February 99

Norfolk Southern and CSXT hope to increase intermodal traffic by well over a third over just three years once the carve-up of Conrail is complete. (February 25th)

Canadian Pacific has asked for more time to file its defense in a C$45 million lawsuit launched by the Canadian Wheat Board. The dispute is about poor rail service during a winter storm last year. The CWB was going to sue Canadian National too, but they settled out of court. (February 25th)

Tough TOC talk

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has threatened further sanctions against poorly performing train operating frachises: "Don't think either that the length of the franchises held by train operating companies means that everything between us is set in stone. Don't think that because the franchises are contractually in place there is nothing we can do to drive forward improvements - that we will have to wait until the franchises come to an end," the BBC quotes him as saying at a rail conference in London. Also see story at Infoseek, parts one and two (neither part is particularly long). (February 25th)

Great Western Trains has been told to stop charging an extra pound for phone bookings immediately and refund thousands of passengers. The rail regulator, Chris Bolt, says GWT has breached its licence in charging the phone fee. (February 24th)

Road/rail crossings were the sites of more than 500 deaths and 1800 injuries in 1998 in the United States alone. A study chides railroads for not installing warning devices which stop the train if the track at the crossing is blocked, or systems to brake trains exceeding a safe speed. But the Federal Railroad Administration says that 1998 was the safest year in rail transportation history. (February 23rd/25th)

The Freight Victoria consortium has agreed to pay just over A$163m to operate the V/Line Freight concession in Australia under a 15-year renewable lease to operate and maintain the country rail network. Also see story at The Age. (February 23rd/25th)

The Gotthard tunnel in Switzerland was reopened yesterday, the 22nd. It had been closed following damage due to an avalanche. Repairs have now been made, and falling temperatures have reduced the risk of more avalanches. (February 23rd)

Two passenger trains were halted in north central Montana on Saturday after Amtrak received a threat that a train was carrying radioactive material, federal authorities said. Inspectors did not immediately report finding any radioactive material. (February 21st)

View of Bridge from SwedenThe east pylon of the Öresund Bridge is now complete and journalists have been invited up to the top of it on Monday the 22nd. The bridge is part of the fixed link between Sweden and Denmark, which will be opened for both road and rail traffic in the summer of 2000. (February 19th)

French ports, forwarders and shippers have launched an attack on French national railroad SNCF because of the - in their opinion excessive - rates for, in particular, container transport. (February 19th)

The Hamburg-Berlin Transrapid maglev does not enjoy solid support in the ruling Social Democratic Party. Some leaders stress not missing the opportunity the maglev represents, though others feel the contract between industry and government is unrealistic due to cost overruns. You can read a pro-Transrapid essay here, and one against here. (February 19th)

Norwegian NSB wants its money back plus costs associated with the eleven problematic Siemens diesels ordered. NSB has earlier announced its intention to return the locos, but now they are asking for damages as well. (February 19th)


Three people were killed and more than 100 people injured in a rail accident in southern Pakistan on Thursday the 18th. (February 19th)

One woman was killed and at least 20 people were injured when two trains collided in southern Germany on Thursday the 18th. The collision happened near Immenstadt in Bavaria after the last two carriages of an InterCity on its way to Dortmund came off the rails and hit a regional train travelling in the opposite direction. (February 19th)

Eighty people were injured when in a train in India on its way to Bangalore caught fire on Monday the 15th. (February 18th, more here)

Freight Consolidation in Europe

Austrian ÖBB is buying Express Internationale Spedition AG and Interfracht Internationale Frachtdienst GmbH. Both companies had been owned by Austria's Communist party. Also see the press release. And Belgian SNCB/NMBS is buying a forwarder, a distributor and a transport company. (February 17th)

The European Commission has split responsibility for rail competition issues, and this will complicate the accelerating trend towards consolidation, the Journal of Commerce writes. Directorate-General 7, the transportation division, is trying to push through a policy of open access to monopoly rail lines, but has no say-so over mergers. Directorate-General 4, the antitrust division, enforces a general merger law that concerns itself with the size of the merging parties, but has little jurisdiction over open access rights of shippers per se. (February 15th)

The stike at the London Underground is over. It was called after the RMT union demanded no compulsory redundancies under plans to partly privatise the tube. (February 17th)

A new JR East Shinkansen colour scheme will be applied to the new build of E3 series trains for use on Tsubasa services from December 1999 coinciding with the start of through services to Shinjo. (February 16th)

Amtrak hopes to carry more than 1.2 million people a year -- four times what it carries now -- between Detroit and Chicago by 2003. Michigan transportation officials hope higher train speeds will ease traffic congestion along Interstate 94. Plans call for increasing the number of round trips to Chicago from three a day to 10; a new signalling system wilm make room for more and faster trains. (February 16th)

