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July 2004

New Inspectorates in Denmark & Sweden


Trafikstyrelsen logo Responsibility for safety inspections in Denmark have been moved from Jernbanetilsynet to Trafikstyrelsen, while investigations into accidents is being done by Havarikommissionen for Civil Luftfart og Jernbane. The rail administration has also been renamed from Banestyrelsen to Banedanmark, while Jernbanetilsynet is being abolished. Trafikstyrelsen sets rules for safety and approves track, trains and operations. (July 31st)

New Swedish Rail Agency

Järnvägsstyrelsen Sweden's railway inspectorate was replaced yesterday by the Swedish Rail Agency. Apart from safety issues, the new agency will supervise issues such as fair access charges and fair capacity allocation. (July 2nd)

TGV Est Test

The prototype TGV train for the new LGV Est is being tested on a test track in Velim in the Czech Republic. The test train is 227m long including two traction units (locomotives) and eight coaches. When put in service in 2007, these trains will run at 320 km/h. archive (July 29th)

25 New Green Goats in Texas

The Texas Emissions Reduction Program (TERP) has approved $24m in grants for over 25 RailPower Green Goat hybrid yard locomotives. Usually the grants are for 100% of the cost of converting the locomotive to a hybrid. TERP aims to principally reduce smog-precursor NOx (oxides of nitrogen). The applications were submitted by three Class 1 railroads, two regional railroads, and three operators of industrial switcher locomotives. See also story at Dallas Business Journal. archive (July 29th, thanks Nigel Horsley)

De-Privatised Maintenance Reduces Delays

Network Rail logo Delays caused by Network Rail have fallen 21% in those areas where the company 'de-privatised' maintenance. Since NR decided in October last year to take over maintenance from its contractors, some 16 000 maintenance staff, a fleet of more than 5 000 road vehicles, a network of training centres and almost 600 depots have come under direct NR control. Construction of new track is still contracted out. Network Rail is the self-owned company which took over Britain's rail network from Railtrack, which was privatised in 1996 and wound up in 2002. archive (July 28th)

Accusations Fly after Derailment Kills 37

Plot Thickens After Turkish Derailment

Turkey's transport minister says the derailed train was moving at 118 km/h and the speed limit was 80 km/h. Two drivers and a train chief have now appeared in court over the matter. The defense lawyer says they had been told to drive it even faster, 130 km/h. According to the BBC, Yavuz Zegerek, head of the Hur Anadolu transport trade union, said "it's not possible to reach the destination in five hours without turning the existing rules inside out". (July 25th)

37 Dead in Turkey

The number of people killed after a train derailed in northwestern Turkey on Thursday evening (the 22nd) has been revised down to 37. The train was going from Istanbul to Ankara. It was supposed to have been moving at 70-80 km/h, but witnesses say it was going faster. The train's top speed is reported to be 150 km/h. An Istanbul-Ankara high-speed railway is under construction and will be complete at the end of 2005. Critics claim trains run faster than is suitable given the state of the track. See also Reuters story on accusations of excessive speed, today's CNN story and yesterday's, bulletin on the high-speed link, and official Turkish railway site. (July 22nd/23rd)

DB Expands Parcel Service

German DB AG and the Lufthansa airline last year started a joint venture called ic:kurier which handles express parcels. Ic:kurier aims to handle 40 000 parcels this year and 50 000 in 2006. DB has offered a parcel service using intercity trains since 1982. (July 23rd)

Amtrak Train Stopped for Security Search

Law enforcement officers searched Washington to Boston Amtrak train early today, videotaping passengers and checking their identifications and personal belongings, after a note characterized by officials as threatening Jews was found in a restroom cafe car. See also Guardian story. (July 22nd)

Indian Airlines Match Rail Fares

Air ticket prices in India have dropped to the level of railway fares. A return air fare between Delhi and Mumbaihas fallen 69% to Rs 4,444 – compared to Rs 4,420 for air-conditioned rail travel along the same route. Nine more low cost carriers have applied for licences and are readying for take off, including one backed by United Breweries and another by garment manufacturer Bombay Dyeing. Low-cost airlines have already taken their first victim, Linx, which runs inter-capital trains in northern Europe. (July 22nd)

7 Million in 100 Days

Korea's high-speed KTX trains have carried seven million passengers in the first 100 days of operation. Punctuality has been 98,56%. archive (July 20th)

