January 99

The German Transrapid maglev won't be ready untill 2006 at the earliest, due to EU environmental regulations. This is one year later than planned. The entire project is still mired in uncertainty about who will pay how much, and if this will actually be enough to complete the project. (January 29th)

The outlook is good for German toy makers, including model train manufacturers, reports Die Welt ahead of the famous February fair in Nürnberg, Germany. (January 29th)

Midwest Speed Increase

Amtrak is spending $25 million on increasing speed in the Midwest as part of a partnership with nine states in the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, MWRRI. Gov. Tommy Thompson, Amtrak's Board chairman, made the announcement at a Chicago news conference. (January 28th)

A project to raise train speeds to 175 km/h (110 mph) in Indiana has been designated eligible for about $1.35 million in federal funding to study necessary railroad grade crossing safety improvements. (January 27th, thanks David Bromage)

The Öresund Fixed Link is now two-thirds finished, with the completion of the tunnel between Denmark and Pepparholm (an artificial island next to Saltholm). See graphic. (January 27th)

FT.comNew British train operating companies underestimated the complexity of running a railway and this is why British rail service has deteriorated since privatisation, the Financial Times writes. Punctuality worsened on 42 of 64 routes covered by the rail franchising director's review of the summer quarter, the most recent available. Cancellations increased on 32 routes compared with a year earlier. Editor's note: The FT, being a right-wing newspaper, has on balance been supportive of privatisation, so it is of note that they criticize the current situation. (January 27th)

Cabling used in more than 100 signal boxes across Britain is causing grave concern, Railtrack has admitted. The scale of the problem has been highlighted by confidential documents obtained by the BBC. (January 27th)

British regions have lost out on the benefits of the Channel Tunnel, and the government must act to remedy the situation, an all-party group of MPs said on Wednesday. MPs say Inter-Capital and Regional Rail, a company which has produced a study indicating that Eurostar services north of London are not feasible, is not credible as it is part-owned by British Airways. (January 27th)

Russia's ministry of transport says it will face serious transport problems as a result of the millennium computer bug, but said an army of specially recruited experts will keep Russians moving across their vast territory. (January 27th)

The death of four Conrail employees in less than 10 days again is raising the question of whether mergers hurt the safety performance of railroads. Union Pacific also had a string of accidents in 1997 while trying to assimilate Southern Pacific. (January 27th)

Raytheon Engineers & Constructors has been selected by the Government of Jordan to negotiate a 25-year agreement to improve, expand, and operate the country's main freight rail line. Jordan has decided to privatize the Aqaba Railway Company, which currently runs a 300 kilometer freight line between the central part of the country, where government-owned phosphate mines are located, and the Gulf of Aqaba. (January 27th)

Siemens says it may this week quit a consortium supplying high-speed trains to the Czech national railways (Ceske Drahy) due to problems at its Czech partner, CKD. Read a background article about CKD. (January 26th)

In the face of stagnating rail freight volumes as the rest of Europe's markets boom, transport commissioner Neil Kinnock is redoubling efforts to open monopolistic railroads to competition. He wants the European Parliament to adopt proposals that include allowing competing private train operators access to infrastructure on nondiscriminatory terms. (January 25th)

Austrian ÖBB will intensify cooperation with Slovenian Slovenske Zeleznice on the international rail-cargo and logistics business. Under the new deal, ÖBB will share the cost with SZ of building a new multimodal logistics center near Ljubljana. (January 25th)

A broken wheel forced an emergency stop for an evening Stockholm-Malmö train on Saturday the 23rd. The driver heard a sharp bang and was able to stop the train, which did not derail. A fragment 15 mm thick and the width of a human hand had broken off a wheel. The incident occurred at Gnesta, just south of Stockholm, so the train was probably moving at almost 200 km/h. (January 25th)

The city of Gothenburg, Sweden, is buying 60 new trams for delivery starting in 2002. (January 25th)

United Parcel Service will decide in early February whether to launch a $150 million German overnight express railfreight service with rival Deutsche Post. (January 25th)

FT.comLCR, the people building the London-Chunnel high-speed rail link, are going to formally start asking for loans for the project on February 8th. (January 23rd)

A derailment blocked Conrail's busy main line through the upstate New York hamlet of Nelliston on Friday. One of the cars that derailed was leaking propane, a flammable gas. After the wreck occurred late Thursday, all of the town's population -- about 150 -- was evacuated. (January 23rd)

