's West Coast Main Line is set to rise to £5.8bn, almost two and a half times the original estimate in 1994. The sharp rise has been caused by Railtrack's decision to drop plans to use the advanced moving block signalling system because of concerns over whether it could be made to work. This would have allowed more trains to use the existing lines and avoided having to replace the ageing signalling infrastructure. The upgrade will be done in two phases; in Phase One, over 900 signals will be fitted with TPWS (Train Protection Warning System) and top speed will be 200km/h by 2002. Phase Two is slated for completion by 2005 and will let trains run at 225 km/h. For Phase Two, Railtrack will renew the existing lineside signaling and overlay on this a modern transmission-based signaling system following the ERTMS/ETCS standard (European Rail Traffic Management System/European Train Control System). ERTMS/ETCS is an "open standard" to which many different manufacturers are meant to offer competing products. (December 15th)

Building a high-speed train system is a "logical next step" in meeting California's transportation needs, one that would complement existing road and air connections and generate more than $300 million a year in profits, according to a state board. The board also says that two public-opinion surveys found that more than 60% of Californians favor construction of the system even if they must pay more sales tax. Californians for High Speed Rail is an independent lobbying organisation. (December 15th) Speedrail has submitted its detailed proposal for high speed rail service between Canberra and Sydney. The ACT, NSW and Commonwealth Governments will now evaluate this detailed submission with a view to making decisions during the first half of 2000. It is anticipated it would then be possible for construction to commence in 2001 and be completed by 2005. Rumours of poor Speedrail finances from before the submission of the report may be unfounded. A lob by group representing business, tourism, property and the construction industry has formed around Speedrail. (December 13th)

A German ICE caught fire in a maintenance hall on Wednesday the 8th. Three cars were destroyed. The cause has not been determined, but it may have been the airconditioning. (December 10th, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

The European Investment Bank is lending Railtrack 635 million euros ($650.5 million) towards modernising and upgrading Britain's west coast mainline railway between London and Glasgow. "As one of the 14 priority TENs... the west coast mainline is a crucial element in the communications arteries of Europe," EIB President Sir Brian Unwin said. (December 10th, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

© Jan LindahlThe Arlanda Express trains connecting Stockholm with the airport have finally started services. King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia attended the opening ceremony. The first train in revenue service left Stockholm at 04:35 November 25th. The trains do the trip in 20 minutes at 200 km/h, and are Sweden's fastest non-tilting trains. The ticket price one way is 120kr, twice as much as the competing busses, which take 35 minutes. Arlanda Express is a private consortium, but SJ will be allowed to use the Arlanda link against access charges. SJ will be running regional and national trains to Arlanda starting in January. (November 29th 1999, text & photo © Jan Lindahl/TÅG used with permission)

FT.comEast Japan Railway (JR East), the world's largest railway company in passenger numbers, said parent net profits increased 80 per cent from ¥24.3bn to ¥43.7bn ($412m) in the six months to September, year on year, thanks to cost-cutting measures and changes in tax accounting rules. (November 25th 1999)

FT.comThe cost of upgrading Britain's west coast main line, a crucial project for Railtrack and for the future of the rail industry, could almost double to £4bn, the company says. The sharp rise in costs, from the £2.1bn originally planned, is the result of rising passenger numbers, changes in the details of the project and Railtrack's decision to drop a high-tech signalling system because it is too risky. The increase is bound to rekindle concerns that prices rise sharply on projects in which Railtrack becomes involved. (November 22nd)

Foto Kai Otto Ødegård, www.adressa.noNovember 1st is the starting date for services with Norwegian NSBs new tilting "Signature" trains, which are almost identical to the airport trains on the Gardermo railway. Services will start on the Oslo - Kristiansand, and will expand later to Trondheim and Stavanger starting January 9th, and Bergen will follow as a destination in June. The top speed is 210 km/h. NSB is investing 1,5bn NOK in sixteen trains and 1,6bn NOK on track improvements. The trains to Kistiansand will take four hours, 40 minutes faster than now. Also see article at Aftenposten. Manufacturer Adtranz has datailed data on the trains. (October 28th 1999)

Germany's Transrapid maglev is looking shakier than ever after a key member of the consortium, Adtranz, said it "doesn't have any future under current circumstances." Thyssen is still keen, which is understandable given that Adtranz will probably build the conventional trains which may replace the Transrapid project, whereas Thyssen's job was to build the high-tech magnetic levitation track. DB AG, which was supposed to run the trains, had earlier said that a budget version of the project with a single rather than double track would not be feasible. Read more Transrapid stories in German and in English. (October 21st 1999, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

