April 99

An electrification project in the south of India will reach Ernakulam on the west coast by December. (April 30th)

Trains travelling through the Severn Tunnel (which links England and south Wales) must reduce their speed to 20 mph because of the poor condition of the track. Trains are normally permitted to travel at 70 mph (112 km/h). This follows four recent incidents where broken rails have been found. (April 30th)

FT.comEurope's railway hotels are making a comeback as air travellers and road-users switch to the high-speed train links connecting the continent's main business centres. Hilton is building two railway hotels, one at Copenhagen airport, linked by a walkway to the railway terminal and airport and the other in London at Paddington station. (April 30th)

A bus crashed into a train in northern India on Tuesday the 27th, killing at least 45 people. The accident occurred at a railroad crossing where there was no gate to regulate traffic. The Avadh-Assam Express was headed from New Delhi to the northeastern town to Gauhati. (April 28th)

Creating a Passenger Focused Network - Winning Market Share Through an Integrated Customer Approach is the title of a conference to be held on the 28th & 29th of June 1999 at the Le Meridien Hotel, Brussels. The conference is hosted by The International Quality and Productivity Centre which now has a page about the conference here. Learn from the experience of among others Banestyrelsen's optimisation strategy between train operating company and infrastructure, and Thalys' experience of service differentiation and market share capture. (April 28th)

FT.comThe British government has continued to allow the sale of disused rail lines and depot sites despite imposing a freeze on such sales in August, the Rail Freight Group says. (April 28th)

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)

The Japanese MLX01 maglev 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)

Poland may begin the sell-off its ailing State Railways PKP after July 1st, 2000 if all goes according to plan. Wisconsin Central and German DB AG are among six potential buyers who have formally shown interest. The government does not provide enough subsidy for unprofitable passenger links even though the firm is expected not to close them down, PKP's chief executive complains. But government officials retort that losses stem from inefficiency and overemployment in the company, which has changed little since the 1989 fall of communism. (April 27th)

A Polish express train derailed near Devlin in the southeast on monday the 26th, injuring 30 people. Seventeen of the injured, including the train driver were taken to hospital. (April 27th)

Arlanda ExpressUrban Fredriksson has some cool new photos of the new Arlanda Express Stockholm airport train on his site. (April 26th)

Via Rail Smash

Transportation Safety Board investigators say that it appears that two switches had been moved manually without the train engineers' knowledge. According to Via and other rail officials, much of the track from Windsor to London, and also from Ottawa to Montreal, is called "dark territory" because it is not directly operated by a control tower. These segments form part of Canada's busiest and fastest rail corridor with speeds up to 150 km/h. (April 26th)

A Via Rail Canada passenger train derailed and slammed into four stationary freight cars on a side track in southwestern Ontario Friday the 23rd, killing at least two people and injuring dozens more. Both of those who died in the noontime collision in Thamesville were crew members on the train, which was en route from Windsor to Toronto. (April 24th)

Ugandan coffee exporters are considering shifting to rail transport because of new road haulage regulations that they expect to push up costs. Exporters say too much bureacracy and an inflexible schedule made them wary of rail transport, but that option would be more cost-effective in the coming months. (April 26th)

FT.comChiltern Railways, the British rail franchise acquired by the John Laing construction group last month, is to order a further five two-car trains for £10m to meet growing passenger numbers between Birmingham and London. (April 25th)

Amtrak has placed an order with Wabash National for an additional 129 RoadRailer units with Wabash National for an additional 129 RoadRailer units, in response to the rapidly growing demand for Amtrak® Mail & Express cross-country shipping service. The US Postal Service is Amtrak's main customer in this business. (April 23rd)

Verenigde Handelaren in Nederland (United Traders in The Netherlands) and Netherlands Railroads want to run a combined passenger/goods train from Amsterdam to Milan. Baggage cars would be converted into time- and climate-sensitive goods such as flowers. (April 23rd)

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)

British train operators will be cutting rural services this summer, following the scheduled drop in public subsidy which forms part of the 1996 reform. Wales and West Railways will cut some services in Cornwall and Devon and First North Western are reducing the number of Blackpool to London trains. Chiltern Railways will cut peak-time commuter services to London, saying rail infrastructure cannot cope. (April 22nd)

