January 2001

CN Buys Wisconsin Central Canadian National is buying Wisconsin Central for US$1,2bn, the companies announced on Tuesday. The takeover cost includes US$400m in WCTC debt. The deal is for the WC railway, not the corporation itself, which owns other railways around the world. CN chief executive Paul Tellier said in a release that the merger would "secure a link in CN's NAFTA network - the mainline railroad connecting Chicago, Superior, Wis., and CN's transcontinental network across Canada." Under a 1998 agreement, WCTC already hauls CN freight between Superior and Chicago. CN has previously taken over Illinois Central but broke off a merger with Burlington Northern Santa Fé after the US Surface Transportation Board competition authority put a moratorium on reviewing mergers. "Both CN and WCTC believe the transaction should be treated as a minor one by the STB, but if it is not, CN reserves the right to terminate the merger agreement without penalty," CN said. See also the press release. (January 30th, thanks Bengt Mutén)

Judge Ends UPRR Strike A federal judge in Omaha has sent striking drivers back to work only hours after more than 8000 members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers walked off their jobs at Union Pacific. The unexpected walkout by members of the BLE involved a dispute over Union Pacific's imposition of new qualification standards for leave days for personal reasons, said union president Edward Dubroski in a statement. (January 27th, thanks Bengt Mutén)

CN Interested in Buying CPR

Canadian Pacific Ltd. is looking to divest at least one of its five core businesses this year, says David O'Brien, the company's chairman, president and chief executive. Figuring out what CP might keep or sell has become a parlour game for analysts and other industry observers. Most agree the railway is a likely candidate for divestiture because Mr. O'Brien himself has said it is too small to be a buyer in the expected coming consolidation of the railway industry in North America.

CN's Paul Tellier said that "Obviously, if at one point in time Mr. O'Brien was going to decide to sell his railroad we have the responsibility to make sure that if we were eventually a potential buyer that this is preceeded by a good public-policy debate," in a media conference call in the strongest indication yet that CN could bid for CPR. Any merger would have to be good for customers, he said. Mr. Tellier's concern with public policy likely reflects the furor created by the merger of Air Canada and Canadian Airlines Ltd. in 1999, during which Ottawa appeared sometimes hesitant in the takeover fight and was forced to make policy on the fly. See also report on the debate. (January 26th, thanks Bengt Mutén)

DB AG & SNCF Buy EWS? Deutsche Bahn, Germany's state-owned railway, and SNCF of France are in early-stage talks to buy all or part of English Welsh and Scottish Railways, the leading UK rail freight operator. Wisconsin Central Transportation Corporation of the US, EWS's largest shareholder, has said its 42.5 per cent stake is up for sale. The other two shareholders, venture capital companies Berkshire Partners in the US and Fay Richwhite in New Zealand, might also be ready to sell, said a person close to the talks. Through its subsidiary Railion, DB AG already controls freight rail in Denmark and the Netherlands. See also earlier story at The Independent. find (January 25th)

GNER Moves Clapham Junction? Great North Eastern Railway has unveiled a £4.5bn ($6.6bn) bid for South West Trains that includes an elaborate plan to move Clapham Junction, Britain's busiest railway station, to a bigger location east of its existing site. GNER faces competition for the South West franchise from Stagecoach, the current operator, and First Group, which submitted a joint bid with Nederlandse Spoorwegen. The Strategic Rail Authority dropped London commuter train operator Connex from the shortlist last August. The GNER bid, which it said would create 2200 new jobs, includes plans to overhaul the existing timetable as well as a station modernisation programme that would see staffing levels rise by 50%. (January 25th)

New York New York City Orders 350 Subway Cars Bombardier has this week recieved orders totalling C$780m from New York City, Minneapolis, and the Rheinland area in Germany. The New York order is for 350 subway cars, which brings the number of Bombardier cars in New York to 1855, about a third of the subway's fleet of 6000. Minneapolis has ordered 18 low-floor trams, Minneapolis and DB Regionalbahn Rheinland GmbH, a subsidiary of the German railway, Rheinland has ordered 26 two-car Talent DMUs. (January 25th, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

Alstom Sells 36 Trains to Italy Italy has bought 36 trains from Alstom for €115m, of which 24 will go to national operator Trenitalia, and the rest to three provinces. These articulated, 3-car train-sets are designed with full low floors, permitting easy access for disabled persons. The electric version will operate at a maximum speed of 160 km/h and the diesel version at 130 km/h. The car interiors will be air conditioned and will feature a multi-functional area. They will be built in Savigliano, Italy, and Salzgitter, Germany. There is an option to purchase a total of 200 trains for €650m. See also article by the International Rail Journal on Italian rail reform. (January 25th, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

