June 00

The electrification between Ernakulam, on India's southern tip, and Thiruvananthapuram, has been given top priority in the latest budget. (June 27th)

A speedy new train line that could carry up to 50,000 passengers a day between Philadelphia (New Jersey) and Reading, and help alleviate traffic congestion in fast-developing Montgomery and Chester Counties, moved a step closer to reality yesterday when the SEPTA board approved the $1.4 billion project. The transit agency now can proceed with engineering studies and public hearings for the 62-mile Schuylkill Valley Metrorail. It also can apply for Federal Transit Administration funding, a highly competitive process in which it will ultimately vie with projects in more than 40 other cities. See another story. find (June 27th)

A strike in Ireland is disrupting train service. A breakaway drivers' union, Irish Locomotive Drivers' Association is refusing to negotiate a new wage deal. See earlier story. (June 27th)

Alstom buys Fiat

Alstom is buying 51% of Fiat Ferroviaria, maker of the successful Pendolino tilting trains, for an estimated 153 million euros. The deal, financed entirely by Alstom itself without loans, includes an option to buy the rest within two years. Fiat Ferroviaria is expected to become profitable starting next year. Alstom, which has sold hundreds of 300 km/h TGV trains, is already collaborating with Canadian Bombardier to make a tilting version of the TGV for Amtrak. These trains, the Acela, are heavier than European and Asian HSTs to conform to American crash safety standards. But Fiat has already sold 1000 tilting vehicles and will be selling another 3000 in the next three years, Alstom says. The president of Alstom Transport, Michel Moreau, says that the purchase will give Alstom access to the Italian market and give syngeries in research & development.

Fiat Ferroviaria has annual direct sales of approximately 375 million euros, and indirect sales of 110 million euros via its 50-50 joint-venture with Alstom, West Coast Traincare. It employs 2300 people in Italy, Switzerland and the UK. The company is specialised in the design and manufacture of rolling stock, associated equipment (propulsion and bogies), as well as maintenance services. Fiat Ferroviaria is the world leader in tilting technology -- its tilting trains designed for existing intercity main lines have been sold in Italy, Finland, Israel, Spain, Germany and Switzerland. More recently, Alstom and Fiat Ferroviaria have created a consortium for the supply and maintenance of the UK's West Coast Main Line fleet of high-speed tilting trains, operated by Virgin Trains. The project, worth 1.8 billion euros, is the largest rail contract ever signed in the UK. find See also AFP story in French. (June 25th, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

Amtrak halted test runs of its new high-speed Acela Express trains over the weekend of June 17th-18th when cracked or missing bolts were found in several wheel sets, a finding that will delay the start of regular service between Washington and Boston at least until mid-August, officials say. First, locomotive bogies/trucks oscillated in a potentially dangerous high-speed phenomenon called "truck hunting." Then, fixes designed to stop the truck hunting resulted in excessive wheel wear. Now, engineers noticed that one of the two power cars was experiencing lateral motions that were not being recorded on the power car at the other end of the train. When they investigated, they found that one of the bolts that helps attach the truck to the power car was missing and the other was broken. There was never any danger of a derailment because gravity alone would keep the power car attached to the wheel set. When engineers inspected other train sets and locomotives, they found several broken or missing bolts, and several others were showing signs of stress. See also Reuters story. find (June 25th, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

The public agency building the Alameda Corridor rail cargo expressway in Los Angeles adopted a balanced program budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2000 and ending June 30, 2003 on Thursday, signaling that the project is in strong financial condition. find (June 20th, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

Skanska has been awarded a contract to build the new rsta Bridge in Stockholm, Sweden. The contract is worth SEK 400 million, and the client is the Swedish National Rail Administration's eastern division. The new double-track rsta railway bridge is included in an expansion of capacity south of central Stockholm. The new bridge, which will span Stockholm's rstaviken bay, will be 833 meters in length. The bridge will include pedestrian and bicycle paths, as well as service roads on each side of the tracks. See photo. The red bridge is how the new bridge will look, the gray one behind was built in the 1800s. The new bridge is required to cope with growing regional traffic, especially from the Svealand railway Stockholm-SšdertŠlje-Eskilstuna which was reopened in 1997. (June 20th, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

Plans for a railway to tote commodities and chemicals over the Andes mountains from southern Argentina to Chile are being ironed out as potential investors are being wooed, a project official said Friday the 16th. Fronted money would go towards overhauling some 690 miles of track built in the late 1800s, adding rolling stock and laying roughly 125 miles of fresh high iron to crest the Mallin Chileno pass between the two countries. (June 20th, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

Wal-Mart, the huge US department store chain, has named Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company (BNSF) Carrier of the Year for the second time in a row. Selection criteria for the award included systems technology, on-time pick up and delivery, customer service, pricing, equipment capacity and ease of doing business. find (June 20th)