Parliament to Vote on Crossrail

The British government will put a Crossrail bill before Parliament for approval this fall. Crossrail is an east-west project which would connect major London stations with the Heathrow airport. As well as creating faster, no-change journeys for commuters and shoppers, the trains would cut overcrowding on some of the busiest Tube routes. The project is to be financed with public and private money, but the details are not yet clear. See also BBC story and Guardian story on Crossrail and national road pricing. archive (July 20th, thanks Matt Carlson)

Crack Detector Inspects at Normal Speed

Crack-detecting trains normally inspect track at about 50 km/h but British researchers have developed technology to inspect it at normal speed. This would let track detector trains inspect track without delaying or cancelling other trains. Ordinary trains could even be fitted with inspection functions. (July 20th, thanks Erik Kollberg)

Britain Re-Adjusts

End of the Line for SRA

Britain's transport minister plans to scrap the Strategic Rail Authority. The Authority's franchising responsibilities will be moved to the department of transport. Timetabling, use of routes and punctuality, is to be moved from train operating companies to Network Rail. Responsibility for rail safety will be moved from the Health and Safety Executive, to the Office of Rail Regulation. In time the number of franchises will be reduced and aligned more closely with Network Rail's regional structure. The proposals are all contained in a white paper on rail transport published today. See also stories at BBC, Guardian and FT. archive (July 15th)

Britain Increases Transport Spending

Britain is to increase spending on transport. By 2008, it will have increased 60% over 1997. (July 15th)

World of Wifi

India Gets on the Wifi Train

Wifi wireless broadband internet is being launched on the Delhi-Amritsar and Delhi-Bhopal routes in India. A kiosk with two computers will be set up on luxury coaches while "hotspots" will allow passengers with wireless-equipped devices to connect to the web. India is also fitting trains with GPS, Global Positioning System, in an effort to reduce accidents. Drivers will also have access to air-conditioned rest rooms to increase vigilance. See also BBC story from September 2003. (July 14th)

Swiss and French Stations get Wifi

Eighty-nine stations in France and Switzerland are to be equipped with wifi broadband wireless internet by Cegetel in France and Swisscom Mobile in Switzerland. Swiss SBB is also equipping 75 first-class coaches with wifi. It appears access will be free of charge. See also press releases from French SNCF and Swiss SBB. (July 14th)

Britain Wedded to Wifi

Ten GNER trains will be fitted with wifi by the end of the summer. Second Class passengers may use the network for £3 to £10 depending on the length of the trip, while access in first class is free. GNER runs trains between London and Scotland on the east coast main line. Meanwhile, British Broadreach is working with Virgin and three other train operators to provide wifi on their trains. Broadreach uses technology from Canadian PointShot Wireless, which has equipped four VIA coaches on the Toronto-Montreal route, while GNER is working with Swedish Icomera, which previously equipped the seven Linx trains in Norway and Sweden. See also BBC story and story about BroadReach at The Register, PointShot Wireless press release, archive (July 14th)

Non-stick Paint Eludes Graffiti

Chemists in Denmark have developed invisible paint which can protect trains and buildings from graffiti. Graffiti can easily be removed from a protected surface, by simply wiping it with a dry cloth or applying ordinary tape and then removing it again. The new paint is cheap and does not need to be re-applied after cleaning graffiti. Teknologisk Institut, which is behind the new paint, reckons it can be commercially available within a half year. • DSB is also resorting to covering graffiti with foil if there is no time to remove it before putting a train in service. See also second story, Teknologisk Institut's website, and graffiti foiling bulletin. archive (July 14th)

Projects in Prague

Prague Tunnels Connect Corridors

Czech rail administration SZCD has contracted a consortium led by Skanska to build two railway tunnels that will link Prague's Central Station and Masarykovo Station with three stations on the other side of the Vitkov Hill in Prague. The construction project also includes four railway bridges and links to three of the country's most important railroad corridors. The consortium's share of the project is worth Kc7,85bn, and includes 2,7km of tunnels and 28km of track. (July 14th, thanks Alan Reekie)

Prague Airport to get Metro and Rail

The City of Prague has decided to extend the metro to the airport and also to contribute to upgrading the Prague-Kladno railway to higher speeds and to build a railway station at the airport. They are estimated to cost Kc25bn each. Prague-Kladno currently takes 42 minutes by train. (July 4th)

