EriksRailNews.comLinks Press Releases Archive In Your Phone About Guestbook

February 2004

Disability Site Angers Transit Authority

Västtrafik logo The Göteborg, Sweden transit authority Västtrafik has reported a disabled passenger's website to the domain name authority for defamation. The site was started by Erik Ljungberg after he was thrown off a low-floor tram for using a wheelchair. Västtrafik says the wheelchair is a safety risk because it cannot be properly fastened. See also tram photos and info, Västtragik spoof, real Västtrafik site, SJ refuses disabled passenger return trip. (February 27th)

China Builds & Reforms

Huge Chinese Rail Expansion

China plans to build 28 000 km of new railway by the year 2020, bringing the network to 100 000 km, half of which will be double-track, and 12 000 km of which will be dedicated for passenger trains, presumably running at high speed. archive (February 24th)

China Reforms

The Chinese goverment wishes to attract foreign investment to finance new construction. Railways Minister Liu Zhijun says attracting foreign capital is also part of a drive to reform the railways to make them more efficient. This probably means market reforms. Last year the railway made a profit of about 500m yuan, $60m. See also Xinhuanet story and Eurail Press bulletin. (February 24th)

Graffiti Database Tracks Vandals

Danish DSB has built a database of graffiti "tags" and the individuals suspected of spraying them. The database makes it easier to apprehend vandals. The town of Odense now pays DSB to access the database. The city of København and København's police department also subscribe to the service. In København, DSB has 18 employees working full time removing graffiti from commuter trains. See also DSB's page on the graffiti problem. (February 23rd)

Strike in Canada

CAW logo Workers at Canadial National are on strike since Friday the 20th, demanding the railway pays them more. The Canadian Auto Workers Union, which organises workers at CN, has rejected a three-year deal with annual wage increases of 3%. The union says the average annual salary of the workers is about C$45 000. Besides salaries, employees are dissatisfied with working-condition provisions, including disciplinary matters. The strike has related in minor delays, CN says. See also earlier story, CN press release, and CAW press release. (February 23rd, thanks Bengt Mutén)

200 Killed in Iran as Fuel Wagons Explode

Runaway fuel wagons blew up in north-east Iran Wednesday the 18th, killing at least 200 people and injuring 400 in a huge explosion that destroyed homes along the tracks. The 51 wagons, carrying petrol, fertiliser and sulfur products, may have been set loose by earth tremors. Iran is in the middle of an extensive rail expansion. See also BBC story and story on the expansion. (February 18th, thanks David Trinh and Bengt Mutén)

Alstom Recovers With 400 Locos

SNCF Orders 400 Diesel Locos

French SNCF last week ordered 400 diesel locomotives for €836m from Alstom and Siemens. The deal is led by Alstom, whose share of the order is 58,5%. An option for another 100 locos would make the order worth more than €1bn. Delivery will take place 2006-2015. They will be used for freight service in France and will also be approved to operate in Germany. They will weigh about 84 metric tons, develop a continuous rating of 1600 kW at the wheel rim, and have a maximum speed of 120 km/h. SNCF also ordered 60 electric locos from Alstom for commuter service, it announced on February 9th.

Alstom stockAlstom, which almost went bankrupt last fall, has seen its share price rise over 25% within a week, partially due to this order. There has also been a rumour that China has contracted Alstom to build the giant Shanghai-Beijing high-speed railway. Alstom has also recently won an order for their turbines business. See also Eurail Press story, IRJ bulletin, Reuters story, Alstom PR, SNCF freight PR, and SNCF passenger PR. archive (February 17th)

New DSB Trains Too Long

IC4 photo Danish DSB's shiny new IC4 trains, to be put in service this year, are too long for some platforms. Rail administration Banestyrelsen is looking at how many stations will have to be lengthened. The problem will occur when DSB runs four of the 200 km/h diesel trains together. Even the platforms at Østerport, which are less than three years old, need extending. All of the 83 trains are to be delivered by 2006. The four-car trains are 86m long and 3,15m wide. See also two stories on the building of the new trains, 1 and 2, DSB's IC4 page and information in English. archive (February 17th, thanks Jakob Christoffersen, photo © Jens Hasse/Chili)

Eurotunnel Trains to Italy

Eurotunnel Trains Compete in France

Eurotunnel logo Eurotunnel has been licensed by the French government to run its own freight trains in France, in competition with state-owned FRET SNCF. The government decision is in compliance with an EU directive which introduced open access competion in March last year. Eurotunnel plans to run trains from Britain to Milan and Basle. See also press release. (February 17th)

