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January 2002

Fewer Passengers, More Destinations at Eurostar Eurostar could add Amsterdam and Rotterdam to its network after the completion of HSL Zuid, the Amsterdam high speed link to the Belgian border, in 2007. It is also looking at services direct between London and Charles de Gaulle airport so travellers can connect directly to and from intercontinental flights. Both moves would be a response to falling passenger numbers. Ticket sales fell 3% last year, but market share increased to 64,6% of the London-Paris market and 46,3% of London-Brussels. find (January 31st)

UP Leases Hybrid Switcher RailPower's Green Goat hybrid switcher will be used in Union pacific's Roseville yard, near Sacramento, California. Since the hybrid's both generator modalities - conventional engine and microturbine - use standard diesel fuel, the engine needs no special fuelling facilities. find (January 28th)

Britain Has a Plan

£70bn Over Ten Years The British government has announced a plan to spend £70bn on the rail network over the next ten years. Half the money would come from private sources. See also full details of the plan at the Strategic Rail Authority's website on this page. (January 28th)

Corporatist Model for Railtrack Tested British railways could be run by "virtual boards" bringing together train operators, Railtrack, and maintenance companies in an effort to overcome the problems of fragmentation and get services running on time. Richard Bowker, the Strategic Rail Authority's new chairman and previously of Virgin Rail, said a trial of the system in Railtrack's Great Western zone started this month and he wanted the idea "rolled out as a concept across the industry", but EU rules may stop this. Commenting on whether railways must be owned by the same company which operates the trains, Mr Bowker said: "I see nothing philosophically wrong with the contractual separation of infrastructure and operations. What I believe has gone wrong is the management of the interface." (January 28th)

Suez Canal Bridge Completed Egyptian Railways has built a new bridge over the Suez Channel near Bur Said, thus reopening the old rail link to Gaza. The line, opened before the Second World War, linked Haifa via Gaza to Egypt. The Egyptian government wants to rebuild the line destroyed partially during the Israelo-Egyptian war, with a new gauge, in direction of El Arish. See also another article, one in arabic, and photo. (January 28th, thanks Michele Mezzatesta)

Commuter Rail Extension in Melbourne Melbourne's newest regional rail service, the St Albans line extension, opens January 27. But local traders and shoppers fear that long delays at the Main Rd level crossing will cause traffic chaos and drive business away, and want the station to be put underground. But the State Government has said this is too expensive and instead plans to to divert traffic from the Main Rd shopping area by building vehicle underpasses at nearby rail crossings. See also pay-per-view articles at dated January 7th and 9th. find (January 22nd, thanks Alan Reekie)

Yeltsinite Ousted From Rail Ministry The new boss at the Russian Railways Ministry, Gennady Fadeyev has begun a sweeping purge of the staff left behind by his disgraced predecessor. Seven of the 12 deputy ministers, the heads of all 17 railroads and many department heads are among the hundreds of employees who are leaving. The old boss, Nikolai Aksyonenko, was part of former President Boris Yeltsin's inside circle and faces charges that he misappropriated 70 million rubles ($2.33m) in ministry funds. The rail ministry will be consolidated with the transportation ministry in 2003, after a newly formed company, Russian Railways, takes over commercial operations. See also another article with more intrigue. (January 18th, thanks Alan Reekie)

SJ Squanders Value of X2000 Trademark SJ's once prestigious X2000 trains have become an embarassment to the Swedish rail industry. On-time performance has fallen from 90% in 1997 to 60% now. "The problem is a direct result of the big cutbacks in SJ's maintenance division in the late 90s," says Dick Rydås at the railway inspectorate to the Göteborgs-Posten newspaper. Also, insufficient maintenance is resulting in broken amenities like tilt, reading lamps, and automatic doors. SJ has 43 trains, each of which went over 1400km per day untill October. In fairness, broken wheels and axles are due to design errors, and a one-year wait for the first of 14 new motors ordered for the power units isn't SJ's fault either. find (January 14th)