A Chinese "high-speed" train, designed and produced entirely in China has made its service debut, shuttling passengers between the eastern cities of Shanghai and Nanjing, official media reported Monday. The train has reached 199 km/h in tests but is limited to 140 in revenue service due to track restrictions. (October 16th 1999)

FT.comThe £2bn modernisation of Railtrack's West Coast Main Line will be speeded up by the introduction of a US-style "track muncher". The railway infrastructure group has awarded a £280m contract to Jarvis, the construction group, which has pledged to use the US track renewal machine - its first outing in the UK. (September 30th 1999)

German DB AG is studying the possibility of making the Berlin - Hamburg Transrapid maglev single-track rather than double track, as a way of keeping costs down. Also, a new, cheaper type of track in concrete rather than steel is being tested on the test track in Emsland. The new technique might save DM1bn. Die Welt has two articles on the political wrangling about a single or double track maglev: 1, 2.(September 21st)

Taiwan High-Speed Rail announced a fresh delay on Thursday the 16th in selecting a contractor to build the island's US$12.7 billion bullet train, saying a September deadline would be pushed back to the end of January. The THSR Corporation is choosing between a Shinkansen train and a European TGV/ICE cross, with ICE power cars and TGV carriages. (September 21st)

Finnish VR's CEO, Henri Kuitunen has voiced support for a new 300km/h railway running northeast from Helsinki. This would ease pressure on an almost-parallel older railway and speed connections to eastern Finland and Russia. See also map, and more on the new line. (September 15th)

The Euro-Train consortium is willing to take a 10 percent stake in Taiwan's US$13 billion bullet train, in an effort to help clear financial logjams and ensure it wins the lucrative contract. (September 3rd)

The launch of Amtrak's Acela service will be delayed until next spring at the earliest because of lingering problems with the train's wheels, company officials said Wednesday the 1st. The 150-mph (241-kph) bullet train was to have gone into service later this year, but "excessive wheel wear" on the passenger coaches has prompted additional refinements, said Jacques Lapare, North American head of Bombardier, which is building the train with Paris-based Alstom. Officials said at a news conference that the consortium is obligated to a graduated penalty for each of the 20 train sets that is delivered late, starting at $1,000 per day per train and rising to $13,500 per day per train. The last of the train sets was to have been delivered by June 2000. But, "This in no way affects our ability and desire" to meet the financial plan, says Amtrak President George Warrington. See also Amtrak press release, Bombardier press release. (September 2nd, thanks Matthew Johnson)

The race is on to build the fastest train in the world, which will use a new Madrid-Barcelona railway slashing four hours off a journey that currently takes six-and-a-half hours. German Siemens is pitching its ICE concept against Alstom's TGV, and tilt trains are being jointly represented by Spanish Talgo and Adtranz. This last group claims to have developed a new tilting train with distributed power and a top speed of 370 km/h. Since Talgo is involved in the construction, the new train is likely to employ passive tilt (powered by the train's own weight) like all the other tilting trains Talgo has made. Other tilting trains like the Pendolino and X 2000, employ active tilt, meaning that a hydraulic mechanism heaves the car bodies over to one side. (August 25th 1999)

Amtrak's Gee Whiz-Plan

Amtrak is enjoying a slightly better than expected 1999 but still faces serious obstacles to becoming financially self-sufficient by 2003 as required by law, two recent government reports conclude. They credit Amtrak with being between $10 million and $14 million ahead of budget estimates for fiscal 1999. A 1997 law requires that Amtrak become self-sufficient by the end of fiscal 2002. If it appears Amtrak will not meet that goal, the Amtrak Reform Council must submit plans for a new national passenger rail system, and Amtrak would be required to submit a plan for its own liquidation. Amtrak's plan for making more money is partly to charge high fares with the Acela trains, and partly to expand a profitable express package service. (August 19th 1999)

Amtrak's new Acela fast train is getting a lot of gee-whiz attention in the US press. MSNBC reports that the Boston-New York travel time will drop from five hours to just over three, while the ticket price for this trip is more than doubling from $60 to $130. Good coverage in the press is key to getting consumers excited about the product, and being able to charge higher fares with sexier trains is key to salvaging many a passenger railway's battered finances. (August 18th 1999)

Australia's Speedrail project linking Sydney, Canberra and possibly Melbourne has recieved renewed support following comments by Victoria's Industry Science and Technology Minister, Mark Birrell. He says a high-speed rail link servicing the eastern seaboard would extend the life of Sydney's existing airport and give eastern Australians another transport option. See also map, official site. (August 18th 1999)

Californian plans for a high-speed railway require the approval of a two-thirds majority in the state legislature. The state would have to cough up $23bn, so the California High Speed Rail Authority may settle for money for preliminary environmental and engineering work as a first step. (August 18th 1999)