Eurotunnel Strains Under Debts

Starting 2006, Eurotunnel must start paying down debts and will get less money from train operators. But Eurotunnel's revenues are too low to pay down debt, so the company wishes to sell a share of future revenues to finance new loans. This might involve lower access charges, but Eurostar said: "The current structure is not holding back our growth in passengers." On the other hand, freight operator EWS has threatened to stop running trains through the "chunnel" unless charges are reduced. London and Continental Railways may buy into the company, which would let Eurotunnel reduce its debt. See also Independent story, Economist story, and Eurotunnel press release. (February 17th)

Amtrak Asks Congress for $1,8bn

Amtrak has requested twice as much in funding for 2005 as the White House is proposing. Half the money would go to repairs in trains and track. "We go through this dance that we're going through now every year," says Amtrak boss David L Gunn. See also Amtrak press releases 1 and 2. archive (February 13th, thanks Jakob Christoffersen)

Dutch Phone Ticket Trial

Dutch NS is trialing SMS ticketing on the Netherlands to Kön, Frankfurt and Düsseldorf routes. Customers receive a text message to their mobile phone with a unique number which they present to the inspector. The technology was in use in Austria as early as 1999. See also NS press release. archive (February 11th, reported by David Peilow)

Cheaper and Simpler Tickets in Sweden

Swedish SJ has introduced a new fares structure to compete with low-fares airlines, and to respond to criticism that the fares are too complicated. The new weapon is the Ryanair-style Just Nu ticket, which varies in price but goes down to 219 kr for a Stockholm- Göteborg X 2000 ticket, twenty crowns less than the Nordic Airlink airline. Ordinary 1st and 2nd class tickets, plus a last-minute ticket for students, under 26's and retired people, round out the system. SJ boss Jan Forsberg says the new system lowers fares by 15-20% and requires 5-10% more passengers to avoid lower revenues. See also story on the "mum wants you to visit" ad campaign, stories at DN, SvD, SJ info, press release, plus older Nordic Airlink story at Göteborgs-Posten, SJ's travel planner, and Nordic Airlink's website. (February 11th)

JR East to build 360km/h trains

East Japan Railway will build two prototype bullet trains capable of a top speed of 400 km/h and test them from 2005 to 2008 in northeastern Japan. It aims to launch the trains by 2013 and run them at a maximum speed of 360 km/h, which it says would be the fastest in the world for commercial [conventional] trains. (February 11th, reported by David Peilow)

Taiwan Shinkansen Unveiled

The first four cars of the 700T shinkansen trains destined for Taiwan have been unveiled. They will be formed as 12-car sets and have a maximum operating speed of 300 km/h. Services on the Taiwan High Speed Line are scheduled to start in 2005. archive (February 11th)

Paying up for Late Trains

Fines for Late Trains

Swedish rail administration Banverket and train operator SJ are testing fines as a way of keeping each other on their toes. An X 2000 train between Stockholm and Göteborg which is an hour delayed costs about €12 000, which SJ pays to Banverket if the delay is attributable to them, and vice-versa. The tests started in December. Last year, 28% of these trains were delayed 5 minutes or more to the end station. See also story at Piteå-Tidningen. (February 10th)

DB Reimburses Passengers of Late Trains

Passengers who are delayed an hour or more because of late German DB long-distance trains will get a 20% refund, starting October 1st. See also DB PR and stories at Eurail Press 1 and 2. archive (February 5th)

Stations Unwired

Wifi in Britain and Eurostar

The long list of places where train passengers may connect to wifi, fast wireless internet, now includes a GNER train in Britain, and by this summer, Eurostar trains and 15 British stations. See also stories about Eurostar and GNER. (February 11th)

Wi-Fi in six Amtrak Stations

Amtrak and AT&T are putting wireless internet access in six stations along the Northeast Corridor. It costs $10 for 24 hours. See also Amtrak press release. (February 10th, thanks John Brydle)

Free WiFi Internet at Stockholm Central

City Access logo WiFi hotspot company City Access is offering free wireless broadband internet for all at Stockholm Central station during February. The requirement is a computer with wifi, also known as w-lan, wireless ethernet or Airport. City Access plans to roll out their service at Sweden's 50 largest rail stations this year. See also Macworld Sweden article, Macnytt test report, and City Access website. archive (February 3rd)

HSR Would Ease British Congestion

A network of 320 km/h railways north of London is needed to relieve congestion on the current network, says top government adviser Professor David Begg, chairman of the Commission for Integrated Transport. A high-speed line, possibly with trains using the wider European loading gauge, could add three times as much capacity compared to upgrading the West Coast Main Line. Planning must start now since the current network will be saturated in 10 years, CfIT says. Ministerial anxiety over public spending has so far pushed this plan off the agenda, but CfIT says the alternative is higher fares which would be both unfair and drive passengers back on to an already crowded roads network. See also CfIT press release and stories at Railnews UK, BBC and the Guardian. archive (February 9th, thanks Jakob Christoffersen)

