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January 2004

SJ Renews Fleet

SJ's First Alstom Double-Decker Tested

drawing Swedish SJ's first double-decker 200km/h X40 train is coming up from Alstom in France for winter testing in Sweden in February. The first trains will be put in regular service this fall. They will be stationed in Hagalund, Stockholm, but maintenance will be shifted to Västerås once a maintenance contractor has been selected. The electric trains will come in two- and three-car versions. See also page, Tåg-nytt bulletin, and Jernhusen press release. archive (January 29th)

SJ Refurbishes X 2000

Bombardier, Euromaint, Motala verkstad and Norwegian Mitrans are bidding to refurbish the 36 X 2000 trains, each with 4-6 cars. The contract is said to be worth almost SEK500m. The new look will match that of SJ's new Alstom double-deckers, X40. The first train will be ready in a year, with the rest following within three years. See also Tågnytt bulletin. (January 29th)

California Saves 50% on HSR: Report

The California High Speed Rail Authority has issued a report which says a high-speed rail network in the southern half of the state would cost $37bn. Expanding the highway network and airport runways to accomodate as many passengers as the HSR would carry, would cost more than twice as much, $82bn. The trains would reach 360 km/h. But both rail supporters and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger want to delay a public ballot on the project due to California's poor finances. See also earlier story, Mercury News story, and official site. archive (January 29th, thanks David Pielow and Jakob Christoffersen)

Strike in France

Rail workers in France were on strike last week from Tuesday evening to Thursday morning (the 22nd). Half of all long distance trains were cancelled. Unions are opposed to a government proposal which would curtail their right to strike. The proposal would ensure a minimum mandatory rail service. They are also unhappy with a 1% wage increase for 2004 after 0% in 2003, and 3505 job cuts, 2000 of them at the FRET freight division. See also SNCF press releases 1, 2, 3 and 4, and FRET press release. (January 26th)

New København Station for Metro and Trains

station drawing København's new Flintholm station opened today. It is set to be Denmark's third biggest by passenger number by 2010. It boasts metro, commuter and long-distance trains, and sits on the new Ringbanen cross-town link. See also Banestyrelsens pages, Ringbanen map, and press release. (January 24th, thanks Jakob Christoffersen)

DB Raises Fares 3,4%

German DB is raising fares for trips between 200 and 700 km in length, as this distance is where the train is most competitive. Other fares will be untouched or lower, and trips over 700 km will max out at €111 in an effort to compete with low-fares airlines. The new scheme does not appear to abandon distance-based fares completely, as has been done in Sweden, where a Göteborg-Karlskrona ticket, 353 km, costs half as much per kilometre as the much faster Göteborg-Stockholm train, 454 km (SEK1,17 vs SEK2,29). • Nordic Airlink now flies Göteborg-Stockholm for SEK239, cheaper than any air, train or buss ticket. See also stories at FT Deutschland, Eurail Press, Göteborgs-Posten, and SJ's travel planner, and Nordic Airlink. Comparison based on SJ's "Normal" ticket. (January 23rd)

Korean HSR Opens in April

KTX train Korea's first high-speed railway will open April 1st. French TGV trains reaching 300 km/h will cover the 409 km between Seoul and Pusan in just 2 hours 40 minutes, against 4 hours 10 minutes with current trains and track. When the second phase, Taegu - Pusan, is complete in 2008, trip time will be 2hrs10min. Fares set by the construction and transportation ministry have been set at 124-148 % of the existing high-speed train service, and 63-72 % of airline tickets. Korea will start running domestically designed and built 300 km/h trains, known as G7, in 2007. See also reprinted article at UTU another at Chosunilbo, Railway Technology page, more photos, and official site with nothing in English. archive (January 22nd, thanks Jakob Christoffersen)

Reforming the Reform

Britain Reviews Rail Structure

Britain is reviewing the structure of the railway, to reduce spriralling costs and delays. Proposals will be published this summer. Newspaper reports suggest that structure will be simplified and that the role of the SRA will be reduced. Currently, a simple timetable change takes agreement between the SRA, Network Rail, the operating companies involved and the regulator. The government is likely to propose a network of regional managers who will have substantial control for their area over the operations of both train operators and Network Rail. Safety regulation is expected to be moved from the Health and Safety Executive to a rail organisation, such as the Office of Rail Regulation. See also stories at the BBC, Financial Times, Guardian, Independent (2) and Telegraph, plus FT on the SRA-Rail Regulator clash 1 & 2. (January 20th)

British Rail Repair Too Massive?

The Government has suppressed a rail industry document that paints an alarming picture of a ramshackle network which will fail to show any major improvement unless the industry receives billions of pounds extra from taxpayers. (January 20th)

London-Scotland HSR Ditched

The Strategic Rail Authority has postponed indefinitely consultation on a 360 km/h railway from London to Edinburgh which would halve travel time to 2 hours. The SRA says it must concentrate on making existing lines more reliable. (January 20th, thanks David Pielow)

New Tracks Keep Airlines at Bay

Thalys' German Traffic up 9%

Thalys logo Thalys reports that it's market share has recovered to 77% in October after slumping to 66% in February after cheap airlines started competing. 2003 saw revenue and passenger volume drop 2%, but traffic to Germany increased 9% after a 62km new railway opened in Belgium in December 2002 between Brussels and Köln. December traffic was up 1,7% over December 2002. Thalys operates trains between Paris and Brussels, with branches from Brussels to Amsterdam and Köln. See also details on Leuven-Ans HSR, Aftenposten story and SNCB press release. archive (January 18th, thanks Jakob Christoffersen)