Portuguese CP has introduced a new tilting train, the Pendoluso. It achieves 220 km/h and the information display includes inside and outside air temperature. See also usenet discussion. (August 11th 1999)

FT.comThe Taiwan High Speed Rail Corporation is ready to exercise its right to walk away from the deal before July 31 if the government does not put into writing pledges it has made on a range of preparations ahead of the construction, an official said. However, project insiders said it was unlikely either side would pull out of what is one of Asia's biggest infrastructure projects. The THSRC and the government were to have reached an agreement by Saturday the 31st. THSRC has been struggling to attract capital and to arrange the loans it requires. (August 1st 1999)

The construction of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link in Britain will be aided by a Global Positioning System by Trimble. The GPS uses satellites to establish one's exact position and is widely used for navigation purposes. However, the system's precision is down to the centimetre. (July 20th 1999)

A new type of magnet has been tested in the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the USA. It is powerful enough for use in magnetic levitation applications, but is not electromagnetic ie does not require any power. (July 17th 1999)

ICE3The German ICE3 train has been presented to the public at Siemens' test track in Wildenrath, Germany. It looks a bit like the ICT but is faster, 330 km/h instead of 230 km/h. Here it is shown at Eurailspeed 1998 in Tobias Köhler's photo. See also the Mercurio ICE3 page. (July 15th 1999)

Spanish Talgo, German Siemens and French Alstom are firing up to build what could prove the world's fastest commercial train, streaking between Spain's two biggest cities at up to 350 km/h. They all hope to land a contract worth nearly US$1 billion for trains on a new line between the capital Madrid and the country's second biggest city Barcelona. (July 14th 1999)

The German government is "looking for a new partner" to build the Transrapid maglev Berlin-Hamburg, because the track is going to cost DM8bn to DM9bn, rather than DM6.1bn as estimated earlier. The public-private consortium has a contract stating that the government will pay for the track, whereas Adtranz, Siemens & Thyssen will pay for the trains and get most of the revenue. Since the government has said it is not putting up any more than the DM6.1bn already committed, the Transrapid will most likely not get built unless someone else stumps up the necessary cash. Also, Deutsche Bahn has more than halved the estimated number of passengers to just 6.28 million annually. However, the railway is not confirming the number officially, since all factors aren't yet on the table. Read an article in English which criticizes the Transrapid project. German Yahoo has a Transrapid news page. See also story in English. (July 14th 1999)

The Acela isn't the only train improvement project going on in the USA. Many other passenger rail projects with different levels of ambition are underway or being studied, a Reuters article explains. (July 12th 1999)

China is testing its fastest ever locally-made passenger train at 200 km/h. (July 11th 1999)

California High Speed

The Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners approved a resolution asking that a statewide high-speed rail route should pass by Palmdale Regional Airport. (July 8th 1999)

FT.comThe Japanese government is selling one million shares in JR East, which operates part of the national bullet train, or shinkansen network, and is considered one of the more competitive parts of the former national railway company since its privatisation in 1987. The government is currently JR East's largest shareholder, with a 37.6 per cent stake. (July 5th 1999)

The Sydney - Canberra (Australia) Speedrail TGV will be operating by 2004 if all goes as planned. The private consortium must show that its cost and revenue estimates are realistic and that financiers are committed. An enviromental review is scheduled to follow next year, and construction should start in December 2000. An extension to Melbourne could be ready by 2009. The trains will operate at 320 km/h, but the alignment will allow future trains to attain 360 km/h. The Sydney-Canberra segment will take 81 minutes. The airline Qantas is a project participant and will be responsible for passenger handling, including all on-board services, ticketing and station management. Passengers will be able to earn and use frequent-flier points, and connect to domestic and international flights. Their baggage will be checked through from the train to the flight. Qantas will be the only airline in the world operating a high speed train, besides British Airways which has a stake in the Eurostar train between England and France/Belgium. Official site: (July 5th 1999, thanx David Bromage)

Amtrak gave reporters and a group of VIPs the first public viewing of the Acela high-speed train on Tuesday the 29th, in a railyard just two miles (3.2 km) from the Capitol. (July 5th 1999)

Who wouldn't want to travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco on trains hitting 200 mph, completing the trip in a little more than two and a half hours?, the San Francisco Examiner asks in an editorial. Another article in the same paper is equally supportive. But their columnist begs to differ. (June 22nd/24th 1999)

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has received its staff and consultant recommendations for adoption of a statewide route designed to serve the greatest number of travelers while keeping costs and travel times at their minimum for the 200-mile-an-hour train. When adopted, the alignment will become part of the final business plan that the authority will present to the governor and the Legislature by the end of the year. See also the California High Speed Rail Authority website and their corridor alignment options. (June 18th/25th 1999)

