December 2000

"Privatisation not a Failure" A wholesale restructuring of the British rail industry as a cure for its troubles was rejected on Sunday by Sir Alastair Morton, chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority, who insisted privatisation had been essential. "We're going to have to improve the structure we've got, we're not going to throw it up into the air and start again," he said. Last week the government faced backbench calls for Railtrack to be taken back into the public sector after months of disruption following the Hatfield crash. Sixty-nine MPs, mostly Labour, tabled a Commons early day motion saying privatisation of British Rail had led directly to the continuing crisis. (December 21st)

Railion Buys DSB Gods The German-Dutch freight railway has bought Danish DSB's freight unit, DSB Gods, which is a wagonload business since the less-than-wagonload part was sold to a Danish trucking company. DSB gets a 2% stake in Railion in return for the wagonload business. The rest of Railion is owned by the German and Dutch railways, 92 and 6 per cent respectively. As part of the deal, Railion is guaranteed to get compensation if track access charges are increased in Denmark during the next five years, and also if the charge for driving trucks over the new Øresund bridge are lowered. But Railion must also compensate DSB if access charges fall. See also story about the guarantee, as well as press releases at the Danish transport ministry and Deutsche Bahn. find (December 17th, thanks Flemming Bock)

Wisconsin Central Takeover Battle Intensifies The group attempting to return control of Wisconsin Central to Ed Burkhardt and his entourage has enlisted another ally in Tweedy, Brown & Co. which owns 6,49% of the company. The Wisconsin Central Shareholders Committee to Maximize Value, aka Burkhardt & Co., has 7,2% of the shares as well as the support of Southeastern Asset Management, which owns 14,4%. Meanwhile, WC management says that analysts recommend shareholders to reject Burkhardt's offer. See also PRs. find (December 16th)

VIA Buys Eurostar Night Trains Via Rail Canada has bought the Eurostar night trains which were supposed to have gone from northern England to Paris and other continental destinations. The 139 sleepers, coaches and service cars were never put in service. Half of them will be delivered to Canada whole, while the others will come in parts for assembly in Canada. Delivery of the cars will start immediately and should be completed by mid-2001. The first of the new cars is expected to go into regular service next fall. See also press release and photos from tests in Canada. (December 16th, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

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. find (December 16th, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

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. find (December 16th, 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 find (December 15th, thanks David Bromage)

Train Driver Dies After Derailment A passenger train hit a 20-tonne boulder on the Duoro line in Portugal, which runs parallel to the Duoro river east of Porto/Oporto. The accident ocurred at 7h30 Monday the 11th, and the train driver was killed and the locomotive (of the series 1400) fell in to the river. Seven people were wounded, the conductor seriously. The train was coming from Tua and was going to Porto. It is assumed that the boulder fell on to the track because of heavy rains and erosion. See also Público story. (December 15th, thanks Ernst Kers)

DSB Orders 83 AnsaldoBreda DMUs Danish DSB has ordered 83 four-car DMUs from AnsaldoBreda in Italy, and designed by Pininfarina. The trains will cost just over DKK5bn and seat 208 passengers. They will be called IC4 and be run by four Iveco diesel motors giving a top speeed of 200 km/h. The 180 km/h IC3 trains will be relegated to regional services. See also DSB page and press release. (December 14th)

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. find (December 14th)

RailEstonia Wins Eesti Raudtee An American consortium has won the bidding to purchase 66% of the Estonian state railway. RailEstonia is majority owned by the international consulting firm Kingsley Group, while U.S.-based RailAmerica and CSX Corporation each own a five percent stake in the consortium. find (December 14th)

1000 km Line to Tibet Chinese authorities expect to have a decision made to build a railway to Lhasa in Tibet by the spring. The railway would be at least 1000 km long, depending on where it connects to the exisiting network. See also AP story. (December 11th)

NSB Goes Private? The boss of NSB Gods, the Norwegian railway's freight division, wants the unit to become a limited company in order to be able to make quicker decisions, and to have greater flexibility in finding a partner, which is necessary as the European freight markets consolidates. Railways in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy have already merged their freight divisions or announced their intention to do so. Transport minister Terje Moe Gustavsen, and indeed a majority in parliament, is sympathetic to these ideas. See also story in English. (December 10th, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

46 Dead in India Forty-six people were killed when a passenger train collided with derailed freight cars in Sarai Banjara station, in Punjab state, on Saturday the 2nd. Railroad workers with blowtorches fought to reach screaming passengers trapped in the mangled wreck of a train after it crashed in a dense fog Saturday in northwestern India. 150 were injured, 45 critically. Four coaches of the passenger train were smashed and overturned in the wreck, trapping more than 200 passengers. Railway minister Mamata Banerjee resigned over the accident, but Officials in Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's office, said he had rejected Banerjee's resignation. It was not immediately known whether Banerjee would withdraw it. A broken rail is suspected to be the cause of the accident. (December 5th)

EC Eyes Bombardier-Adtranz Merger The European Commission is expected on Wednesday the sixth to open a full four-month antitrust investigation into Bombardier's plans to buy Adtranz for €725m ($644m). A four-month second stage probe usually ends with the Commission extracting additional remedies from the companies as the price of clearance. Adtranz' "fixed installations" (ie electrical) unit was sold to Balfour Beatty in September. find (December 5th, thanks Tobias Köhler)

Strikes at Eurotunnel Aslef, the British train driver's union, has scheduled a strike at Eurotunnel on December 15th. Earlier strikes on November 20th and 27th have not resulted in cancellations or delays, Eurotunnel says. Eurotunnel has so far insisted that it will only negotiate with the T&GWU trade union, with which it has a single union deal. See also Eurotunnel PR. (December 1st)

CP Sells CPR? Canadian Pacific may sell its railway and hotell chains as part of a restructuring to focus on energy, but not untill a few years. CP, a sprawling conglomerate which started as just the railway, has in recent years disposed of CP Airlines, trucking company CP Express & Transport, Algoma Steel, Maple Leaf Mills, and waste disposal company Laidlaw. CP's stock has quietly levitated 51 per cent from its low of $20.82 in 1995, reflecting the soaring profitability and successful global expansion of its hotel, oil and gas and transportation divisions. See also more Globe stories: 1, 2 (December 1st)

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