December 2001

Layoffs in China China's railway ministry has laid off 100 000 workers this year and plans to cut another 20 000 employees next year in a bid to increase efficiency and profits. The number of railway employees will be reduced to 1,43m workers by the end of next year. Profit will reach 500 million yuan ($60 million) after the staff reductions. Next year's revenue will reach 140 billion yuan. (December 29th)

Albania-Serbia Link Reopened Albania reopened a railway on Friday the 28th that links Albania with Yugoslavia, and the rest of Europe via Montenegro - a connection that was closed 11 years ago, when Belgrade's actions against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo froze relations in the Balkan region. (December 29th)

Amtrak Critic Launches Salvo Joseph Vranich has an anti-Amtrak article in the Washington Post of December 23rd. He has written several books about American passenger rail, and supports rail but not Amtrak. Join in the discussion at Google. See also a book review. find (December 29th)

New Tunnels in Sweden As part of a large infrastructure package, the Swedish government has given the go-ahead to two major tunnel projects, one under Malmö for SEK 8,8bn which will connect to the Øresund bridge, and the other, costing 6,5bn, through the Hallandsås ridge. Neither show a favorable cost-benefit ratio, but the Malmö tunnel will reduce journey times locally and nationally, and endow Malmö with three new stations. The Halland tunnel will eliminate slippery leaves and steep inclines which are a problem for freight trains. It will also let passenger trains zip past curves. Work on the Halland tunnel was stopped in 1997 after an environmental scandal. See also the official page in English, and the official Hallandsås page with a PDF in English. (December 20th)

Get Off the Tracks Please

Three People Hit by Express Three teenagers walking on fenced track in Philadelphia were killed by an Acela moving at 160 km/h on Sunday the 16th. Three days earlier, another Amtrak train ran into a minivan in California and killed its seven occupants. Police officers provided graphic details of the scene. In September, a 71-year-old man was also killed by an Acela train while walking on railroad tracks near his home. The FRA has now issued a press release saying that during 2000, 463 people died while trespassing on railroad property, and 425 were killed in train-vehicle collisions. Nearly half of all grade crossing collisions occur where properly functioning flashing lights or gates are in place. See also Philadelphia Daily News story. (December 20th)

Trains Hit 13 Trespassers in Scotland Last Year Concerns have been raised about the number of fatalities due to trespassing on Scotland's railway network. "Trespassing is mostly carried out by 14 to 17-year-old boys and it is a social problem and not just a railway issue," said Gerald Kerr, head of Scotland's railway inspectorate. (December 18th)

Bombardier Wins Orders, Closes Plants

click for enlargementBiggest-Ever Contract for Bombardier Bombardier Transportation has nailed its most lucrative contract ever, a C$2.3bn order for 500 regional 160 km/h trains for French SNCF. The articulated trains have a continuous low floor and come in diesel, electric or bi-modal versions. Designed and produced by Bombardier at its Crespin plant in France, the trains will be delivered starting in 2004 at a rate that will gradually reach eight trains per month. It's the biggest contract that SNCF has ever awarded to a foreign company. "Protected regional suppliers are no longer going to be favoured if they can't compete," a Banc of America analyst said. See also Bombardier's press release, Swedish story, and a great company backgrounder in French. (December 14th)

Bombardier In Shenzen Metro Deal In China, Bombardier is partnering with Changchun Car to build 114 metro cars, forming 19 trains, for the city of Shenzen for a total of C$222m. The first train will be manufactured in Hennigsdorf, Germany, the others in China. A Bombardier plant in Västerås, Sweden, will provide propulsion equipment for the trains. And in France, Bombardier is building 18 more double-decker TGV trains with Alstom. The additional order means the French railway will have 82 of the double-decker TGV trains by 2006, SNCF said. See also press releases from Bombardier and Alstom. (December 3rd)