A high speed train travelling at 160 km/h crashed into the rear of an empty commuter train on Britain's West Coast Main Line injuring 29 people. The express train, forming the Virgin Trains' 0635 Euston - Glasgow service was approaching Winsford station in Cheshire when the accident occurred at 0852. The empty train, belonging to First North Western was en route from Crewe to Manchester Piccadily. (June 23rd)

Swedish SJ is going to order new trains for over a billion SEK ($850m) for regional services round the Mälar Valley west of Stockholm. The railways north and south of the lake have been rebuilt or upgraded for speeds between 160 and 250 km/h in recent years. This is the biggest Swedish order for trains since twenty X 2000 EMUs were ordered from Adtranz (then ASEA Traction) in 1985. SJ now has 40 such trains. More here. (June 17th)

Technicians in Philadelphia literally took the bubble wrap off one of Amtrak's new Acela trains on June 1st, revealing the first visible sign of dramatic changes coming to the Northeast Corridor. The train was towed there late last week from the Bombardier assembly plant in Plattsburgh, N.Y., for months of testing on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and Philadelphia-Harrisburg lines. (June 9th)

FT.comThe Taiwan High Speed Rail Corporation is having trouble attracting necessary capital, but the government is not providing any more money. The lack of capital is pushing back dates for groundbreaking and completion, so the railway will not likely be ready for the year 2003 as planned. The company has not made a final decision between Euro-Train and Japan's Shinkansen bullet-train technology. Differences over how to share a tangled web of risk and potential reward between the government, lenders and THSRC, which won the 35-year contract to build and operate the line, have fuelled uncertainty over one of Asia's biggest infrastructure projects. Infoseek story. (June 2nd/9th)

Work will begin next year on the Alice Springs to Darwin rail link after the selection yesterday of a United States-based consortium as the preferred builder. More on new Australian HSRs. (June 8th)

Even in a best-case scenario, it would be "close to a decade" before the first Canadian high-speed train could make a pioneering run between Montreal and Toronto, Canadian Transport Minister David Collenette says. But Via Rail Canada can't wait that long for revitalization, Collenette said. A reform package is to be expected by September; Collenette presented no details apart from saying mistakes made in Britain would not be repeated. (June 7th)

A 440 million mark ($244 million) train station opened Thursday the 27th at Frankfurt airport, connecting travelers arriving at continental Europe's busiest airport directly with Germany's high-speed ICE trains. The station will be served by up to 84 IC and ICE trains daily. National connections to and from the airport have been speeded up by 30-40 minutes, since it is no longer necessary to change trains at Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof. But a fire drill revealed shortcomings in fire safety. The Frankfurt Airport has some pages in English about the train station; also see the DB AG press release. (May 28th/June 1st)

The broken wheel which caused an emergency stop at Gnesta outside Stockholm in January was caused by slag remains, ie impurities in the steel. They were smaller than a millimetre in size, which is inside normal international tolerance limits, but caused a crack and a 30 cm long and 1 cm thick peice of the wheel to break off. The train was moving at 200 km/h. (May 26th 1999)

Taiwan's long-awaited and much-needed rapid rail route between Taipei and the main Port of Kaohsiung looks to be stalled again. The consortium blames the government for the delay and vice-versa. (May 21st 1999)

7kbGerman DB AG will start running its new tilting ICT trains on May 30th on the Stuttgart-Zürich line. They have a max speed of 230 km/h and max tilting capability of 8 degrees. The tilting mechanism is of the Italian Pendolino type by Fiat Ferroviaria. In comparison, the Swedish X 2000 tilts at most 6,5 degrees, but this was found to make passengers "seasick". The ICTs, like other ICE trains, feature GSM-amplifiers to ensure good reception for mobile phones. The cars with enhanced GSM reception are marked with phone-pictograms so as to ensure that those who dislike phone chattering do not unwittingly choose a chattery car. Other features of the ICT include an electronic train timetable with optional printouts, a bike section (free reservation required), steel cables & padlocks for locking luggage, electronic seat reservation information, and video screens at certain seats. See also Mercurio ICT pages. Die Welt reports that the number of passenger kilometres grew at DB AG in the first quarter of 1999 compared to a year earlier, by 10% in subsidized suburban services, and 5% in intercity services. (May 15th 1999)

Amtrak's Acela train derailed under tow in Vermont near Bombardier's factory over the weekend. (May 12th 1999)

The new high-speed Malpensa Milano Airport Express set off from central Milan (Italy) to the airport for a preview run on May 5th. Regular service starts May 30th -- seven months after the airport first opened its doors. Milan's controversial Malpensa airport continues to grapple with problems like aircraft ripping roofs off nearby houses, but one major headache neared solution on Wednesday as the long-awaited rail shuttle prepared for launch. (May 6th 1999)

