July 2001

Amtrak Cuts Workforce Amtrak will significantly cut its 2900-strong management staff as part of a plan to save the company up to US$85m, George Warrington, Amtrak's president, announced on Friday the 27th. Mr Warrington said Amtrak would offer employees buy-outs and early retirement packages in an effort to create a "leaner, more efficient company". See also FT story. (July 30th)

Siemens Transportation Turned Around A new management team has turned around Siemens Transportation from a €380m loss in 1998 to a €75m profit last year, while growing revenues from €2,6bn to €4bn. The strategy has been simplification, reducing the number of bogie types from 160, made in six factories, to 15, made in one factory. The number of parts in a Desiro regional train has baeen reduced from 7000 to 1100 and assembly time has been reduced from 75 days to 25 days. The number of key suppliers has been reduced from several thousand before 1998 to roughly 1200, and the goal is just 500-700 key suppliers. Due to improved orders and production volumes, numbers of employees in the division have increased by 400 since 1998, to 14 500. (July 28th)

Hallandsås Tunnel to be Completed

At Seven Times the Original Cost The Swedish government has given the go-ahead to completing the tunnel through the Hallandsås ridge in southwestern Sweden. Construction may resume after rail administration Banverket's plans are okayed by environmental and local authorities. Instead of watertighting the rock with Rhoca-Gil, prefab concrete tubes with a built-in plastic membrane will be used. It will take another six to eight years, and the total cost is projected at SEK7bn, seven times the original estimate. Banverket believes the tunnel is too expensive to ever become economical, and many large freight rail customers believe the money would be better spent elsewhere on the network.

First the tunnel was to be bored like the Channel tunnel, but that failed because the rock wasn't hard enough for the machine to push forward. Then it was to be watertightened with Rhoca-Gil, a chemical which failed to react properly and subsequently rendered the groundwater unfit for humans or animals to drink. See also Banverket PR, special page, and info in Engllish (PDF). find (July 27th)

Railion Expands? German DB Cargo is planning to expand its Railion alliance. Later this year, DB Cargo hopes to conclude alliances with Switzerland's BLS Cargo, which specializes in rail transport across the Swiss Alps' Simplon Pass and then into Italy. The Swiss national railroad, SBB, already has another German partner. Another likely target for a DB Cargo partnership is the Polish State Railroad (PKP), which is in the midst of privatization. DB Cargo already a partner in the Polzug block train venture, an all-container train service connecting German seaports with several rail terminals in Poland. (July 26th)

Delays for Another Year, Says Railtrack Boss Railtrack's new chairman, John Robinson, warned that the network would take another year to recover. "I see a railway that is not performing well. I see internally a lack of clear structure in many areas and extremely heavy bureaucracy almost everywhere. Morale is low, not surprisingly given the constant criticism from all sources, at all levels. Dealing with these issues has to be management's key task." See also FT.com's Railtrack Special. (July 25th)

Tunnel Fire in Baltimore Ignites Controversy

Cause of Accident Unclear Investigators are working on where to place the blame for the accident. If it was due to flooding from a broken pipe, the city of Baltimore pays damages; but if it was due to CSX's track and vehicles, CSX pays. Also, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to order a federal study of health, safety, environmental and economic risks associated with the transportation of hazardous chemicals and radioactive materials throughout the country. The study, to be finished in six months, would be conducted by the secretary of transportation, working with the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress. (July 25th)

Hydrochloric Acid Pumped From Derailed Train Emergency crews used hoses fed through manholes to pump hydrochloric acid from a leaking tanker car in Baltimore, just northeast of Washington DC, early Friday the 20th as they continued to cope with a train derailment that ignited a raging fire and left the city paralyzed. Firefighters said most cars from the train, which derailed Wednesday, appear to be connected and on the track, and they hoped to pull them out with a locomotive after getting at the fire that had burned for more than 36 hours. (July 22nd, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