SAS Plans to Sell Acela Tickets Scandinavian Airlines is working to sell Amtrak tickets for passengers flying from Europe to destinations in the northeastern US. Airlines sometimes sell intra-European connections to intercontinental flights as tickets valid for travel on high-speed trains. The practise now seems to be spreading to the US as Amtrak's tilting 250 km/h Acela trains speed connections. (January 25th, thanks Dennis Hage)

41 New Trains for DB AG German Deutsche Bahn is going to acquire 28 tilting trains for long-distance trains for 800 million DM. From 2004, these trains will be used on the following lines:
Hamburg - Dortmund - Köln - Koblenz - Frankfurt;
Dortmund - Hannover - Leipzig - Dresden;
Dortmund - Kassel - Erfurt;
Berlin - Halle - Erfurt - Frankfurt;
Berlin - Hamburg;
Technical details and the manufacturer of the trains are not yet known. A letter of intent for the acquisition of 13 additional ICE 3 trains for 500 million DM was signed as well. They will be primarily used on the high speed line Köln - Frankfurt. 117 locomotive-hauled intercity trains will be modernized until 2003 and painted in a white livery with red stripe, similar to the ICE. (January 25th, thanks Tobias Köhler)

SRA Steps on Virgin Territory The British Strategic Rail Authority is studying a new high-speed rail link between London and Newcastle where trains would run at 360 km/h. Virgin Rail, which has put in a bid to take over the Great Eastern franchise, has also proposed such a line. Virgin is now considering suing the SRA for hijacking their idea. See also Telegraph story. find (January 23rd)

Transrapid in Shanghai Deal The German railway consortium Transrapid says it has reached an agreement with China to build a magnetic levitation fast rail link in Shanghai. It will be ready by the end of 2003, and will allow passengers to travel at an average speed of 430km/h between Shanghai's airport and the city centre. The 30km journey should take less than 10 minutes. If this maglev gets built, it will be world's first commercial magnetic levitation train ever built. There are currently test tracks in Germany and Japan, and maglev trains have exceeded the 515 km/h record set by a conventional train France in 1990. "For us, this is the opening of the world market," a spokesman said. See also Die Welt story, FT.com story, and official site. Meanwhile, a feasability study is underway for a maglev link for the München airport in Germany. The Transrapid has been criticised for not being fast enough to justify a system incompatible with existing railways. See critiques by Reinhard Hanstein, the International Railway Journal, and Scientific American. find (January 22nd)

Talgo Reaches 340 km/h Talgo's very high speed locomotive, the Talgo 350, reached 340 km/h for the first time early in December, Talgo reports. The testing took place in Spain near Madrid. (January 19th)

New B2B project Five of North America's largest railroads are on track to build an online marketplace for just about everything from overalls and ear plugs to steel and box cars. The consortium - Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Canadian National, Canadian Pacific Railway, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific - has agreed to support Chicago-based RailMarketplace.com. The independent company is financially backed by GE Global Exchange Services, a subsidiary of General Electric that operates an e-commerce network of more than 100,000 trading partners, and by iRail.com, a technology consultant for the transportation industry. (January 19th)

drawingSweden Orders 43 Alstom Double-Deckers Swedish SJ has ordered 43 double-decker trains from Alstom for €300m (SEK2,5bn). The 200 km/h trains will be used in interregional services around the Stockholm area, to Uppsala, Västerås and Eskilstuna. The trains will be able to cover the 105 km between Västerås and Stockholm in 50 minutes, slower than the 39 minutes promised earlier. There will be 27 three-car and 16 two-car trains, totalling 113 cars. See also SJ PR and drawings. (January 16th, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

Burkhardt Loses Takeover Battle Edward Burkhardt says he lost his proxy fight to take control of Wisconsin Central. But he did win his bid to put all Wisconsin Central directors up for re-election en masse, setting the stage for a possible takeover attempt. Burkhardt, who launched his proxy bid in November and had received the support of a couple of the company's largest shareholders, announced the outcome late Friday the 12th. "I was not disappointed," Burkhardt said. "If the company carries through the program they've adopted, which was basically our program, and they do so well, we're going to come out fine." See also WCLX PR. (January 16th)

Senator Wants New Vote on Florida HST Two months ago, voters approved a bullet train that would whisk people around Florida at lightning speed in the new millennium. Now, State Senator Ron Klein has filed legislation that would send the issue back to voters in 2002. Under Klein's plan, which would require approval by two-thirds of the House and Senate, another constitutional amendment would be placed on the ballot asking voters to repeal the train. (January 16th)