German Deutsche Bahn AG has paid out around 10 million marks ($5.4 million) compensation to victims of last year's Eschede crash, when an ICE slammed into a concrete bridge at 200 km/h and 100 people died. Die Welt writes that compensation amounted to 30 000 DM per death, payed to families of the victims. A state prosecutor's investigation of the accident is still not complete but could lead to legal proceedings against DB AG. (May 4th 1999)

FT.comThe British government is facing legal action to oblige it to provide direct Eurostar services from Scotland through the Channel tunnel. The passenger transport authority for Strathclyde argues the British Railways Board has reneged on a commitment it made in 1989 to run regional services. (May 2nd)

Maglevs ...

The Japanese MLX01 magnetic levitation train set a new manned speed record of 552km/h on 14 April at the test track in Yamanashi prefecture. This breaks the previous records of 550km/h (unmanned) and 531km/h (manned) set in December 1997, and the conventional train record of 513 km/h held by the French TGV. (April 27th 1999)

The Berlin-Hamburg Transrapid maglev has suffered another setback after union officials say that a new DB AG study estimates that there will be 30% fewer passengers than calculated as recently as 1997, and the costs have risen by a third, also compared to 1997 estimates. (April 27th 1999)

An ambitious vision has been floated for a high-speed rail link along Australia's east coast, including a tunnel linking the New South Wales central coast and Sydney's northern beaches. A Brisbane to Melbourne link would connect three-quarters of the Australian population and provide a massive economic boost, federal Finance Minister John Fahey says. Similar story here. (April 23rd)

The France-Germany Thalys high speed trains have carried 10 million passengers since the start in 1996. (April 6th 1999)

A groundbreaking ceremony for a 340 km high-speed Taiwanese railway was held on Friday the 26th. It will link Taipei with the southern city of Kaohsiung and is touted as the largest transport project under way in the world. Official Site. (March 26th 1999)

Russia's finance ministry has proposed restructuring the government-backed bonds of RAO Vysokoskorostnye Magistrali (VSM, or High-Speed Railways). VSM, which is building a high-speed rail link between Moscow and St Petersburg, has total overdue payments on its principal debt and interest amounting to 435 million roubles ($17.98 million). (March 26th 1999)

The New South Wales State Government in Australia will spend $500,000 on a feasibility study for a very fast train link between Sydney and Newcastle, and says it is committed to the task. State Transport Minister Carl Scully says the study is part of an upgrade of the line announced last year and claims it is more a matter of when rather than if very fast trains will be introduced. (March 17th 1999)

First American HST

The New Amtrak Acela trains will start testing at the Pueblo, Colorado test track by the end of March and enter commercial service in the Northeast by December. In tests on a 13.5-mile loop, it will reach 165 mph (266 km/h), take curves at 130 mph and top out at 150 mph in passenger service. The performance tests will be followed by endurance tests to simulate starting and stopping the train over 20,000 miles. (March 17th 1999)

Acela logoAcela is the name for Amtrak's new tilting HSTs, connecting Boston, New York and Washington. The previous name, American Flyer, was a trademark of toy train maker Lionel. The trains are manufactured by Bombardier. The trains will be introduced in other parts of the USA after being implemented in the Northeast, the Chicago Tribune reports. (March 9th/12th 1999)

ICTDB Reise & Touristik, the passenger train division of German DB AG, plans on becoming Europe's number one in intercity travel. Service enhacements include introduction of ICT trains Stuttgart - Zürich in May, telephone and internet bookings, as well as better co-ordination with taxi and car rental services. (March 9th 1999)

The New South Wales Government has signed an agreement to further develop a proposal for a high-speed rail link between Sydney and Canberra. (March 8th 1999)

The Hamburg-Berlin Transrapid maglev does not enjoy solid support in the ruling Social Democratic Party. Some leaders stress not missing the opportunity the maglev represents, though others feel the contract between industry and government is unrealistic due to cost overruns. You can read a pro-Transrapid essay here, and one against here. (February 19th 1999)

A new JR East Shinkansen colour scheme will be applied to the new build of E3 series trains for use on Tsubasa services from December 1999 coinciding with the start of through services to Shinjo. (February 16th 1999)

The Swedish government won't be deciding on the future of the Hallandsås tunnel untill the fall. Construction of the tunnel has been halted since an environmental scandal in the fall of 1997. (February 12th 1999)

FT.comA price war has broken out on the busy routes between London and Birmingham, as competition grows between rival companies anxious to increase their revenues. (February 9th 1999)

Bonds for financing the London-Chunnel high-speed link go on sale today, Feb 9th. (February 9th 1999)

