February 2001

Finland: ATP To Cover Another 2200km Finnish rail administration RHK will implement Phase III of its ATP plans. All passenger traffic and the most important freight lines will thus be covered by the end of 2005. The decision covers 2171km of track - of the earlier phases started in 1993, so far 1686km out of 2400km are now in operation and the final 700km will be covered this year. The installations will cost a total of FIM700m; this includes FIM300m for Phase III. (February 27th)

India Raises Freight Charges, Goes Digital India's railway budget will raise most freight charges to pay for long-delayed repairs, while leaving politically sensitive passenger fares unchanged. Higher freight rates will help finance a 26% increase on safety spending, to 20.5 billion rupees. Some 2300 people have been killed in railway accidents in the past six years. The railway is selling rights to put down fibre-optic cable along the tracks, and plans to start an electronic commerce company. Online transactions in India are likely to rise fivefold to 25 billion rupees in the year to March 2001, and the proposed company may also help the railway sell tickets. Also, a parliamentary panel wants the railway to pay a dividend of 7%. (February 26th)

Germany Tracks Freight Cars by Satellite Germany's DB Cargo is outfitting thousands with satellite-linked devices to allow exact tracking of their positions, in an attempt to make more efficient use of cars which often sit idle in foreign countries. The shoebox-sized tracking devices will be installed in about 13 000 railcars, or 10 percent of DB Cargo's fleet, over the next few months, company officials say. If the experiment is successful, it will expand the program to many other cars. See also DB page. (February 23rd, thanks Bengt Mutén)

Eurotunnel Figure Quits Patrick Ponsolle, executive chairman of Eurotunnel, the Anglo-French operator of the Channel Tunnel, announced on Monday he would step down after seven years at the helm. Mr Ponsolle said he had "the feeling that I have reached my goals in terms of ensuring the recovery of this company and I can move on". Mr Ponsolle's unexpected decision came as Eurotunnel reported an underlying loss before exceptionals of £124m ($180m) in 2000, down from a £139m loss. find (February 20th)

Railtrack Bankrupt? British Railtrack on Monday the 19th sought to deny growing speculation that it was facing bankruptcy. The company released a statement confirming that its financial position remained unchanged from January 15 when it said it was in talks with regulators over the payment and timing of £1bn ($1.4bn) in deferred government grants. The statement came after weekend media reports that the company had asked the government for an extra £2bn to resolve its financial crisis due to increasing costs arising from the Hatfield train crash. find (February 19th)

Cost Doubles for Railtrack's ECML Upgrade Railtrack has admitted that costs to upgrade the east coast mainline have soared by up to almost £2bn ($2.9bn), dealing another blow to its reputation. The cost could now be close to £4bn, double the original estimate. It raises the prospect that government subsidy will be used to meet some or all the extra funding for the project. Railtrack's reputation for managing big projects was dented by a near-trebling in the cost of the west coast mainline upgrade to £5bn. (February 15th)

Poland Privatises Polish PKP is slimming down in preparation for privatisation. Its payroll, which exceeded 200 000 at end-1999, now totals 167 000 and is expected to fall to 145 000 by the end of next year. The cut in headcount contributed to an 8% jump in productivity in the first three quarters of 2000, the company says. The railway, or at least its more attractive parts like the Warsaw subway, should not have to look far for investors. An advertisement soliciting interest in the Warsaw subway last year yielded letters from ten companies. find (February 14th)

Canadian Pacific Spins off CPR Canadian Pacific is splitting into five separately listed companies in an effort to increase shareholder value. Under the terms of the break-up, the group's hotel interests will remain as the only significant asset of the existing company, while holders of CP common shares will receive new shares in the spun-off operations. They comprise PanCanadian Petroleum, of which CP owns 86%, and the group's 100% stakes in Canadian Pacific Railway, CP Ships, and Fording Coal. See also Globe and Mail stories, 1 and 2. find (February 14th)

Pete Badcock has written a short history of the Eritrean railway, which is being rebuilt after its independance from Ethiopia in 1993. (February 11th)

Bangkok Scraps Road for Skytrain Bangkok city authorities have decided to convert an elevated road project into a skytrain extension route. Six of the planned twelve kilometres of road will be built as a skytrain, while the other half will be scrapped as it has not passed environmental tests. find (February 11th, thanks Alan Reekie)

Bosnia: Zagreb-Split Reopened HZ (Croatian railways), ZBH (Bosnia-Herzegovina railways) and ZRS (Republic of Srpska railways) recently reopened the river Una line which had been closed 9 years because of the war. Officially the line was opened on the January 26th, but only for the freight trains; passenger traffic will start according to the new timetable. The Una line was the main conection between the inlands and Dalmatia in the ex-Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, the line is not in the same condition as it was before the war - the electrification and signals are badly damaged and max speed (between Bihac and Knin) is only 40 km/h. See also map. The line runs Zagreb - Sisak - Volinja (HZ) - Dobrljin (ZRS) - Novigrad - Blatna (ZRS - ZBH) - Bihac - Martin Brod (ZBH - HZ) - Knin - (Split). (February 11th, thanks Toma Bacic)