California Starts HST Public Hearings Evaluating the environmental consequences of building a $25 billion statewide high-speed rail system is anything but speedy. A public hearing in Escondido this week will kick off a two-year environmental analysis for the rail system's San Diego-to-Los Angeles section and launch a process that ultimately could culminate in laying 700 miles of track in California by 2020. The proposed high-speed train line eventually would whisk San Diego County residents to the state capital of Sacramento in three hours at speeds of 320km/h. (January 16th)

Congress Stops Amtrak Loan The US Congress has scuttled a plan to give a soft loan of $10bn to Amtrak. The money would have been spent to add tracks, close grade crossings and do other work to allow states to launch faster short-distance trains. About $3 billion would have gone to begin work on the deteriorating New York-Washington Northeast Corridor, Amtrak's busiest route. Amtrak's supporters in Congress argue that Amtrak needs new money to buy modern equipment if it is to become self-sufficient. Opponents feel that what Amtrak is selling does not represent what Americans want to buy. Amtrak's mediocrity is known around the world. (January 16th)

Alstom Layoffs in Montreal Alstom is laying off nearly two-thirds of the workers at its Montreal production site temporarily because of postponed rail orders resulting from the US economic slowdown. The layoffs will hit 550 workers starting January 8th until the end of February. The company has a total of 830 employees at its Pointe Saint-Charles facility, which mostly refurbishes and remanufactures locomotives and rolling stock. The company had sought to diversify and enter the freight-car business, which it had apparently done with a $300-million order in May 1999 for 3,100 freight cars from First Union Rail Corp. of Charlotte, N.C. But Mercier said that in fact, the order so far in the highly cyclical freight-car sector has amounted to roughly one-third of that. See also Gazette story. (January 16th, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

Railtrack Demands Bailout The British government is considering a cash injection for Railtrack after the company warned it could have to cut spending on the rail network because of soaring debt. The fatal Hatfield accident prompted a maintenance blitz around the country. As a result of that and other funding problems, debt could rise to £8bn in 2003. In what amounted to a clear threat that Railtrack would have to cut its maintenance and renewals programme, Steve Marshall, Railtrack chief executive, said the company was not prepared to let debt soar so high. (January 16th)

Eurostar Sales Up for 2000 Eurostar turned in a strong end of year performance. Sales rose by 12% to €439m ($648.6m) during 2000. Sales volumes rose by 9%, during the period, amounting to 7.67m passengers compared with a 6% rise in volumes in 1999. (January 16th)

Derailment in Croatia The Zagreb - Split "Mosor" derailed at Duga Resa station, near Karlovac, Croatia, the night of January 12th/13th. It was the last car, carrying automobiles, which derailed. The underailed part of the train continued, but was four hours late in Split. (January 16th, thanks Toma Bacic)

New Tram System in Kaohsiung, Taiwan A transport and engineering joint venture that includes Siemens of Germany has broken ground on a long-delayed mass transit railway system in the southern Taiwanese port city of Kaohsiung. The T$200bn ($6bn) system will combine a 28km north-south line with one running 14km east-west. It which has been delayed for years by opposition from members of the city council. Kaohsiung Rapid Transit, or KRTC, is owned 10% by Siemens and will likely make an initial public offering on the Taiwan stock market before the end of the year. (January 16th)

BAA and Eurotunnel Settle BAA, the British airport operator, and Eurotunnel on Thursday the 4th settled their six-month dispute over the contract to operate the retail facilities at the Channel tunnel terminals in Folkestone and Calais, heading off a potentially costly legal battle. BAA, which took over the running of concessions just as EU duty free sales were abolished, began legal proceedings last June, as losses mounted. It is thought to have lost around £20m ($29.9m) since the start of the contract in July 1999. The group said that it had based its business case on passenger forecasts provided by Eurotunnel, which had "warranted" the figures. (January 4th)

Railtrack Repair Blitz Railtrack's Christmas repair blitz has exceeded expectations, according to Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. The intensive recovery programme, involving 8000 engineers at 60 sites, was aimed at repairing 25 miles of track. But Mr Prescott told the BBC that about 40 miles had been replaced during the holiday period. (January 4th)

Norway: Delayed Y2K Bug An eccentric year 2000 bug stopped Norway's new Signatur fast trains on December 31st, 2000. However, the more confusing 01.01.01, or January 1st 2001, did not seem to cause problems. (January 2nd, thanks Bengt Mutén)

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