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December 2003

Shanghai Transrapid Begins Regular Service

Shanghai's German-built airport maglev started regular service on Monday the 29th. Trains run only mornings, and all-day service will start in February. Problems with transmission and cabling resulted in costly modifications, and the project lost €50m for owners Siemens and Thyssen-Krupp. See also Die Welt story and official Transrapid site in English. archive (December 30th)

Over 1 billion served

Britain's railways today celebrate carrying a billion passengers in a year, for the first time in over 30 years. A junior transport minister will award a chosen billionth passenger free UK-wide train travel for the whole of 2004 in a ceremony at Liverpool Street station. In the early 1980s, there were barely more than 600m passenger journeys annually on Britain's railways. Also, passengers travelled 40,1bn km in the year to the end of September, higher than at any time since 1947, and higher than 1994-95 when the number was 28,7bn. • Swedish passenger rail increased market share to 10,3% in 1999-2001. See also Ananova story. archive (December 29th)

Extra Via Rail Money Frozen

Canada's new prime minister Paul Martin has frozen C$700m in extra funding for VIA Rail, and will likely cancel the package to avoid a deficit. "Our No. 1 objective is health care," said the prime minister, who oversaw C$42bn in spending cuts during the mid-'90s as former prime minister Jean Chrétien's finance minister. See also Canadian Press story and IRJ bulletin. archive (December 28th)

SRA Consolidates Franchises

SRA Shortlists Kent Bidders

DSB logo Four bidders have been picked to bid for the new integrated Kent franchise, which will include domestic services on the high-speed Channel tunnel rail link (CTRL); among them are three British train operators, and DSB, the Danish state railway. The Strategic Rail Authority has also announced that it is buying new trains for the CTRL part of the franchise. See also press releases from SRA and DSB. archive (December 24th)

All Trains at London Station to National Express

The British Strategic Rail Authority has announced that National Express will run the first franchise to include all trains at a main London terminal – Liverpool Street Station – and serving an entire geographic region. The new franchise will combine Anglia, Great Eastern, and West Anglia rail services (ie northeast of London) from April 2004. See also Independent story, IRJ bulletin, and SRA press release. (December 23rd)

Loans Accelerate Swedish Rail Projects

Banverket logo Three delayed rail projects will start 2004-2006 and be financed with government loans. These are the double-track Mälar tunnel (previously known as Citybanan) for commuter trains Stockholm, which in effect will quadruple the existing congested double track south of Stockholm Central; track doubling Göteborg-Trollhättan(-Oslo), which will enable frequent commuter service to Trollhättan; and track doubling Hallsberg-Mjölby, a major freight artery. Banverket will pay back the loans when the delayed grants arrive. The grants had to be delayed due to a cyclical downturn in tax revenue. Also, the goverment will finance the Mälar tunnel on its own, without help from the city of Stockholm. See also press releases from Banverket and the government, and project information at Banverket on the Stockholm tunnel, Göteborg-Trollhättan, and Hallsberg-Mjölby. (December 19th)

Dubai to Open 72km Light Rail System in 2010

Dubai, United Arabian Emirates, is building a 72km, $4bn underground and elevated light rail system, to be opened in 2010. Two lines, Red and Green, with a total of 55 stations are planned. The system is being engineered by Systra, France. See also Systra press release. (December 18th, thanks Jakob Christoffersen and Ernst Kers)

Arriva in Britain and Denmark

New Single Franchise for Wales

Arriva logo Passenger service in Wales has come under a single franchise run by Arriva. Under the deal signed in October between Arriva and the Strategic Rail Authority, Arriva will receive subsidies totalling £1,63bn over the 15 years it holds the contract. Arriva promises that passengers delayed over an hour will get refunds. See also British Arriva press releases 1 and 2. (December 18th)

Arriva Recovers in Denmark

Arriva started running its own Århus-Langå-Struer trains again on Sunday the 14th in Denmark; state railway DSB has taken them back for a few months as Arriva had a driver shortage. Arriva has the franchise till 2010. Also, Arriva is putting its new Alstom Lint trains in service in 2004, the first one arrives in February. See also comparison of the very similar Siemens Desiro, Alstom Lint, and Bombardier Talent trains. See also Arriva press release. archive (December 18th)

SJ Quits Bergslagen Franchise

TiB Itino Diesel train SJ wants out of the Tåg i Bergslagen franchise around Falun. The contract includes an option to run the trains 2006-2009, but SJ says they will not honour the option. There would still be excess capacity if patronage increased 50%, they say. See also SJ press release and large version of the pretty photo. archive (December 18th, photo Ulf Palm/TiB)

Flensburg Express to be Refranchised

German train operator Flex AG has gone bankrupt and their trains north of Hamburg are currently run by Nord-Ostsee-Bahn, a subsidiary of Connex. A new franchisee will take over in December 2005 and run the trains for 9 years. The 180km line has 3000 passengers per day and is subsidised by the province of Schleswig-Holstein. The trains Connex now uses for the Flex service come from the cancelled Rostock - Berlin - Köln - Neuss InterConnex. See also older Eurail Press bulletin and Connex press release from September 26th. (December 16th)