Accident Causes Delays The accident, by blocking CSX Transportation's only direct route between the industrial Northeast and the South, also derailed freight and passenger transportation. The Tropicana "juice train," which carries Florida orange juice to the New York-New Jersey market and is one of CSX's most time-sensitive shipments, was forced to detour through Harrisburg, Pa., on a Norfolk Southern line. That Norfolk Southern line through Harrisburg and Hagerstown, Md., is the only other direct freight line from the Northeast to the Southeast, and it too has serious congestion problems even under normal circumstances. See also New York Times article. (July 22nd, thanks Bengt Mutén)

London Underground Battle Goes to High Court The increasingly bitter struggle over the future of the London Underground on Monday moves to the High Court, where Ken Livingstone, the capital's mayor, will challenge government plans for part-privatisation of the network. In a four-day hearing, the court will consider the legality of the government imposing a public-private partnership that Bob Kiley, Mr Livingstone's transport commissioner, claims would fail to provide a safe and efficient service. (July 23rd)

BAA LogoBAA Extends Heathrow Express BAA, the British airports operator, is to build a multi-million pound rail route linking Heathrow with other parts of the rail network in a move to cope with increasing demands on public transport serving the airport. The project, dubbed Airtrack, will extend the Paddington-Heathrow Heathrow Express to Terminal 5 and then to Staines, linking up with rail routes to Woking, Salisbury and the south-west. BAA is also spending £12m on refurbishing the three-year old trains and buying new ones to increase capacity by 14%, as well as overhauling the ticket system. (July 22nd, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

JR East Runs Women-Only Cars JR East has introduced the first late-night women-only rail car on a trial basis on the Saikyo Line in a bid to prevent molestation on the trains, company officials said. This trial scheme started on 2 July on the JR Saikyo commuter line from Shinjuku (Tokyo) to Kawagoe for trains departing from the capital after 11 pm. The rear car of the 10-car trains is marked for use by women and small children only. This is the first time a JR company does this, but a private railway also introduced a similar scheme on its late-night commuter trains from Tokyo earlier this year. (July 22nd, thanks Dave Fossett)

Tranz Rail Sells Passenger Services New Zealand's Tranz Rail has sold its Tranz Scenic passenger service to Australian company West Coast Railway. West Coast Railway is privately owned and operates passenger train services in Victoria, Australia. However, five of the nine passenger services will be axed. Tranz Rail, owned by Wisconsin Central, will now focus on freight. Services to be discontinued unless someone wants to run them are the Geyserland Express, Kaimai Express, Waikato Connection, Southerner, and Bay Express. See also Stuff.co.nz stories: 1, 2. (July 22nd, thanks David Bromage)

SBB Orders More Swiss-Built ICNs

ICNSwiss SBB orders 10 Tilting Intercities Swiss SBB ordered 10 more tilting intercity trains at the end of June. The €143m order went to Bombardier and Alstom. Bombardier will be responsible for the production, assembly and commissioning of the vehicles; Alstom will be responsible for the production of the bogies and the tilting technology. Bombardier's share of this contract is about 80%. The trains are scheduled to be in operation by the end of 2004 mainly between Geneva-Lausanne-Bienne-Delemont and Basle as well as between Bienne and Zurich.

The carbodies will be produced at the Hennigsdorf plant, Germany, and the trains will be assembled at the Pratteln, Switzerland, manufacturing site. Commenting on this order, Bombardier Transportation President and Chief Operating Officer Pierre Lortie said "We recognize that Switzerland possesses a concentration of world-class expertise in the railway industry and we intend to focus on the needs of this market as well as work diligently to strengthen its export capabilities and know-how." This calms Swiss sentiment which was aggravated by cutbacks implemented by the former Adtranz (now Bombardier). (July 22nd, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

EU Threatens Italian FS Over Open Access The European Commission has told Italy's state rail company Ferrovie dello Stato that it must give its rivals access to the Italian railway market or risk fines under EU competition laws. In a statement, the Commission alleged FS was violating EU regulations by preventing German operator Georg VerkehrsGesellschaft from providing a passenger rail service between Germany and Milan. (July 6th)

US Deregulates Amtrak?