Increasing demand for fresh produce in China and for export is fuelling demand for refrigerated railcars there. China's current fleet of reefer cars can handle only 20% of demand. (January 23rd)

Union Pacific has posted a fourth quarter operating profit. UP has recovered from a crippling traffic jam lasting almost a year. (January 22nd)

FT.comCross-London rail routes avoiding the need for passengers to use the Underground system are to be launched by GB Railways, the same company that operates Anglia Railways. (January 22nd)

Norfolk Southern and CSXT will be finished with the split of Conrail on June 1st. The June 1 date provides ample time for ensuring that post-Closing operations are seamless for rail customers and safe for employees and the communities that the railroads serve, say NS and CSXT. (January 21st)

The unfinished Halland Tunnel will be waterproofed with concrete and a plastic membrane. No chemicals will be used, and the waterproofing is only an environmental issue. The Swedish government has not yet decided if the tunnel will be completed. (January 21st)

ABB Sells Adtranz

FT.com"The need to restructure massively is the essence of (the deal) and you can do that easier and faster when you take decisions alone," said Georg Stürtzer, analyst at Bayerische HypoVereinsbank in Munich to the Financial Times, reference to DaimlerChrysler being the sole owner of Adtranz. (January 21st)

DaimlerChrysler is buying out ABB's share in Adtranz for $472 million. DaimlerChrysler says that single ownership of Adtranz, the world's largest maker of locomotives and rail cars, will speed the company's return to profitability. DaimlerChrysler and ABB will continue the existing supply agreements with Adtranz.

"As joint owner, ABB aimed at finding the best solution for the company we helped found," said Göran Lindahl, President and CEO of ABB. "We share the view of DaimlerChrysler and Adtranz that employees, customers and investors are best served by making it part of a group with a clear focus on transportation products." Mr. Lindahl also told Svenska Dagbladet that the move eases ABB toward the goal of being a knowledge-based company with fewer heavy assets. See also the ABB press release. (January 20th / 21st)

FT.comSeveral Channel ferry services have been forced to close since the Chunnel opened, the Financial Times reports. The Chunnel's passenger growth has been faster than that of its competitors. (January 18th / 20th)

FOX Hits Brick Wall

Florida has cancelled the FOX high-speed rail project in which Alstom and Bombardier, among others, had a stake. The Forida Overland Express was to have connected Tampa, Orlando and Miami with trains traveling at up to 320 km/h (200 mph). "The project is terminated," FOX spokesman Gene Skoropowski told Reuters. "It's unfortunate that Florida is passing up what I would call a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and probably a lot of the federal funds that go along with it." Bombardier was surprised by the cancellation, but the trains were not yet in the order book. Alstom said it wasn't their fault.

See also stories at Miami Herald, St Petersburg Times, and Los Angeles Times. (January 16th / 17th)

Twenty-one people have escaped with minor injuries after a train hit a landslide, before being struck by an oncoming coal train in Cumbria, UK. (January 16th)

Fortaleza, in north eastern Brazil, has ordered a metro system from Alstom for US$ 87 million. Twenty-four km of line will connect 17 stations served by ten four-car trains. (January 14th)

German DBAG has received a fresh sabotage threat, this time demanding the release of a man arrested last month accused of trying to blackmail the company. (January 14th)

A new development corporation is going to be formed to oversee the investment of $1.41 billion in Bombay's railways. Bombay's rail transport network carries 5.5 million people every day. (January 14th)

Amtrak's new 240 km/h tilt trains, designed and built by a consortium around Bombardier, were built four inches too wide and will be unable to go around some curves as fast as planned. This means Amtrak must spend up to $12 million in track and clearance projects to maintain the planned three-hour (currently 4½hrs) express schedule between New York and Boston. Amtrak is paying Bombardier $710 million for 20 trains. (January 13th)

Finnish VR has ordered 20 more Sr2 electric locos for about FIM 450 million from Adtranz; these are in addition to the 20 put in service since 1996. Delivery starts in early 2001 and ends in 2003. The locos have a max speed of 230 km/h. (January 13th, see also the press release; photo Henri Hovi)

A broken turnout could have helped cause the tragic accident in Eschede in June. Investigators are unsure whether the points were opened by the faulty wheel or from another cause. An official says that the safety of all other turnouts on the German network must be questioned. But the DBAG retorts that there is nothing to suggest the turnout was faulty. (January 13th)

Seven people were killed and 25 injured in a rail crash in Sudan and eight died in a traffic accident on Monday the 10th. Two passenger trains collided near the town of Abu Zeid in Western Kordofan, about 550 km (345 miles) southwest of Khartoum. (January 13th)