Eurotunnel is aiming at a 30% share of passenger bookings being done on-line within two years. A dedicated 'e-business' team is working flat out to introduce a stream of upgrades which will come on line in the next few weeks. Internet bookings reduce costs for operators and improve service to customers. find (June 20th)

Trains will be checked for wheel defects before they roll on to the Øresund bridge. Wheel-chacking apparatus has been installed on the Danish side, and installations on the Swedish side are being brought up to scratch after demands from authorities (presumably JŠrnvŠgsinspektionen). (June 20th)

Rail Times is a new news service on the net, similar to this site. It is updated daily but all the stories aren't fascinating. (June 19th)

boXXpress.de is a new container rail shuttle started by European Rail Shuttle (ERS), Eurogate Intermodal, and KEP Logistik. Starting today, the new service will link Bremerhaven and Hamburg daily with Munich, Nuremberg and Stuttgart. find (June 19th)

A Union Pacific train hauling sulphuric acid caught fire when it derailed on Thursday June 15. Seventeeen vehicles including 2 locomotives came of the track near Colton, California. Six of the freight cars caught fire and one began to leak sulphuric acid. (June 19th)

The Taiwan High Speed Rail Consortium will sign an agreement Tuesday (the 13th) with a Japanese consortium to purchase Japanese bullet trains, ending more than five months of negotiations, a spokeswoman for THSRC said Wednesday (the 7th). Japanese sources said a top executive of Mitsui & Co., leader of Japan's Taiwan Shinkansen Consortium, will visit Taipei for the signing. No government representatives will attend. However, this still does not fully conclude the long-running saga, as the final purchasing contract is not expected to be signed until July. See also Reuters story. find (June 10th/15th, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

Egypt is planning to build a high-speed railway that would traverse almost the entire length of the country and follow the Nile valley through major tourist destinations, including Luxor, the site of pharaonic temples and tombs. he first segment of the rail line, 200 kilometers (120 miles) between Alexandria and Cairo, is expected to take two years to complete at a cost of 4 billion Egyptian pounds ($1.16 billion), a spokesman for the Egyptian Transport Ministry says. (June 13th)

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)

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

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 SaarbrŸcken (about 100 km NE from Metz) and Ludwigshafen (near Mannheim). The trains will start running in 2006. See also DB AG press release. find (May 9th, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

An overnight passenger train was derailed in south east France after running into iron bars that are thought to have been deliberately placed on the track. Two people died in the incident. One of those who died is believed to have been the driver of the train. Several minutes before the derailment another train had safely passed the same spot. The bars that were found on the track were metre long sections of rail. French police have questioned a man in connection with the incident. (June 6th)

In a separate development, a Eurostar train travelling between Paris and London derailed Monday evening (June 5th) at Croisilles in northern France. The lead power car and the following coach came off the line but the train remained upright and was brought safely to a halt. There are no reports of any serious injuries although a number of people suffered minor injuries and shock. SNCF says that part of the transmission to the rear bogie fell off. The missing link has been taken to Lille for examination. London-Paris trains will be delayed by an hour as they detour the accident site on the older railway. See also AP story in French and the press release. (June 6th)

The British Aiport Authority has made tentative plans to turn the Heathrow Express rail station at the airport into the underground equivalent of Clapham Junction. It would have rail links to London's Waterloo and St Pancras stations as well as the existing link to Paddington. Other links would connect Heathrow to the North and West via Reading. BAA chief executive Mike Hodgkinson said yesterday: "The station currently handles four trains per hour but has the capacity to take 16 trains." find (June 6th, thanks David Fry)

German Rail launched the ICE3 on May 23rd. It reaches 330km/h, climbs grades of 4%, and has distributed power, giving an axle load of under 17 metric tonnes. The domestic version, used in Austria, Germany and Switzerland, weighs 986kg per seat, and the motors develop 20,46kW per seat. The trains are 295cm wide. 50 trains are on order, bringing the number of ICE trains to 216. See photo, Die Welt story and information about the train at Mercurio. find (June 5th)

An offer to partially re-nationalise Railtrack has been turned down by the Government in a move which will infuriate Labour traditionalists who have been pushing ministers for a greater public sector role in the industry. The offer by Railtrack to allow the government to take a part-share in the company to boost investment was turned down by John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, and Lord Macdonald, the Transport minister, at a meeting last month because Labour was worried about being blamed for delays on the railway. The Government also feared that ownership of a chunk of Railtrack would have made it responsible for ensuring that sufficient investment was channelled into the industry. find (June 4th)

Total British fare revenue could rise by £2.5bn over the next 10 years as passengers paid for an increasing proportion of investment, says Sir Alastair Morton, chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority. Sir Alastair's prediction, made at the rail summit hosted by deputy prime minister John Prescott, came alongside suggestions from ministers that rail subsidies could double to £2bn a year over the same period. (June 4th)

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