August 2001

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)

Connex Loses London Commuter Franchise Govia has taken over the Network South Central commuter trains in the London area from Connex. French-owned Connex was condemned following repeated complaints of late, dirty and overcrowded trains, and the franchise was withdrawn four years into a seven-year contract. New owners Govia are promising better services as part of a £1.5bn investment programme. See also SRA PR. (August 30th)

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)

Amtrak: Change Afoot?

Acela Revenue Target Missed by 6% The number of riders is lower than expected, complaints higher than hoped. Eight months after service began, Amtrak's high-speed Acela Express is still working out the kinks. "We think the service is performing extremely well," said Amtrak spokeswoman Cecilia Cummings. "We concede that ridership fell below our forecast by about 6%, and revenues by about 3%. But when you look at the drop in business travel in general, we're claiming victory." (August 22nd)

Washington Post Berates Congress In another sign that Amtrak might be given a sensible mandate, the Washington Post has written an editorial berating the US Congress for not giving Amtrak clear instructions to either become profitable or be a public service. Over the summer, Amtrak President George Warrington has lamented the practice of requiring a profitable company with unprofitable products. He has also announced job cuts. Perhaps the fast and glamorous Acela trains have given Amtrak the guts to get tough. (August 13th)

Connex Runs German InterRegios? Connex wants to take over interregional services in Germany from the Deutsche Bahn AG. DB AG has curtailed IR services saying that they compete with subsidised regional transit services. Connex has proposed to start a system of "InterConnex" trains in 2002, using rolling stock and personnel of today's DB AG InterRegio trains. Connex would revive cancelled IR lines and introduce a new fare system; later the introduction of new, more comfortable rolling stock is planned. But DB AG is not interested, and notes wryly that French Connex might attempt to let DB enter the closed French market. (August 22nd, thanks Tobias Köhler)

Hundreds Missing in Angola Train Attack Hundreds of people are missing in Angola after an attack on a train Friday the 10th in which more than 90 people are reported to have died. The train detonated an anti-tank mine which had been placed on the track, and armed men attacked the passengers who survived the explosion. The attack appears to be the work of Unita rebels, who have carried out a number of assaults in Northern Angola in the last few months. (August 22nd, thanks David Bromage)

LU Misses Performance Targets London Underground failed to meet all safety and service targets set by government last year. LU says that while improvement targets were missed, the number of passengers and services rose. Long term, London Underground could only solve underlying problems by starting the controversial public-private partnerships for the Tube infrastructure, said spokesperson Claire Filby. "What we really need is the big-investment, long-term solution," she said. Crime on London Underground last year fell by 20% and on the national railways by 2,7%, according to the British Transport Police. (August 13th)

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, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

Swiss Tilting Train Derails A Swiss tilting train derailed July 29th after a drive shaft broke. 800m of track was damaged, and all 22 trains will be checked. The cause may be a collision the day before, when the same train collided with cattle. (August 1st)

China Builds Railway to Tibet China has this summer started building the railway to Tibet. The Tibetan government in exile in India says the railway threatens the Tibetan way of life, but the Chinese government hopes it will lower the cost of goods which typically cost double in isolated Tibet compared to China. Once the track is laid, engineers say, three diesel engines will pull each train, and pressurized cars will protect passengers from the altitude. The 1118km railway will be ready by 2007. See also similar story here. (August 1st)

Mayor Loses Tube Challenge London Mayor Ken Livingstone has lost his court battle to block the government's part-privatisation of the London Underground. The government believes its controversial £13bn Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme is the only way to fund the modernisation of the London Underground. "The court's decision is simply that, irrespective of these issues, the government has the legal right to impose this scheme on London," Livingstone said. (August 1st, thanks David Bromage)

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