England: 67% more seats on SWT British Stagecoach is investing £3.5bn ($5.9bn) into its South West Trains network in a bid to increase capacity by 67% adding up to 70 000 extra peak seats per day. £1.5bn will go to new trains that are similar in design to the Heathrow Express. The group's plans include improving the tracks between Waterloo and Surbiton, and redeveloping Waterloo, Clapham Junction, and Vauxhall stations. It will also introduce electronic information systems on all stations and trains, and spend a further £78m on disabled access to stations. (February 8th)

photo20 Trams for Dresden Bombardier and Adtranz are building 20 low-floor street-trams for the city of Dresden, Germany for €50m. Bombardier's share is about €35m. Adtranz is responsible for the electrical portion of the contract. The trams will be designed and built in Bautzen, Germany. Delivery of the vehicles will start in December 2002 and is scheduled to be completed by mid 2004. (February 7th, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

London Tube Strike A drivers' strike on the London Underground on Monday the 5th stopped trains on many lines. The one-day strike over the consequences of a "public-private partnership" for safety and jobs is due to be repeated for the next two Mondays, reinforced by backing from another union which was prevented by a court injunction from joining the union's stoppage. (February 6th)

SJ Almost Privatised The Swedish railway has been divided up into a number of limited companies owned by the government. SJ AB and Green Cargo AB are the old passenger and freight divisions, while Unigrid AB and Jernhusen AB are the former data and real estate divisions. TraffiCare, formerly SJ Terminalproduktion, provides shunting, cleaning and other services at stations to other train operators. Euromaint provides train maintenance services. The new SJ, Green Cargo and Jernhusen will stay in the government's hands, while the others are for sale. See also photos of Green Cargo's new livery 1 and 2. (February 6th)

180km Upgrade in Malaysia Adtranz and Balfour Beatty are upgrading a 180-km railway in Malaysia. The €250m project consists of converting single track to double track, electrification, and new signalling between Rawang on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh in the north. Balfour Beatty recently bought Adtranz' fixed installations division. See also Balfour Beatty PR. (February 6th)

Denmarks Shifts Sidelines to Provinces Denmark has shifted responsibility for the "private" railways from the national government to the provinces. The provinces must keep the trains running for four years. After that, services may be discontinued. Niels Mortenson, who is chief of the provinces' traffic department, thinks two or three of the 13 railways may be mothballed after the four years. See also PDF file from Adtranz' Swedish newsletter. (February 6th)

68 Injured in Amtrak Crash An Amtrak passenger train carrying 98 passengers rear-ended a freight train on Monday the 5th, causing mostly minor injuries to 68 people on board. The eastbound Amtrak train had just left the Syracuse station when it hit the back end of the 92-car CSX freight train, also eastbound, in an industrial area north of the city. The five-car Amtrak train was headed from Niagara Falls to New York City with 98 passengers and four crew members. (February 6th, thanks Bengt Mutén)

Open Access in Oz Victoria's main rail freight operator, Freight Australia, and the State Government are at loggerheads after the government decided last week to open rail freight to competition. Under the open access policy, Freight Australia, which leases most of the rail track in Victoria, must open the track to rail freight competitors after July 1 this year, although final pricing arrangements for the regime have not yet been determined. (February 5th)

1300 Evacuated After Ammonia Leak in Canada About 1300 people in red Deer, Alberta, displaced by an ammonia leak waited anxiously yesterday to learn if they would have to spend a second night away from home. Cleanup crews ran into problems during a pre-dawn attempt to lift a damaged rail car which has spilled 75 tonnes of anhydrous ammonia since derailing Friday night in the city's rail yard. Efforts to lift the punctured Canadian Pacific car had to be abandoned when vapour began to vent again. (February 5th)

Treaty on French-Italian Tunnel Italy and France have signed a treaty showing their intention to build a 52 km long tunnel between Lyon and Turin, with 254 km of new track. It is still uncertain how the tunnel will be financed, and whether it will have one or two tubes. If completed, the link would halve the journey time between the two cities from the current four hours. While the Turin-Lyons link has been under discussion since 1994, the political impetus behind the scheme increased significantly after the Mont Blanc tunnel fire. The blaze, which started on a truck and killed 41 people, exacerbated French concerns over the use of the tunnel by heavy goods traffic. See also FT.com story in English, and more articles from Le Monde. find (February 1st, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

Erik's Rail News Front Page