Reseau Ferre de France is going to spend about 12 billion francs a year over the next ten years on the LGV and conventional networks. Seven of the 12 bilion francs will come out of RFF's own pocket, which is filled with track access charges. (February 8th 1999)

The Paris-Strasbourg high speed line is set to be completed by 2006. Travel time will be reduced from just under four hours now to about two hours with trains travelling at 320 km/h. The French state, and those regions benefitting most, will foot most of the bill. The European Union and Luxembourg will also contribute. The first stage of construction will begin next year. (February 1st 1999)

The German Transrapid maglev won't be ready untill 2006 at the earliest, due to EU environmental regulations. This is one year later than planned. The entire project is still mired in uncertainty about who will pay how much, and if this will actually be enough to complete the project. (January 29th 1999)

FT.comLCR, the people building the London - Chunnel high-speed rail link, are going to formally start asking for loans for the project on February 8th. (January 23rd 1999)

FOX Hits Brick Wall

Florida has cancelled the FOX high-speed rail project in which Alstom and Bombardier, among others, had a stake. The Forida Overland Express was to have connected Tampa, Orlando and Miami with trains traveling at up to 320 km/h (200 mph). "The project is terminated," FOX spokesman Gene Skoropowski told Reuters. "It's unfortunate that Florida is passing up what I would call a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and probably a lot of the federal funds that go along with it." Bombardier was surprised by the cancellation, but the trains were not yet in the order book. Alstom said it wasn't their fault.

See also stories at Miami Herald, St Petersburg Times, and Los Angeles Times. (January 16th / 17th 1999)

Amtrak's new 240 km/h tilt trains, designed and built by a consortium around Bombardier, were built four inches too wide and will be unable to go around some curves as fast as planned. This means Amtrak must spend up to $12 million in track and clearance projects to maintain the planned three-hour (currently 4½hrs) express schedule between New York and Boston. Amtrak is paying Bombardier $710 million for 20 trains. (January 13th 1999)

A broken turnout could have helped cause the tragic accident in Eschede in June. Investigators are unsure whether the points were opened by the faulty wheel or from another cause. An official says that the safety of all other turnouts on the German network must be questioned. But the DBAG retorts that there is nothing to suggest the turnout was faulty. (January 13th 1999)

The European Commission said on Tuesday the 22nd that it had approved additional British government financial support for the Channel tunnel high-speed rail link. (December 23rd 1998)

German fighter jets, fitted with surveillance cameras, are guarding the country's railway lines after blackmailers threatened to sabotage train services. DBAG says that blackmailers have sent four letters to the national rail company demanding $6m. German newspaper Die Welt reports that the German Railway has been awash in sabotage this year. People are removing bolts from turnouts and putting obstacles on the track. There have been no lethal incidents but police are tight-lipped about possible terrorist demands. Die Welt has made two interviews. (December 21st/22nd 1998)

ICE3The new ICE3 trains are really cool. Tobias Köhler took this picture at Eurailspeed in Berlin this fall. Many more pictures are available here at the European Rail Server. The German trains will reach 300 km/h when they are put in regular service in the new millennium. (December 18th 1998)

The Thalys trains between Germany and France have had 8% more passengers than expected in their first year of operation. (December 17th 1998)

Eurostar on a Roll

British Airways may join in running the Eurostar, the EU says, but warns against it taking control of Eurostar's high-speed Channel Tunnel train service. The rail service competes with BA flights on the London-Paris and London-Brussels routes, especially for business passengers, and is due to be run by the Inter-Capital and Regional Rail venture, of which BA is a partner. (December 12th 1998)

FT.comEurostar could soon be running direct trains from Heathrow airport to continental Europe under proposals submitted to John Prescott, deputy prime minister. But plans to run direct regional services from the north and Scotland through the Channel tunnel to Paris and Brussels have been ditched. (December 12th 1998)

Eurotunnel is studying the possibility of building another link under the English Channel. (December 12th 1998)

FT.comJapan has presented China with a plan for co-operation on the latter's high-speed railway project in a bid to strengthen chances that the Chinese government will choose Japan's bullet train over French and German high speed trains for one of the region's most ambitious infrastructure projects. (December 9th 1998)

A Shinkansen high speed train with variable guage is being tested in Japan. The technology is the same as in the Spanish Talgo trains from the 1960s, but the Shinkansen trains go faster. While the guage is being changed, however, the train may not exceed 15 km/h. (December 9th 1998, more here)

DBAG ran an ICE train from Frankfurt to Berlin on Saturday the 25th in 3 hours and 18 minutes, to see if a "Sprinter" service can be introduced. The train averaged over 185 km/h. (November 2nd 1998)

Transrapid in Doubt

Federal German Transrapid-money will be re-chanelled towards the building of a coastal highway, the A20, if the maglev from Hamburg to Berlin gets scrapped. This is the policy of the new red-green government of the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern region. The policy of the likewise red-green federal government is to build the maglev, if the costs to not escalate past estimates from 1997. The Transrapid consortium, consisting of among others train maker Adtranz and steelmaker Thyssen, says it will absorb cost overruns arising from the trains and technology, but not the right of way.

