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August 2002

West Coast Main Line to Shut for Four Months Britain's West Coast Main Line will be closed for 60 km near Stoke-on-Trent for 17 weeks while an upgrade is carried out, the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) has announced. This will force hundreds of thousands of passengers to take long diversions or switch to buses, which could add about an hour to some journey times according to the SRA. The closure is aimed at speeding up the upgrade which should allow Virgin's tilting trains to run on the line at speeds of up to 125mph (201 km/h) by the end of 2004. (August 29th, thanks Matt Carlson)

New Windsor-Detroit Tunnel The Canadian Pacific Railway has announced a plan to construct a new, C$600m train tunnel under the Detroit River. The government would pay C$150m while the CPR and its partners would pay C$450m. The tunnel would accommodate larger, more modern train cargo cars. The existing twin-tube train tunnel would then be converted into dedicated, commercial truck routes. See also earlier bulletins 1 and 2. (August 29th, thanks Alan Reekie)

Shower Dampens Rail Noise A water sprinkler system to silence train noise installed on a Worcestershire rail line has proved so successful it could be used across Britain. Railtrack engineers came up with the solution after Barnt Green residents noticed trains were quieter when it was raining. (August 28th)

Railion Buys Swedish Freight Rail? The Dagens Industri newspaper reported Saturday the 24th that Railion is interested in purchasing Green Cargo, the Swedish state railfreight operator. Green Cargo CEO Jan Sundling confirms that there may be changes to the company's ownership structure. He has earlier said that despite open access and Freight Freeways, his company must co-operate with the big continental operators in order to secure international services. The Swedish government has said that neither Green Cargo nor its passenger sibling SJ will be sold. Green Cargo recently purchased 45% of Norwegian CargoNet, which in turn owns Swedish bimodal operator RailCombi. find (August 27th)

Norway to Start Franchising 2004 Unprofitable parts of Norway's passenger rail network will be purchased through competitive tender by the government starting in 2004. Connex has been in contact with the ministry of transport and is preparing bids for lines which may be put out to tender. The ministry also wishes to make NSB Flytoget, the Oslo airport train, a free-standing company outside national train operator NSB. The ministry hopes this company will grow and eventually compete with NSB. NSB is a limited company owned by the government since July 1st. See also the transport ministry's press releases 1 and 2. (August 21st)

African Railway to be Privatised The 1760 km Tanzanian-Zambia Railway is to be privatised. Agencies from both countries will work out a timetable for the privatization process. (August 20th)

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)

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, thanks Mario Flores)

The flooding in Prag, Czech Republic, is the worst for 500 years, as the river is 7 metres above the normal summer level. International trains have been cancelled. Flooding in Germany is still bad and Dresden railway station closed Tuesday the 13th. Water is receding in Austria; the main lines west of Salzburg were cut off earlier in the week, but service has been restored. The Donau river was 15 meters (50 feet) above its normal level in Grein, where the river is thinner than elsewhere. See also more ÖBB press releases and DBAG press releases. (August 14th)

DB AG Rents Bikes Helping commuters shave time off their daily train commutes, German DB AG has extended a rental bike program to the nation's capital. To use the bikes, riders must first register a credit card or bank account number with the railway. When they want to use one of the bikes, registered customers use a mobile or pay phone to call a number on the bicycle's lock to get a code to unlock the bike. The program began two years ago in Munich, where 1100 bicycles are currently on the streets. See also DB press release. (August 14th)

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)

Un-Privatisation in Oz The government of Victoria, Australia, wants to dump its existing franchise deals with private operators and re-tender the contracts from 2003. But the move could lead to a huge compensation payout to operators and an uncertain future for commuters. The two metropolitan train franchises would become one, as would the two tram networks. Country passenger trains may also revert to government control. The former government-owned Public Transport Corporation was split up and privatised by the previous government in 1999. (August 11th, thanks David Bromage)