Bombardier Builds 29 Trains for Oz Bombardier will build 29 two-car diesel units for train operator National Express to expand Victoria's passenger rail services. The deal also covers maintenance of the trains for the next 15 years. The firm order is worth C$339 million, but the contract also carries options for 10 additional two-car units, which could make the deal worth up to C$455 million. The stainless steel trains will be built at Bombardier's Dandenong plant in Victoria, with deliveries scheduled between October 2004 and July 2006. See also the press release. (November 23rd)

Bombardier Closes 3 European Plants Bombardier is closing three plants as part of a widely expected move in the aftermath of Bombardier's agreement last year to buy Adtranz, DaimlerChrysler's rail equipment division. After the changes, Bombardier will end up with 24 rail plants in Europe, in 14 countries. Most of the 1100 workers at the three plants being closed - in Ammendorf and Vetschau in Germany and Doncaster in the UK - will be offered jobs elsewhere in the company. See also Bombardier's press release which explains which plants will do what. find (November 15th)

Railway People Lead Railtrack

Two Rail Guys at the Top Railtrack has a new chief executive, John Armitt, former chief executive of Union Railways, the subsidiary responsible for developing the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. Mr Armitt's appointment comes alongside that of Jim Cornell, a former senior BR manager, who will become non-executive director. It is thought that this post will be the equivalent of chief operating officer. Steve Marshall, currently chief executive and John Robinson, currently chairman, have both resigned from the Railtrack board, but will remain on the Railtrack Group board. See also Railtrack press release. (December 14th)

EU Derails Corporatist "Newtrack"? Britain's plans to give train operators a place on the board of the company proposed to replace Railtrack could fall foul of European law, European Commission officials believe. The concern is that inclusion of train operators could jeopardise compliance with a European Union directive to ensure that operators' accounts and operations are legally separate from those of the company responsible for the network. Brussels thinks greater transparency will foster more competition among train companies and open up national networks to competing services. find (December 3rd)

Trans-Siberian Extended to Korea? Moscow and Seoul have moved a step closer to linking South Korea's largest port to a key rail hub in the Czech Rebublic via the Trans-Siberian, a project that could earn Russia $500 million a year in cargo transit fees. A group of 30 Russian specialists in North Korea are close to completing a feasibility study for the 930-kilometer broad-gauge railroad through North Korea. Preliminary calculations suggest the project will cost $250 million and take two years to build. The project is expected to turn a profit in three to five years. But a freight forwardering lobby cautions that there is a danger of depriving Russian sea ports of cargo. find (December 6th, thanks Alan Reekie)

Experimental Turbine Loco Bombardier and the US Federal Railroad Authority are testing an experimental turbine-electric locomotive, for use in high-speed applications without overhead electric lines. In October, the locomotive topped 240 km/h in testing at the Peublo test track, and went from 0 to 193 km/h in 120 seconds. It is powered by a 3729 kW Pratt & Whitney gas turbine engine running on conventional locomotive diesel fuel, and weighs 97,5t. It has since returned to Bombardier's plant in Vermont for improvements to the bogies. Authorities hope to test the loco in revenue service. (December 6th)

click for enlargementNight Star Renaissance Via Rail Canada has unveiled their new 180 km/h P42 Genisis locomotives which will pull the former Eurostar night trains, which have been renamed Renaissance. The "Night Stars" were originally built for overnight service in the Eurotunnel, but were never used. The 21 new locos will also replace some LRC locomotives in the Windsor-Toronto-Montreal-Quebec City corridor, as well as other engines. They are very similar to the Amtrak P42s. See also the press release. find (December 5th, thanks Kevin Egan, photo by Brian Switzer)

smile for the camera!DSB Presents Smiling IC4 Danish DSB has presented the first of 83 new 200 km/h four-car IC4 trains. The car bodies are of aluminium, and the train is powered by four Iveco diesel engines of a type also used for trucks/lorries. It is made in Italy by Ansaldo and has been given a friendly inviting look. One of the four cars is low-floor and has space for wheelchairs, bicycles, and baby carriages. The new trains will enable DSB to expand the fast InterCityLyn services, and shorten the trip time København-Ålborg by 35 minutes. See also drawings, article about designing the trains, and Yahoo story. find (December 5th)

Erik's Rail News Front Page