British Train Travel up 36%

Train travel in Britain has increased by one third since privatisation, according to the Association of Train Operating Companies. Passenger kilometers increased 36,1% nationally, more than any European country, and 46,5% in London and the southeast over the past ten years. Freight traffic grew 32,6% over the same period. The increasing traffic has resulted in more delays, though punctuality reached 83,1% in the first quarter of this year, an improvement of 2,6% since last year. See also a summary of the Strategic Rail Authority's progress report dated June 25th. (July 4th)

Good Times for Eurostar

Passenger numbers at Eurostar increased 19% in the first half of this year compared to the same period last year. Revenues are up 16% and 89% of trains were on time. Travel times were reduced last September when phase one of the high-speed Channel Tunnel Rail Link was completed. archive (July 4th)

Dutch Take Northern England

NS logo Dutch Nederlandse Spoorwegen will be taking over trains in northern England under the new Northern Rail franchise stretching from Manchester to Yorkshire, Newcastle and Liverpool. NS will operate the franchise through its NedRailways subsidiary and in cooperation with Serco, which operates the Docklands light railway in London. Northern Rail will cover 2700 km of track, serve 46m passengers a year and comprise short and middle-distance routes presently served by Arriva Trains Northern and First Great Western. See also stories at Independent and Railnews UK. See also press releases from NS and SRA. (July 2nd)

New Zealand Renationalises Track

New Zealand bought back the rail network on June 30th from the privatised national railway for $1 and is spending NZ$200m over four years on upgrading and repair work. In return, the train operator, Toll, has agreed to spend NZ$100m on rolling stock. See also stories at Railnews UK and The Age, and Toll press release PDF. archive (July 2nd)

Amtrak Proposes $3bn for Corridors

Amtrak logo Amtrak and officials from five states have submitted a proposal for improvements frequency and speed for existing intercity rail corridors. The states would cover 20% of the construction cost, with the federal government covering the rest, $3bn. Amtrak also wants $1,6bn in subsidies each year for the next five years, with $1bn annually going to repair old bridges and other infrastructure. See also Amtrak press release. (July 1st)

Danish IC4s Two Years Delayed

IC4 photo Danish DSB's new IC4 intercity trains will not be ready for service in time for the January timetable due to problems with the onboard computer. However, the timetable is not dependent on the higher speed so trains will still run as planned. DSB is holding payment until the problem has been fixed. 83 four-car diesel trains are on order from Italian AnsaldoBreda for DKK500bn. They reach 200 km/h and will replace many of the 180 km/h IC3 trains, which will be used for regional service, where they in turn will replace older trains to be scrapped. See also DSB press release and IC4 page, and older Politiken story. archive (July 1st)

Railion Expands

Is Bigger Really Better?

Major Swedish transport buyers have written a letter to the government asking not to have the state freight rail operator Green Cargo sold to German giant Railion, fearing it would cement the de-facto monopoly. Railion has already bought Swedish trucking firm Bilspedition through the aquisition of Stinnes. But DHL's European boss says that consolidation in the logistics business is likely to continue, because increased specialisation in manufacturing means that logistics is going to become more complex. DHL was recently bought by Deutsche Post, the German post office, which is to be privatised. See also DN article on DHL. (July 1st)

Tågåkeriet Drives Train for DHL

DHL Rail is co-operating with Swedish shortline Tågåkeriet i Bergslagen to run trains from Trondheim in Norway to Kristinehamn in Sweden. In Kristinehamn, the trains are fetched by Green Cargo to be hauled to Stockholm. See also Jernbaneverket press release. (July 1st)

Swedish Freight Almost Sold

Green Cargo logo The Swedish government has struck a deal with a buyer for freight operator Green Cargo, says a member of parliament to the Dagens Nyheter newspaper. The deal, which is classified, is conditional on a proposition approved by parliament Saturday the 19th. The buyer is likely to be German Railion. Opponents to the deal, including business lobbies, fear Railion's dominance. See also below, story on the parliament's decision, story on opposition to the deal, and Eurail Press story. archive (June 19th)

Railion Buys Italian Railfreight Operator

Railion logo German Railion has bought 95% of the shares in private railfreight operator Strade Ferrate del Mediterraneo, which was founded in 2001. Railion says this secures access to northwestern Italy and increases their competitivness in trans-Alpine freight. Swiss SBB has previously started its own subsidiaries in Germany and Italy, while Railion owns the former state freight train operators in Denmark and the Netherlands. archive (June 9th)

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