Inter Ferry Boats has increased the frequency of its Limburg shuttle between the port of Antwerp and Born near the German border. (February 15th)

Heavy rain has washed out part of the rail track between Peterborough and Broken Hill, stranding the Indian Pacific and a freight train at Broken Hill in far western New South Wales, Australia. (February 15th)

Railroad crews completed cleanup Saturday of toxic chemicals spilled from a rail tanker that jumped the tracks in Utah on Thursday the 11th. However, workers continued the slow process of repairing the damaged tracks to allow the train to continue on its way. (February 15th)

The Australian Broadmeadow train factory has decided to let go of 230 people following the loss of a contract to sell trains to New South Wales. An official says the factory will close if no new contracts materialize. (February 12th)

The British Office of Passenger Rail Franchising has made a table comparing the performance of 25 train operating companies. Island Line got a nice A for punctuality and reliability, seven companies got a B, ten got a C, six got a D and Silverlink Trains was the only company to get an embarassing E. Goverment officials deplored the poor performance, and even the Association of Train Operating Companies said that "Punctuality is proving a hard nut to crack in the face of unprecedented growth." See also story at ITN. (February 12th)

AAR Bluster

The Association of American Railroads says technology aimed at preventing railroad accidents by telling if trains are too close together or going too fast isn't ready yet for widespread use. The comment was made in reference to speculation that such technology may have spared the lives of two rail workers in a January accident.

Others beg to differ: "It is very difficult for me to rationalize why the industry is not moving forward with this," said Barry Sweedler, director of the office of safety recommendations for the National Transportation Safety Board. Editor's note: The AAR is blustering. Perhaps they should investigate a 20-year old technology from Sweden.

Jim Sabourin, a BNSF spokesman, says safety systems must be advanced enough to provide efficiency gains as well if they are to be justifiable economically. A system allowing dispatchers to remotely limit train speeds for such purposes as train spacing, fuel conservation and reducing congestion at yards and junctions can increase capacity by 40%. (February 8th/12th)

The Swedish government won't be deciding on the future of the Hallandsås tunnel untill the fall. Construction of the tunnel has been halted since an environmental scandal in the fall of 1997. (February 12th)

FT.comA price war has broken out on the busy routes between London and Birmingham, as competition grows between rival companies anxious to increase their revenues. (February 9th)

Bonds for financing the London-Chunnel high-speed link go on sale today, Feb 9th. (February 9th)

Coordinated dispatching operations are to be implemented by Union Pacific and Burlington Northern in Southern California, the Kansas City area and the coal-rich Powder River Basin of Wyoming. (February 8th)

Reseau Ferre de France is going to spend about 12 billion francs a year over the next ten years on the LGV and conventional networks. Seven of the 12 bilion francs will come out of RFF's own pocket, which is filled with track access charges. (February 8th)

Bombardier will help provide and operate an automated 9,4 kilometre long underground rapid transit system for Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece. Bombardier will supply key elements of the rapid transit system including 36 light rail vehicles. The system will include 14 stations and cost about C$960 million. (February 7th)

UP will buy ICA's 13% share of the privatized Mexican railway Ferromex. UP also bid on another Mexican railway, Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana, at the time of its privatization, but lost out and had to settle for a share in Ferromex. (February 7th)

Swedish SJ has protested the government's decision to award operation of the Göteborg - Malmö intercity trains to the Go-Ahead Group. The decision jeopardizes SJ's contract with Danish DSB to run trains across the Øresund fixed link to København next year. SJ also doesn't know what to do with Göteborg - Malmö tickets sold in bulk to larger companies, and notes that only SJ may use the name X 2000TM. (February 5th)

Portuguese train drivers have halted state-run railway services between midnight and 0630 GMT daily in a protest against a regulation obliging them to staff their cabins alone. The strike is set to continue until February 5th. (February 3rd)

A court ruled late last week that Union Pacific effectively breached its contract to deliver coal from Wyoming's Powder River Basin to two Entergy Corp. plants in Arkansas when the railroad was suffering from gridlock. (February 3rd)

The US Surface Transportation Board has scheduled March 25 for its voting conference on the $2.4 billion merger proposed by Canadian National and Illinois Central. (February 1st)

The Paris-Strasbourg high speed line is set to be completed by 2006. Travel time will be reduced from just under four hours now to about two hours with trains travelling at 320 km/h. The French state and regions which will benefit will foot most of the bill for the new line with contributions from the European Union and Luxembourg. The first stage of construction will begin next year. (February 1st)

Some Finnish intercity trains will be fitted with seatbelts this fall. It has been determined that ten people who died in a derailment last year would have survived if they had been wearing seatbelts. source: Swedish Radio / Urban Fredriksson (February 1st)

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