The German transport minister says the Transrapid may be saved by a different and cheaper right of way. (October 25th 1998)

Alusuisse is building the shells for the German Transrapid, due to start service at up to 500 km/h between Hamburg and Berlin in 2005. Alusuisse says it is the only company in the world that can make the shells strong, light and cheap enough. (October 16th 1998, thanks to Steve Wiedmer)

DBAG and Lufthansa are co-operating on operation some trains from the Frankfurt airport to Stuttgart to the south and the Rhen-Ruhr area to the south. This, in combination with a new station at the airport, will increase plain/train transfers fourfold. The trains will start rolling once the Köln -- Frankfurt high speed line is completed. Through ticketing and baggage handling will be available. The resulting free slots at the airport may be used for more international flights under Lufthansa's Star Alliance with other airlines. (September 8th 1998)

A proposed maglev from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh has won $55 million in federal money for a feasibility study. (September 8th 1998)

A group of leading Australian businesses may form their own team to bid for the Very Fast Train project along the eastern seaboard, The Age writes. There is much HST expertise in Australia, the article says, but fails to mention the lack of experience. This HST project on the eastern coast should not be confused with the longer inland link between Darwin on the north coast and Melbourne on the south coast. (September 8th 1998)

By the end of the month, ICE trains between Berlin and Hannover will reach 250 km/h. Connections from Berlin to the west will be shortened by about an hour. (September 3rd 1998)

Magnetschnellbahn-Planungsgesellschaft mbH, the company building a maglev from Berlin to Hamburg, has dismissed claims by magazine Der Spiegel that costs have yet again swelled past targets. (September 3rd 1998)

Mammoth Australian HST

The 4500km high speed railway from Melbourne to Darwin in Australia edged closer materialization on August 11th. A Japanese infrastructure company, Obayashi, and the Macquarie Bank have joined the Australian Transport and Energy Corridor Pty Ltd consortium to build the inland rail link. The capital of the consortium now stands at AU$8.5 billion. Former Federal attorney-general Michael Lavarch and Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson have also been appointed to the consortium to advise it on legal and indigenous land rights issues. The consortium plans to use gas turbine locomotives to haul passenger trains at up to 300km/h and freight at 200km/h. They expect the first trains to run in 2004. Background article here. (August 13th 1998, reported by David Bromage)

A 4000 km long, 300km/h railway should be built in inland Australia, Melbourne and Darwin, the Australian federal government thinks. The Australian Transport and Energy Corridor Pty Ltd proposes a 300km/h inland line through Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland with connecting lines to Brisbane and Townsville. The line would be around 4000km long, being the biggest high speed project in the world. The trains would hauled by gas turbine locomotives rather than electric. Passenger trains would run at 300km/h and freight at 200km/h. A natural gas pipeline would follow the line for its entire length. / by David Bromage.

Despite its support for the high speed line, the Australian government will continue with the Alice Springs to Darwin railway. More here and here. (June 23rd 1998)

The Florida Overland Express could attract 8,3 million riders per year by 2010, consultants KPGM Peat Marwick and SYSTRA, say. The study was financed by the private FOX consortium and the Florida DOT. But Wilbur Smith Associates Inc. thinks about 5 million is a more realistic number. (August 10th 1998)

The Australian Prime Minister has announced that the TGV had been selected for the Sydney - Canberra high speed railway. It will be built and operated by Speedrail, a consortium of Leighton Holdings, Qantas, SNCF and BZW. Unsuccessful bids included the Adtranz X2000, Siemens ICE and Thyssen Transrapid maglev. The Fiat Pendolini and RSA Talgo dropped some months ago. (August 4th 1998, reported by David Bromage, more here)

A Japanese maintenance train derailed on the early morning of Tuesday the 9th. Nobody was hurt but nine Shinkansen HST trains were delayed. (June 15th 1998)

250 km/h running may be introduced in Sweden between Stockholm and Eskilstuna. The 100 km line from the Stockholm Flemingsberg suburb to Eskilstuna has been entirely rebuilt for political reasons since 1990. Earlier plans to increase speed from 200 to 250 on parts of the Göteborg-Stockholm line were dashed when the government cut funding for this project. (June 8th 1998, source: paper edition of Göteborgs-Posten)