BC Rail Leased to CN for 60 Years

The province of British Columbia is leasing BC Rail to Canadian National for C$1bn for 60 years. The social democratic NDP opposition and unions say the price was too low, that CN will raise freight rates, and that there will be more job cuts than the 430 announced. CN executive David Edison will oversee the integration of BC Rail into CN. Legislature is expected to pass the deal as it is backed by the Liberal party. See also further CBC stories 1 and 3. archive (December 15th)

California Budget Delays HSR

Several organisations supporting a new high speed railway in California are making efforts to stop a November 2004 vote on the project, because it would probably not be approved due to the current budget crisis. "It is better not to have a vote than to have it and lose," said one supporter. See also official page. archive (December 15th, thanks Jakob Christoffersen)

Europe-Africa rail tunnel agreed

Spain and Morocco have agreed to do engineering tests on a 39km tunnel beneath the Mediterranean Sea, linking Europe and Africa. Technical studies suggest that the tunnel could descend to between 100 and 300 metres under the sea. A decision on whether to start digging will be made in 2008. See also stories at BBC and Reuters, and Usenet conversation. (December 15th/17th, thanks Brian Weedon)

Sri Lanka Plans Light Rail Network

Sri Lanka plans to build 56 km of elevated light railway in the main city of Columbo. It would cost $920m and benefit from Indian expertise, as similar elevated light railways have been built in New Delhi and Calcutta. See also Xinhuanet story. (December 13th, thanks Jakob Christoffersen)

Virgin Pendolinos at (Almost) Full Tilt

photo British Virgin's tilting Pendolino, made by Alstom, impressed journalists with a flawless premiere tilting performance at 200 km/h on Friday the 12th. Tilting services from London to Manchester begin next September, cutting the journey time from two hours 44 minutes to two hours and six minutes. The trains have already been put in service, but with tilting turned off. Actuators in the track tell the train to tilt, but there are also on-board gyroscopes which sense lateral momentum. Earlier plans to upgrade the railway to let the trains reach 225 km/h have been abandoned. See also BBC story and Virgin Trains press release, and Alstom press release. archive (December 13th)

Britain Grapples with Legacy of Reforms

Network Rail Gets Incentive for Extra £7bn

British Network Rail is to get £22,2bn over the next five years to improve the railways. This is an increase of 47%, but less than the £35bn Network Rail originally asked for. The new funding is conditional on Network Rail improving punctuality and reliability, and doing more and better maintenance and renewals. The incentive scheme is not yet finalised, as the Rail Regulator and government disagree on the proportion of direct grants and track access charges. Modernisation of the west coast main line is to be delayed further. See also stories at BBC, The Independent, and Railnews UK. (December 13th/15th, thanks Jakob Christoffersen)

Fewer Trains More Late

Despite cancelling trains to reduce congestion on the network, British intercity trains are more late now than a year ago. Over half of delays were attributable to track and signalling. Nationally, all trains were over 80% on time, the same as last year. See also Guardian story and SRA press release. archive (December 13th)

British Fares to Rise 9%

Since privatisation, British train fares have been rising slower than inflation. Now, to find money for badly needed investment, fares are rising quickly. See also Independent story. (December 13th)

British Rail Enquiries to India

Britain's rail inquiries telephone service is to be run from India to cut costs. archive (December 13th)

Auckland Considers Underground Loop

The Auckland, New Zealand City Council says an NZ$500m underground railway through the heart of Auckland's central business district is a genuine engineering and economic possibility. It would form a loop with the existing line and thus convert the Britomart terminus into a through station, increasing its capacity. (December 10th, thanks Jakob Christoffersen)

New German Sleepers

zzz DB's new 200 km/h sleepers have entered service between Paris and Berlin. They have wall plugs for laptops etc. in each compartment, plus one in the WC for electric shavers, and two-way intercom with the coach host. All water in showers and washbasins is drinkable. They are made by Siemens SGP in Graz, Austria. Forty-two coaches have been ordered for €50m. See also second press release and more photos. (December 10th)

36 Dead in Chechnya Bombing

Thirty-six people died after a suicide bomber attacked a commuter train Friday the 5th near the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya. (December 10th)

Japanese Maglev Reaches 581 km/h

A manned Japanese maglev train has attained 581 km/h and broken the previous speed record, held by an unmanned maglev. The German-built maglev in Shanghai recently reached 501 km/h, and the record for conventional rail, 515 km/h, was set by a French TGV in 1990. See also stories at Washington Times and Ny Teknik. archive (December 4th)

Bombardier to Close Five Factories

Bombardier intends to close five or six factories in Europe in 2004 and 2005 because they are only running at 35-40% capacity, says boss Paul Tellier, but he has not said which factories. In October the talk was that the factories were to be closed by January 2004. Bombardier made a small increase in profits in the third quarter this year compared to last year, due to strong performance in the aircraft division. See also story in Swedish. archive (December 3rd)

Holiday Train Helps the Hungry

lots of lights For the fifth year, CP's holiday train is traversing the network to raise donations for foodbanks and raise awareness of the issue of hunger. Help the homeless in your area. They do not deserve their plight. archive (December 1st)

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