The Dover-Calais cross-Channel market for freight trains decreased sharply during the first quarter of 1999 compared with the first quarter of 1998, while freight shuttle traffic increased. (April 21st)

FT.comBMW plans to invest £40m in a new 4 km long rail line linking its British Land Rover manufacturing plant at Solihull near Birmingham with Railtrack's main rail network. The scheme, which Rover claims would save over 100 000 heavy truck movements and 5m road freight miles a year, would allow Land Rover to rail freight more than 100 000 vehicles a year for export directly to continental European markets via the Channel tunnel or to Southampton for shipment to the US and other overseas markets. (April 20th)

FT.comStriking workers shut down Toronto's public transport system on Monday the 21st, forcing about 800 000 commuters to find alternative means of getting to work. Toronto's 7800 subway conductors, bus drivers and support staff, who have received a 1 per cent pay increase for the last seven years, voted overwhelmingly at the weekend to reject the transit commission's final offer. Mike Harris, Ontario's brash premier, said he would recall the provincial legislature to legislate an end to the strike within a day or two. (April 20th)

General Motors is considering proposals from all the Class 1 railroads to build a massive network of distribution centers in an effort by the automaker to speed the delivery of inventory to dealerships around the USA. (April 19th)

Heinz Dürr, the boss of German DB AG, says competition on the rails is no good and results in "cherry-picking". He thus agrees with the French Minister of Transport, Jean-Claude Gallois, who wants to retain SNCF's monopoly. Mr. Gallois feels that the arrival of third parties does not produce any benefits in the service rendered. This is surprisingly bad news for the European Commission's Directorate-General of Transport, whose policy is firmly pro-competition. (April 19th)

China will build a 2200 km sea-land railway linking its eastern and northeastern provinces, the official Wenhui Daily reported on Monday the 19th. (April 19th)

FT.comTrain services ran in Guatemala on Thursday the 15th for the first time in three years after completion of the first part of the rail network's rehabilitation by private investors. (April 16th)

FT.comAll British railway industry investment plans should be co-ordinated through the Strategic Rail Authority, Sir Alastair Morton, the new rail watchdog, was expected to say in a speech. Sir Alastair was likely to tell his audience at the Institute of Civil Engineers that he wants train operators to agree common specifications for new rolling stock as a way of easing financiers' worries about investing in franchised businesses. (April 16th)

Eight cars carrying crude oil caught fire in Finland on Monday the 12th. The oil burned for three hours before suitable fire-fighting equipment arrived. At their worst flames were nearly 100 m high and 50 nearby residents had to be evacuated because of dense smoke and fumes. (April 16th)

Rautarukki's Transtech will build Finnish VR's 20 Sr2 ("Lok 2000") electric locomotives as a sub-contractor for manufacturer Adtranz. Deliveries will take place in 2000-2002. VR made an order with Adtranz in January. Transtech has earlier built 20 SR2 locos for VR on a similar basis. (April 16th)

CN on the Move

Canadian National has unveiled a broad restructuring in preparation for its recently approved merger with Illinois Central. CN's new management structure creates five regional units with local decision-making authority and responsibility for meeting service and financial goals. Division managers will report to senior executives in CN's Montreal headquarters, who will continue to make broad strategic, financial, marketing and operations decisions as CN combines with Chicago-based IC to create the first major North American railroad system. It is believed that the reorganization will require dozens of managers to relocate and will result in reassignment of at least 100 executives who will not move. The reorganization does not change the duties or job locations of any union employees in the United States or Canada. Press release. (April 15th)

Paul Tellier, CN's CEO, refutes the idea that CN is no longer Canadian since 60% of its stock is owned by American institutions: "These nationalist views, that to run a good company in Canada you've got to wear a tie with a maple leaf on it every morning when you walk into your office, I think is ridiculous. This is what is happening to the Canadian economy, the border is disappearing." Mr Tellier was payed a total C$1,5 million in 1998 for his job. (April 15th)

More about developments at CN in 1999

Suggested further reading: "Grand Trunk Corporation: Canadian National Railways in the United States, 1971-1992" by Donovan L. Hofsommer; 230 pages. Offers insight into deregulation, free trade, repositioning of basic industry, etc. Order this book at Amazon.