Aeroports de Montreal and the St. Lawrence & Hudson Railway - a division of Canadian Pacific Railway - are studying the feasibility of building a rapid shuttle service between downtown Montreal and Dorval within three to four years. But VIA Rail has already started a shuttle service to the airport, which will be synchronized with trains to Ottawa. (January 13th)

Canadian Grain Problems

Inefficiencies in Canada's grain handling and transportation systems compared with the United States are costing farmers here millions of dollars a year, according to a report by the Organization for Western Economic Cooperation. (January 12th)

A report says the Canadian Wheat Board should relinquish its dominant position in moving grain and pass it to grain companies, which are effectively farmers' agents. The report, which was submitted to Transport Minister David Collenette, also promotes rail competition by enabling the small railways to buy abandoned tracks and have more access to main lines. It also says that a portion of any savings realized by railways from abandoned lines should be funnelled into the affected communities. Farmers' reactions were mixed. The report is available in English in PDF or HTML format at this location. (December 31st 1998)

Passenger traffic over the Great Belt in Denmark was 5% lower this Christmas, compared to last. This is due to the opening of the parallel motorway bridge in 1998. However, the drop in passenger numbers was smaller than expected. (January 12th)

Siemens has won a $26 million contract with Calgary Transit in Canada to build 11 light-rail cars in its Sacramento USA plant. (January 11th)

Canadian National may run into trouble with plans to lay off 3000 workers. Its biggest union, the Canadian Auto Workers, alleges CN deliberately withheld disclosure of the layoffs until after a new collective agreement was ratified in September, and the Federal Labour Minister Claudette Bradshaw has granted consent for the union to challenge the job cuts before the Canada Labour Relations Board. (January 11th)

European railways have seen solid gains in international shipments of machinery and manufactured goods; this is helping to counterbalance a fall in domestic movements, according to an industry study. (January 10th)

Strike in Hungary

Hungarian rail workers have suspended their five-day strike after a court in Budapest ruled it illegal. (January 10th)

Hungarian MAV has settled disputes with two of three unions threatening to go on strike starting at midnight January 4th, a source writes. MAV says it will sue the third one, should it carry out strike threats. Talks have broken down and will resume at 10:00 GMT Monday. (January 3rd / 4th)

Subway trains in Stockholm were intentionally stopped before midnight on Dec. 31st, to avoid possible Y2K-related computer problems. But in order to avoid panic among passengers, the stoppage was blamed on rowdiness. (January 9th)

The number of containers being transported to Russian ports fell by half in the latest quarter. (January 6th)

This month Transfracht, the operator for container transport of Deutsche Bahn Cargo, is to launch a container service between Rotterdam, Antwerp and Zeebrugge and Vienna, Salzburg and Linz in Austria. (January 6th)

FT.comA plan to revive the cars-on-trains motor-rail service between London and Scotland, shut by British Rail in 1995, has been put forward by a Surrey businessman. Graham Steele, who runs a car-carrying service using road transporters, hopes to carry 20,000 vehicles a year by 2001 by rail. He plans services from London and other southern destinations to Scotland, and between the UK and continental Europe. (January 6th)

The Virgin Trains service from Newcastle in northeast England to Bristol in the southwest was 88 miles from its destination when the diesel fuel ran out in Birmingham on Monday the 4th. "I thought I'd heard all the excuses about useless trains, but apparently not,'' passenger John Parker said. (January 4th)

FT.comSir Alastair Morton, the former co-chairman of Eurotunnel, is expected to be named next month as the man the British government wants to sort out Britain's railways. Sir Alastair proved himself last year as a government adviser to find ways to finance the apparently doomed 68-mile channel tunnel rail link. "Alastair Morton saved the channel tunnel rail link from the brink of collapse," an official said to the FT. "He knows the industry inside out, and how to come up with schemes to bring the public and private sector together." (January 4th)

Swiss factory SLM has renovated a German steam locomotive from 1942, The Economist writes in its December 19th 1998 paper issue. The use of modern materials and techniques has resulted in a loco 25% lighter, 36% more powerful and 41% less fuel-hungry than coal-fired locos, and as powerful as a diesel loco. The boiler, insulated with modern materials, stays warm overnight and heats up in 15 minutes rather than several hours. SLM's new steam loco costs as much as a diesel to build and consumes slightly more fuel, but is simpler and cheaper to maintain and thus may find a market among poorer countries. (January 1st, thanks Urban)

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