Council Breaks Amtrak Monopoly? The Amtrak Reform Council voted on Friday the 11th to recommend opening the nation's intercity rail system to competition. Under the plan, Amtrak would be competing with private companies to operate trains. But Amtrak's tracks and stations, as well as its authority to make rail policy, would be distributed among state, federal and private entities. This would include the Boston - New York - Washington Northeast Corridor. See also another article, the Amtrak Reform Council's nine options for reforming Amtrak, and a Railway Age editorial suggesting freight railroads be subsidised for running passenger trains. find (January 14th)

t66Class 66 Saves Ikea Ikea Rail's trains are ready to roll from the warehouse in Älmhult, Sweden, to Duisburg in Germany. Ikea was all set up to become their own rail operator last fall under the new EU rules, but stumbled on a local by-law relating to the Øresund bridge which limited the number of old, dirty and noisy T44 type diesels which could use the link. Ikea now has a deal with rail authority Banverket to use TGOJ's modern T66/Class 66 diesels, developed by GM-EMD for British freight operator EWS, for two years while they look for suitable dual-mode electrics. See also GM EMD's Class 66 page, Berlingske story and Banverket's press release. find (January 11th)

Winds of Change in Denmark

Parliamentary Majority For Privatisation of DSB A majority in the Danish parliament supports privatisation of the state railway, and Arriva would buy it if it were sold. It is problematic that the government both tenders and bids for rail contracts, the reasoning goes. The government also has a powerful grip on the industry through tendering services, and the Banestyrelsen rail authority. Only the social democrats are against. No decisions have been made yet. Also, the loss of franchises at home is making DSB look to Germany for new business, specifically Hamburg-Flensburg(-Denmark). Meanwhile, DSB expects record profits for 2001 and 2002. (January 10th)

Realistic Bid? The ministry found that DSB's bid for the Jutland routes, which at DKK80m was half of Arriva's 156m, would have been loss-making and thus violated competition laws. Specifically, the ministry found a projected 45% increase in passenger numbers over seven years was unrealistic, despite more frequent service and newer trains; and that sale-and-lease-back deals would be invalidated due to new laws. But DSB says their bid was ambitious but realistic, and is considering legal action. The Danish parliament's audit bureau may get involved. See also an interview with DSB's chairman of the board, Knud Heinesen. (January 10th, thanks Flemming Bock)

Arriva Comes To Denmark The Danish transport ministry has awarded the operation of passenger trains in Jutland to Arriva, which will have a year to prepare for the franchise which covers 2003 to 2010. There will be new leased trains with up-to-the-minute info on arrival and departure times, and the competitive tender has lowered the cost by 30% to €21m. Arriva will take over DSB's 250 employees on the affected lines, Århus-Langå-Struer, Thisted-Struer, Struer-Skjern, Århus-Herning, Herning-Skjern-Esbjerg, and Esbjerg-Tønder. Five companies bid for the contract, including Connex, Serco Rail, and the Danish and German state railways. See also press releases from Arriva and the ministry of transport. (December 29th, thanks Flemming Bock)

Strikes in Britain A strike at South West Trains on Monday and Tuesday left 350 000 London commuters without their trains and caused traffic jams. Strikes are also spreading to Sheffield and Scotland. Driver shortages - some of the train operating companies, including SWT, sacked too many in the immediate aftermath of privatisation - and the long time it takes to train new drivers mean it is often cheaper for operators to poach drivers from competitors than pay to train them from scratch. This has forced drivers' pay higher, so that those at the top end of the pay scale are earning basic salaries of £35 000, compared with £13 000 at privatisation. See also another FT story and a good article in Swedish. (January 9th)

Dutch Rail Board Resigns Two managers and the entire board of directors at Dutch NS resigned on Thursday the 3rd after the transport minister said she had no confidence in them due to late trains. Only 79,9% of the trains were on time, 0,1% below the 80% agreed upon. The board felt they were required to resign since the transport minister exercised his powers as per the agreement. Had they stayed, they would have been booted out through a legal process anyway. The new president-director will be Karel Noordzij, who comes from the Transport en Logistiek Nederland lobby group. See also story translated to English. (January 4th, thanks Gerrit Van Der Linden and Clemens Appelman)

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