Eurostar up 15%

lounge photo The completion of the first half of the London-Chunnel channel tunnel rail link in September, which saves up to 20 minutes, has helped Eurostar win 15% more passengers in the last three months of 2003, compared to the same period a year earlier. Revenue increased 11%. But the gains come after two years of declining patronage. Eurostar is also refurbishing its trains and lounges. See also Eurostar's Fastrack site, stories at the Independent and Guardian. archive (January 18th)

Glycol Train De-ices Track

Provincial transit authority Storstockholms Lokaltrafik is testing a de-icing train in Sweden's far north. A subway car has been fitted with adjustable nozzles which can spray a mixture of water and glycol on the electric third rail to de-ice it. The glycol is of a special type which is environmentally friendly and is used in cosmetics and food. Forty per cent of Stockholm's subway tracks run above ground. See also Piteå-Tidningen article. (January 18th)

Macquarie Buys Arlanda Express

Australian Macquarie Bank has purchased the operator of the Stockholm-Arlanda express trains, A-Train, for SEK400m (€44,1m). The new owner does not plan changes in staffing or fares. Macquarie Bank also owns airports in Birmingham, Bristol, and Rome, as well as highways in Britain and Germany. Arlanda Express was built, operated and owned by a consortium of construction company NCC, hydro company Vattenfall, and engineers Alstom and Mowlem. The trains have steadily increased revenue and market share, but still lost SEK50m in 2002, with 2,4m trips made. The sale was originally announced in October and has now been okayed with banks and the Arlanda railway owner. See also NCC press release. archive (January 18th)

Ikea Trains Continue

Though Ikea has quit its rail business, its only train, a Sweden-Germany shuttle, is being continued under a new flag. The German company which ran the trains between Duisburg and the Danish border, RAG, has now been certified for traffic in Denmark. Ikea's transportation agent has now contracted RAG to run the trains from Duisburg through both Denmark and Germany. Earlier, the Ikea trains were driven through Denmark by TraXion, a Danish operator. See also RAG locomotive photos, August 2002 timetable, and Traxion backgrounder. archive (January 16th)

Maglev Ditched for Beijing-Shanghai

The 1250km Beijing-Shanghai high speed railway will be built using conventional rail technology and not maglev. At a January 7 regular meeting of the State Council chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, attendees opted for conventional rail at 300 km/h. The new line will integrate with 20 other main lines, something which can't be done with maglev. Conventional rail also facilitates changing trains at the same platform, and is half as expensive as maglev. Alstom, Siemens and a Japanese consortium are expected to bid for this huge project in China. See also story in German at Der Spiegel. archive (January 16th, thanks Jakob Christoffersen)

Four Year old British Trains Replaced

South West Trains, operating regional trains southwest of London, is replacing its 30 leased Alstom Juniper trains with Siemens Desiro trains because the four-year-old Junipers, built in Birmingham, are too unreliable. While even the Desiros break down more often than the old 'slam door' trains, these are simpler and must be replaced by law. Junipers are also used by Gatwick Express and Scotrail. See also Railnews UK bulletin. archive (January 14th)

Strike Over, Travel Guarantee Starts

The Swedish rogue SLFF union has ended its strike as planned. Operator SJ will now introduce its delayed travel guarantee on January 15th, which gives a free voucher for a new journey in the event of long delays. SLFF is demanding unchanged pensions and holidays even if their drivers are transferred after a franchise changes hands. But SJ and the Almega employers' alliance refuse. See also older story. find (January 8th)

København Metro Ring Planned

Shortly after the inauguration of København's metro last October, a panel of representatives from national and local government has suggested extending the network to form a 14,4 km ring with 16 stations around the city centre. This would cost DKK13bn. The driverless metro has had teething problems such as a derailment on Tuesday the sixth. There were no passengers aboard and the train was being driven manually, but service had to be curtailed until the afternoon. See also article in Swedish on the Metro with several photos. find (January 8th, thanks Jakob Christoffersen)

Houston Tram System Inaugurated

Siemens has handed over an 11km, $324m urban railway with 16 stops to the city of Houston, Texas. The trams can reach 105 km/h and the whole line takes 29 minutes to traverse. The low-floor trams have hydraulics ensuring that they are always level with platforms, even at high load. The system is planned to be expanded to 128 km. Conservative groups fought to stop the rail system by forcing a recent election, which they lost when voters approved the rail system. See also IRJ bulletin, ticket glitch story and Siemens press release. (January 8th)

Bergen Orders Trams

The City of Bergen in western Norway is ordering 12 low-floor trams for a 10km new tram network to be opened in 2008. The network will later be extended to the airport. City council expects the network to increase residential and commercial building activity in both new southern suburbs and the older city centre. See also main official website. (January 3rd, thanks Jakob Christoffersen)

Tunis Tram Network Extended

The European Investment Bank is lending €45m for a 5 km westward extension of the tram network in Greater Tunis, Tunisia. The money will also go to more trams, as well as renewal of a suburban railway. Work will be completed in 2007. The loan is a followup on a €30m loan from 2000 for a new tram line. The Siemens-built tram network was first opened in 1985. Tunisia lies on the north African coast between Libya and Algeria. See also metroPlanet page with network map. (January 3rd, thanks Jakob Christoffersen)

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