Freight Line Through Sydney A proposed dedicated freight line through Sydney, Australia would take 36 trains per day out of the congested CityRail suburban network. Federal Transport Minister John Anderson has proposed the A$180 million line as part of a $870 million upgrade of the New South Wales rail network. The plan aims to cut running times between Sydney and Melbourne from 13 to 10 hours, and between Sydney and Brisbane from 21 to 17 hours. The project would require the Australian Rail Track Corporation obtaining a 60 year lease on the NSW interstate rail track. See also The Age article and Transport Minister John Anderson's speech. (August 11th, thanks David Bromage)

Heat on Amtrak

Acelas Break Down Amtrak's fast new Acela Express and other Amtrak services have proved so popular that Amtrak now hauls more New York-Washington passengers daily than both the Delta and US Airways shuttles combined. But the Acela Express has also become increasingly unreliable. In July, there was an average of one cancellation or en-route breakdown for mechanical reasons every day. The train also has the worst on-time record of any Northeast Corridor train. New bosses at Bombardier and Amtrak have decided to focus on a recovery plan and not let the ongoing legal battle inflame the situation. (August 7th)

Survey Shows Strong Public Amtrak Support A large majority of Americans favor continuing federal subsidies to Amtrak, and a substantial percentage would increase federal funding so the ailing passenger railroad can increase service, according to a Washington Post poll. (August 7th)

Heat Likely Cause of Amtrak Derailment Six people suffered life-threatening injuries when an Amtrak train en route from Chicago to Washington derailed on CSX tracks on Monday the 29th just north of Washington. The derailment threw six of the 15 passenger cars onto their sides. The train was traveling around 100 km/h (60 mph), below the posted speed limit of 70 mph (113 km/h). The train driver applied the brakes after seeing misaligned track, and an examination by NTSB investigators after the crash showed that the rail was 76 cm out of alignment and had reached a temperature of at least 48°C. CSX has announced hot-weather speed restrictions for 37 000 km of track after federal investigators raised the possibility that heat-warped track contributed to the accident. The accident also took a toll on Amtrak equipment, adding more cars to an already long list of those awaiting repairs. (August 2nd, thanks Bengt Mutén)

New People at Amtrak David L. Gunn, Amtrak's new President, appointed two people last month. John F. Tucker III, from the New York City Transit Authority, is in charge of schedules and crew assignments, and Jonathan H. Klein is new the Chief Mechanical Officer. Both are technicans in their fields and worked for Mr. Gunn at SEPTA, the Southeast Pennsylvania Transit Authority, which runs commuter trains. Mr. Gunn and Mr. Klein both believe that passenger rail cannot function without long-term public funding. See also a new Amtrak book review by Owen Hardy. (August 2nd)

New Railway for Renovated Moscow Airport The new railway from the Paveletsky Railway Terminal in Moscow to the Domodedovo airport was opened August 1st. Travel time from Moscow to the airport is 40 minutes, and the ticket price of 50 rubles is included in the airfare. Baggage check-in is available at the rail terminal. The line was built by Moscow Railroad, which spent 500m rubles ($15.8m) on it, and the East Line company, which runs the shiny new Domodedovo airport. East Line also caters hot meals on the Moscow - St. Petersburg Nikolaev Express. (August 6th, thanks Alan Reekie)

Loose Bolts Caused Sicily Crash

Several Faulty Joints Jan de Haan reports: The cause was a loose rail joint, i.e. missing bolts and loose bolts at the plates holding the rail ends together at the joint. The same defects were present on other joints in the area. Generally the track was in appaling condition, with many rotten sleepers. Track screws no longer retained track and could be pulled out by hand, as demonstrated live on Italy's RAI TV station. The accident sheds a grim light on the state of neglect of the rail infrastructure in Sicily. (August 5th)

Eight Dead in Sicily Eight people died in Sicily in southern Italy on Saturday the 21st when their train derailed and crashed into a bridge which collapsed. The train, which had about 190 people on board, jumped off the tracks as it neared Rometta Marea station, 30 km from Messina. See also stories at La Repubblica and Svenska Dagbladet. (August 2nd, thanks Toma Bacic)

Track Bombing in Israel A commuter train in Israel went over a bomb in the tracks on Sunday July 21st. There were no casualties. See also another story. (August 2nd, thanks Toma Bacic)

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