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February 2003

Canadian HSR Edges Nearer

HSR May Find Money in Greenhouse Funding Canada's transport minister hopes a high-speed rail link in Central Canada will become a reality in five or six years. Sources say the government is considering funding high-speed rail using money earmarked in last week's budget to meet its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The plan is to spend C$3bn to improve the Quebec City-Montreal-Toronto-Windsor corridor. In a press conference, the minister raised the prospect of road pricing for Canada's largest cities and a high-speed Montreal-Toronto rail corridor this decade. (February 26th)

More Rail Money in new Canadian Policy? Canada has released a new document on transport policy. Called "Straight Ahead", it builds on an evaluation of the Canada Transportation Act of 1996, which among other things made it easier for freight railways to transfer track to shortlines, or abandon it. The document says that commercialisation, privatisation and deregulation have served the sector and country well, but tweaks are needed. The new bill would require freight railways to carry goods at a regulated rate wherever there was only one railway for shippers to choose from. A brochure outlining the policy contains two sentences which can be seen as a victory for those advocating user fees for roads and more public funding for railways:

“Some infrastructure, such as rail lines, is paid for directly by users, while infrastructure like roads is paid for out of general tax revenues. Because most users choose their transportation method based on what it costs them to use it, establishing the right prices for transportation use (including the cost of building and maintaining infrastructure, the cost of any environmental impact, and the ‘social’ costs, such as accidents and congestion) will contribute over time to a more efficient system.” (February 27th, thanks John Brydle)

Propane Fire in Ontario More than 100 people in Melrose, Ontario, Canada, were evacuated after two CP freight trains collided at 04:45 Friday the 21st. One of the trains carried propane, which caught fire. It was believed that an eastbound freight train with a wheel on fire was moving along the single-rail line when it struck another train parked on a siding in the area, causing an explosion that shook items off shelves in nearby homes, firefighters at the scene said. (February 21st, thanks John Brydle)

SJ Loses €109m, Cancels Trains

Moisture Stops X 2000

SJ's X 2000 trains are in worse shape than previously known, and extra maintenance means 25 services per day are being cancelled. Moisture has gotten to the ball bearings on the wheel axles, causing the bearings to wear out. Seventeen out of the 37 X 2000 trains will be out of service untill repairs are complete in June. See also Tåg-nytt bulletin. (February 21st)

Swedish SJ Loses €109m

SJ logo Despite increasing revenues and passenger volumes, primarily in the fast X 2000 trains, government-owned passenger train operator SJ made a loss of SEK994m in 2002 on revenues of SEK5,71bn (+3%). Losses were incurred primarily from franchises. Most of SJ's long-distance services are not franchised and are a monopoly. SJ announced last fall that it needs SEK1bn from the government or it will go bankrupt. See also SJ press release. (February 19th)

JetTrain Goes North

Lab Rat for Acela?

A very well-placed source tells Erik that Bombardier's JetTrain is being used as much as a prototype for redesigning the Acela's cracking yaw damper structure as a public relations machine. The turbine loco isn't going anywhere in the USA unless both Amtrak and the FRA decide the retrofit makes the loco satisfactory for USA service. The JetTrain is based on Amtrak's 250 km/h Acela tilting electric train. See also "What are yaw dampers?". (February 19th)

Airlines and Bus Companies Take Notice

Bombardier's 240 km/h turbine-powered locomotive has generated a lot of press coverage during the tour of Canada. The federal minister of transport is said to be a fan, and money may come in this month's annual budget. But The Fair Transport Policies coalition fears that the mere announcement of a pro-fast-train policy for Via will hurt airport authorities by shaking the confidence of debtholders. Editor's remark: Can there be a better endorsement of the splendour of high-speed rail, than the fear of its competitors? See also more stories at Globe & Mail and Yahoo. (February 5th, thanks Jakob Christoffersen and John Brydle)

Fast Loco Tours Canada

Bombardier is bringing its 240 km/h turbine-powered JetTrain to Canada for show-and-tell demonstrations with federal officials and rail operators. Bombardier has identified the Montreal-Toronto and Edmonton-Calgary routes among 13 potential markets for its product. Upgrading the Montreal-Toronto route for the JetTrain would cost C$1,4bn. The Minister of Transport wishes to inject as much as C$3bn into nationwide rail improvements, both freight and passenger. Quebec has issued tenders to study a rapid passenger link to connect Montreal and New York, in addition to a parallel study under way for a fast rail link between Montreal and Boston. Also, Florida will close a bidding process for a fast-train link in February and Bombardier will submit its JetTrain proposal. See also stories from Canadian Press and Edmonton Journal. find (January 28th, thanks John Brydle)

125 Dead in Korean Metro Fire At least 125 people died Tuesday the 18th in a fire on a metro train in the South Korean city of Daegu. Police said a local man with a history of mental illness who is currently being treated in hospital, had admitted he started the fire. According to eyewitness reports, the man tried to use a cigarette lighter to light a milk container containing flammable liquid, but some passengers tried to stop him. Apparently a scuffle erupted and the box exploded into flames. See also CNN story and older BBC story. (February 19th)

Green Goat Heads North Union Pacific is testing the Green Goat hybrid switcher engine in its Chicago yards after almost a year in Sacramento. The locomotive will be in Chicago untill June. It has a turbine which charges a battery which powers an electric motor. The idea is that the turbine runs continually at an optimal output, which reduces emissions by at least 30%. See also manufacturer's website. (February 14th, thanks Nigel Horsley)

Boy, is it ever hot in here
UP Has Record Year and Visceral Critics Union Pacific's net income rose 39% last year, and though UP says profits for this year's first quarter will be lower than last, UBS Warburg has raised its rating from "neutral" to "buy". Worries over rising fuel prices are a short-term (less than 12 months) issue. • A group called Railroad Employee Safety and Quality, RRESQ, has started a campaign for better employee conditions at the railroad and alleges that "Railroad employees can be required to work up to 432 hours a month," or 22 hours per weekday, and "12- to 15-hour shifts in non-air-conditioned locomotives when the outside heat index can be in excess of 38°C". See also a reprinted newspaper article (in pink font). (February 14th)

30 Dead in Zimbabwe At least 30 people have been killed and many others injured after a passenger train collided with a goods train in western Zimbabwe. Reports suggest the goods train was carrying flammable materials. (February 1st)

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