Amtrak Transmogrifies, Loses Even More Money Amtrak gets 43% of its revenue from sources other than passenger rail, up from 29% in 1990. The alternate income sources range from souvenirs to cell phone service, real estate development to express package delivery. The Amtrak Reform Council, created by Congress as a watchdog, has encouraged the railway in carrying mail and freight but says the system is now wearing too many other hats. Amtrak's revenue from passenger trains grew by 10 percent last year, to $1.2 billion, while revenue from other ventures grew by 15 percent, to $886 million, according to Transportation Department Inspector General Kenneth Mead. But the railroad's expenses are also growing fast, fueled largely by interest from debt to buy new equipment. Amtrak's 2000 operating loss of $944 million was the largest in its history. (July 6th)

Congress Waffles on Amtrak Lawmakers and federal investigators are increasingly skeptical of Amtrak turning a profit by the December 2002 deadline. But Congress is not expected to take drastic action against Amtrak. Even the harshly critical Senator John McCain said he supported Amtrak and did not want to axe the system. Yet whether or not Amtrak achieves self-sufficiency, Congress is likely to initiate a serious debate about the system's future. Editor's comment: Maybe they will deregulate Amtrak like they deregulated the freight railways, ie let Amtrak abandon unprofitable services. (July 5th)

Amtrak Says Can't Run Unprofitable Routes Amtrak President George Warrington has appealed to political leaders to resolve, at last, whether the railway's chief mission is to provide national passenger service or to break even financially. "For 30 years Amtrak has been expected to perform like a business and at the same time serve community needs like a nonprofit organization. We cannot do this," Warrington said Thursday May 24th 2001 in a speech at the National Press Club. Amtrak could face dissolution if it fails to meet a congressional mandate to wean itself from annual federal operating subsidies by 2003. See also Boston Herald editorial. (May 27th)

TGOJ Upgrades Swedish Trains

TGOJ Renovates X 2000 TGOJ will be renovating seven X 2000 trains (with an option for four more) and turning them into "Linx" trains which will run Oslo-Göteborg-København and Oslo-Stockholm. TGOJ is a subsidiary of Euromaint, formerly SJ's maintenance division. The cost is SEK12m per four-car train according to inofficial numbers. They will be delivered starting 2002, and work will start on the last four trains when SJ can spare them, ie when they get the new Alstom double-deckers. Travel times between the larger cities will be over three hours, meaning the trains must compete on comfort. The Linx train interiors, designed by Sifab will be one of Europe's most elegant with a curvy bar counter and internet/movie screens at every seat. Internet bandwidth will be limited, so there will be custom content provided by TravelVision via TCP/IP over a one-way radio link. See also TGOJ PR, Sifab website, and TravelVision website. (July 3rd)

TGOJ Renovates IC Cars TGOJ will also be renovating Swedish IC cars built in the 1980s. Four "BlueX" trains will be painted in a darker blue colour and have a seating arrangement similar to that of the X 2000 trains. The four trains will act as reserves for X 2000 trains, which are failing to meet very stiff availability requirements. Automatic doors and X 2000-seating will minimise delays at stations, at least compared to the old sixties trains which previously have been standing in for X 2000 trains. The stand-in trains typically arrive a half-hour late and passengers are paid the difference between X 2000 tickets and plain tickets. The new trains may later be upgraded to 180 km/h from 160 km/h. See also TGOJ PR. (July 3rd)

Compulsory Reservations in Finland Finnish state railway VR has reformed the ticket system such that reservations are cumpulsory in InterCity and Pendolino trains. Tickets can no longer be used on any train, only the exact one the reservation is for. There are also "green departures" which are cheaper. The new system forms the beginning of a revenue management system, which will let VR fill trains which otherwise would be almost empty, as well as make more money from full trains. (July 3rd)

Jerusalem Tram Line Jeopardises High-Speed Railway? The debate over a new rapid rail line between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv has heated up after Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert charged that the Transportation Ministry's plan to upgrade the existing, but inactive tracks would derail a high-speed railroad. "Once there is a train running to Jerusalem, even if it is a slow old one, the government and the Finance Ministry will be unwilling to provide a much needed fast rail line to and from the capital," Olmert told at a city hall press conference. (July 3rd, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

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