The legendary steam locomotive Flying Scotsman is back on the rails after a three-year, £1m restoration programme. The 76-year-old express will make its first run after restoration from its former King's Cross home to York on 4 July. Tickets will cost enthusiasts £350 each. (April 15th)

FT.comRailtrack is failing to effectively tackle train delays, substantial signalling schemes and station improvements, according to a report published by Chris Bolt, the rail regulator. Railtrack has been focusing investment on assets likely to generate short-term performance improvements, such as renewal of rail, rather than investing with long-term performance and quality in mind, said the study, which was compiled by consultants Booz-Allen and Hamilton. (April 14th)

An EC package of measures aimed at making intermodal transportation more attractive in Europe has run into stiff opposition from European Union member states. The original package proposed cutting taxes levied on trucks that use rail or water transport for substantial parts of a journey. It also proposed relaxing weekend truck bans that impede truckers and shippers, and raising the weight limit for intermodal trucks from 40 to 44 tons. The weight-limit proposal is the only one of the three measures to survive. (April 14th)

Leaders of Romania's biggest trade unions, accusing the government of failing to turn reform promises into action and ease austerity, vowed on Thursday the 8th to go ahead with threatened nationwide rail strikes later this month. (April 14th)

A elevated monorail train in Wuppertal, Germany fell about ten metres from its suspended track into the river below on Monday the 12th. Four people died and over 50 were injured. This is the first fatal accident on the unique monorail since its opening in 1901. (April 12th/13th)

Mike Grant, deputy director of property at Railtrack, was appointed as the new British Passenger Rail Franchising Director on Wednesday the 7th. The former financial controller at Eurotunnel will be responsible for monitoring the performance of the 25 train operating companies and deciding which get new franchises. (April 12th)

China hopes to finish a five-year, $30 billion investment programme in railway construction by 2002, the official China Daily said on Monday. The network will be expanded to 70 000 km. Read more about the grand plans. (April 12th)

Egyptian Accident

Egyptian police have arrested the engineer of one of two trains that collided and caught fire in northern Egypt, killing three people. (April 12th)

Three people are dead and 50 injured after two trains collided head-on near the town of Shirbin, in northern Egypt, on Saturday the 10th. (April 11th)

1000 sensors have been built into 69 switches (turnouts) on a 30 km long strectch of track in Germany in an effort to find a solution to the problem of faulty turnouts, a source of delays and derailments. (April 11th)

Nuclear waste will again be transported by rail between Germany and France, if the German Länder (states) concerned give their OK. The transports were suspended in May 1998 after it was discovered that trains and containers were contaminated. (April 6th)

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

The Swiss Ministry of Transport has given the go-ahead to the building of the Gotthard Base Tunnel. (April 5th)

A parking lot used by students at the University of Mississippi is being blocked by rail cars on a track belonging to Mississippi Central Railroad, a division of Pioneer Railcorp. (April 5th)

Two people died in a derailment in Bangladesh on Friday the 2nd. 200 people were injured; details about the accident are sketchy and contradictory. (April 3rd)

European rail liberalization is moving like molasses in February due to resistance from the inefficient monopolies in France, Luxemburg and Belgium. The railways of these countries have so many excess workers that shedding them would pose a serious political problem. The Dutch Association of Rail Operators is so unhappy that it has asked the European Commission to undertake action in view of the still insufficient price/quality ratio and competition on the railroads. (April 3rd)

German DB AG has abandoned its demand that operators must buy their rail transport capacity at least three months in advance. In doing so DB meets a wish which especially played with the largest intermodal operator in Europe: Kombiverkehr AG. (April 3rd)

Commuter lines into London are becoming so overcrowded the system may soon be unable to cope, senior rail officials are warning. Figures released on Monday the 29th show that overcrowding on rush-hour main line trains is getting worse. (April 3rd)

CSXT and Union Pacific have announced an industry-first agreement that will streamline east-west rail traffic through major gateways that connect the two railroads. Although railroads traditionally "pre-block" freight cars for connecting railroads, this is the first time the process will use a formal, structured plan to direct flows through the most advantageous gateways, which will speed traffic and maximize the use of each interchange point. (April 3rd)

New Jersey Transit will be the first commuter line in the USA to implement automatic train control, which is common elsewhere. (April 2nd)

A Wisconsin, USA man is facing a possible five-year prison term after he was accused of driving his truck around a railroad crossing gate before being struck by a train. (April 2nd)

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