The crash in Germany has prompted U.S. officials to reassess the safety of new Amtrak trains scheduled to go into service late next year, bringing 150-mph speeds on the run from Washington to New York and Boston. US passenger trains have higher crash-worthiness standards than European ones since US passenger trains share tracks with freights much heavier than those in Europe, the Washington Post writes. (June 8th 1998)

JR East is carrying out emergency inspections of the wheels and axles of all its 1,100 shinkansen trains following the deadly train crash in Germany. (June 6th 1998)

Taiwan is still interested in the Eurotrain concept for high speed trains, despite the crash in Germany on Wednesday. But,
"We definitely need a report from German Railways on the cause of the accident before talks begin later this year,'' says Taiwan High-Speed Rail Corp spokeswoman Corrinna Fu to Reuters. The Eurotrain consists of German ICE power units and French TGV coaches. (June 6th 1998)

The Bothnia high-speed, heavy-load coastal railway in northern Sweden will be financed by government-guaranteed loans, the parliament has decided. A company owned 91% by the government will borrow the money. The other 9% of the company will be owned by the communes (towns) that the railway passes through. Groundbreaking is planned for the summer of 99. The railway will permit a top speed of 250 km/h and a maximum axle load of 25 metric tonnes (though not at the same time). Maximum grades will be 10 per mille.

The Bothnia railway will stretch from Kramfors (Sundsvall) to Umeå and complement the existing North Trunk railway, which was built inland (where nobody lives) for military purposes. The Swedish coast has for centuries been exposed to Russians. Read more at the town of Örnsköldsviks website. (June 4th 1998)

The Eurostar franchise is expected be to awarded to a joint venture between National Express and British Airways, and the concession for building the London-Chunnel CTRL will go to Railtrack, British Sunday papers say. The government decision is expected in two weeks, along with £700m to save the CTRL.

Competitors say this gives BA a dominant position.
``Allowing British Airways to run Eurostar is like putting Herod in charge of a kindergarten,'' easyJet said in a statement. (June 1st/2nd/3rd 1998)

The California High Speed Rail Project has hired a team which will be responsible for telling the world about the merits of a line from the San Francisco area to Los Angeles and San Diego. (May 19th 1998)

Selling pollution credits may be a way of financing high-speed rail projects, says the director of the Montreal - Toronto high speed rail project. Pollution credits are used in the USA and considered a success. Instead of prohibiting pollution, government distributes credits to companies which may either use them up for pollution, or reduce emissions and sell the credits to companies unable or unwilling to clean up their act. The number of distributed credits is continually reduced, raising the price over time. (May 19th 1998)

Amtrak's Talgo service in Washington state will be speeded up by 25 minutes starting May 17th, and a third round trip will be added between Seattle and Portland. The lowest one-way adult fare between Portland and Seattle will be $16. The Spanish-built Talgo trains employ passive tilt, ie they swing to the side in curves. Photo Pat & David Othen (May 16th 1998)

Sabotage on the Shinkansen is suspected to be the work of leftist radicals who once belonged to railway workers' unions. Bolts were removed from a stretch of track near the central Japan town of Sekigahara last week, and anonymous letters threatened multi-derailments with the aim of killing more than 10,000 people. (May 12th 1998)

A 310 km/h test run was carried out on May 4th on the Neubaustrecke Göttingen - Hannover in Germany. The purpose was to impress a visiting Taiwanese delegation. Taiwan will be starting service on a 340·km high-speed line in 2003. The line is built with French and German technology. (May 12th 1998)

The Augsburg - München line in southern Germany is to be upgraded to the tune of 1,1 billion DM. Two new tracks will be added, which will be frequented at 230 km/h. (May 12th 1998)

A Thalys TGV crashed into a heavy lorry in the Netherlands on Saturday the 9th. The truck-driver was killed, three passengers of the train wounded. The train derailed and blocked the track for 24 hours. Source: misc.transport.rail.europe (May 11th 1998)

Bombardier touts Montréal - Toronto TGV

A Montréal - Toronto HST would be a great idea, say some Québec companies. They want the provincial and federal governments to help finance a new line which would allow trains to attain 320 km/h. The Montreal-Toronto trip would take 2hrs21min, against four hours today. SNC-Lavalin wants to project the route, and Bombardier wants to build the trains. Bombardier owns the North American licence to build GEC Alsthom-designed TGVs. Media commentary has been lukewarm at best. Apart from The Globe and Mail, both the Toronto Star and the Montreal Gazette put the story on the front page.

Unfortunately, the federal government is looking to reduce, not increase, its involvement in the transport sector. It hopes that VIA will attract private finance. The three governments did a study in 1991 on Bombardier's HST proposal, and found it would be profitable in operation but would require a lot of government money to start up. Interestingly, Pearson airport in Toronto is planning to add not one but three new runways. (May 8th/9th 1998)

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