Bombardier Delivers French Trains

VIPs Bombardier has delivered the first of 500 AGC trainsets to French SNCF. It was built in a record time of 26 months. It has low floor throughout, level with the platforms. For wheelchairs, there is a system to fill the gap between the platform and train. The C$2,3bn order is SNCF's biggest ever to go to a foreign company. The trains are built in Crespin, France, and will be put into regular service in December. They are 295 cm wide and each coach shares a bogie with the next. See also Bombardier's AGC page. archive (February 7th)

Few Maglev Passengers in Shanghai

The Shanghai airport maglev has only 600 passengers per day, even though there is one every ten minutes, and each takes 450 passengers. The German-built Transrapid train does not go to the city centre, so passengers must change to metro at the edge of town. See also Spiegel story. archive (February 7th)

Opponents Manoeuver Against Florida High-Speed Rail

In the three years since Florida voters approved a high-speed railway, an authority has been formed; the first route, between Tampa and Orlando, has been chosen and studied; and a builder/operator has been hired. But opponents including Governor Jeb Bush continue to manoeuver against it, cutting funds. archive (February 7th, thanks Jakob Christoffersen)

Staffing Shortage Shrivels Sydney Services

Commuter services in Sydney, Australia, are suffering from an acute driver shortage. Nearly 13% of drivers are either sick or in safety training. Train operator RailCorp is implementing stricter driver health checking and vigilance control systems on the trains after an accident report was published January 15th. The report concluded that both poor driver health and a mechanical failure of the "deadman's pedal" lay behind a January 2003 crash when 7 people died. The trains used are known as Tangaras and are double-deck. See also accident report story, editorial, and Tangara photos. archive (February 6th, thanks David Trinh and Brett Armstrong)

Government Study Recommends Crossrail

crossrail logo Crossrail, the £10bn proposal to build an underground railway linking stations in east and west London, is expected to be approved by a crucial report to be delivered to the Department for Transport this week. The Confederation of British Industry agrees that businesses should help pay to ensure it gets the go-ahead from ministers. But the report has been delayed since it suggests the government should pay more than the £2bn previously mentioned. See also earlier story at The Independent. archive (February 5th, thanks Jakob Christoffersen)

Researchers Develop Traffic Controller

screenshot Researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden are developing software to help traffic controllers visualise, predict, and manage delays. The software keeps track of constraints such as inclines, where parking a freight train would be a bad idea. The traffic controller's solution to a problem is then deployed on the rail network through signal information to the trains. See also Computer Sweden story and screenshot in PDF. (February 4th)

Road-Rail Bus Reduces Cost

Hokkaido Railway has unveiled a dual-mode bus with retractable train wheels for use on tracks. Converting between road and rail mode takes 15 minutes. The busses will be put into service in about three years to lower the operating costs of branch lines. Hokkaido is also developing a low-cost signalling/traffic control system based on GPS, the global positioning system. (February 3rd, thanks Piotr Nietz)

6000 Job Cuts in Czech Rep.

CD logo Ceske Drahy, the Czech national railway, announced in January that 6000 jobs out of a total of 77 500 are to be cut by April. The railway has been shedding about 3000 workers per year for the past decade. The job cuts are in response to financial losses and increased automation. (February 3rd, thanks Piotr Nietz)

Australia Builds More

First Passenger Train to Darwin

Here we come! The Ghan passenger train made its inaugural trip to Darwin, Australia, earlier this week. There were two locomotives and 43 cars, giving a length of over 1 km. Previously limited to making a half trans-continental trip, the train now runs coast to coast after 1420 km of new railway was completed in September. In the summer, temperatures in central Australia can reach 50°C in the shade. On top of that there is a three-month monsoon season further north. See also Kelvin's report and photos. archive (February 3rd, thanks Kelvin and Don Newing)

Australia Integrates Networks

Following on from the leasing of interstate and Hunter Valley railway lines in New South Wales to the Australian Rail Track Corporation and the opening of the Alice Springs-Darwin railway line, Australia's roads, rail and ports will be upgraded in a A$2bn nation-building project to integrate transport systems across state borders. See also leasing info at ARTC. (January 20th, thanks Les Brown)

First Darwin-Adelaide Train

After three days of hype and huge celebrations to mark the first historic rail journey from Australia's south coast to the north coast, Adelaide to Darwin, it was down to business for the train line's operators on Sunday th 18th. The first 1,2 km freight train which pulled into the Port of Darwin amid much fanfare on Saturday has already left town for its return journey south, carrying 700 tonnes of freight. See also FreightLink press release. archive (January 18th, thanks Les Brown)

Erik's Rail News Front Page