June 2002

Nasty Surprises in Sydney Sydney's railway network may be in worse shape than first thought - riddled with poorly made and aging rail where cracks and vertical head splits are being found almost daily. Engineering experts warn that rail rolled in the 1960s may have been made without first removing imperfections and slag. (June 28th, thanks David Bromage)

New Rail Line in Sydney Construction of the Chatswood to Epping line in Sydney's north will commence by the end of the year. The New South Wales state government has awarded the A$850 million construction contract to a consortium of Thiess, Hochtief and Alstom. The 14km commuter line will be built mostly underground and have four stations. It will form part of the Parramatta Rail Link. (June 28th, thanks David Bromage)

Ikea Now Drives Trains Ikea's Sweden-Germany freight trains start running today after years of preparation. Ikea has received an operating permit from Swedish rail administration Banverket and has contracted out the trains to three private operators. See also Ny Teknik articles and official press release. find (June 27th)

Tågkompaniet logoConnex Swipes Night Trains From Tågkompaniet Connex has won the five-year Swedish franchise to run night trains from Stockholm and Göteborg to the North, leaving the incumbent Tågkompaniet without 90% of its revenues. Tågkompaniet is appealing the decision. Connex asked the Rikstrafiken authority for 310mkr (€33,6m) to run the trains, while Tågkompaniet demanded 537mkr. Connex says they will offer jobs to anyone at Tågkompaniet directly involved with running the night trains. Tågkompaniet has about 200 employees and 150 000 passengers per month. Connex expressed admiration for Tågkompaniet's work and noted this will make it extra important for them to do a good job. See also press releases from Connex and Rikstrafiken. find (June 27th)

Both Short-Term and Long-Term Amtrak Solution

US Finds Amtrak Money? Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta says the administration is not trying to force sweeping "reforms" on Amtrak immediately as a price for emergency funding, but said in the long run the country must deal with issues surrounding passenger rail. He hoped to have a funding package ready later today (Wednesday). (June 26th)

Bush's Plan for Amtrak The Bush Administration has come up with a plan for restructuring Amtrak: Create a passenger train system driven by sound economics; require Amtrak to be only an operating company, with no ownership of track; allow some routes to be franchised to private operators; require states to pay an increasing share of the cost of intercity rail service; and form a "public partnership" to own and manage the Amtrak-owned assets of the Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston. There is still no decision on emergency funding for Amtrak which is threatening to shut down. See also a historical résumé, the Amtrak President's Senate testimony, and Amtrak's statement on a possible shutdown. (June 25th)

200 Dead in Tanzania 200 people were killed and up to 800 injured when a train in Tanzania lost power at 8:30 Monday morning (the 24th)and rolled backwards down a slope, colliding with a goods train and derailing. (June 25th)

Railtrack Soon Relisted Shares in Railtrack are expected to resume trading on the London Stock Exchange next week. The combined value of Network Rail's offer for Railtrack PLC and assets salvaged so far by Railtrack Group equate to around 250 pence per share. Railtrack Group shares were suspended at 280 pence on Oct 7 last year when Railtrack PLC was put into administration after the government pulled the plug on further state aid. (June 20th)

Re-regauging Project in Australia The Wolseley to Mt Gambier line in South Australia will be converted to standard gauge and reopen next year, after 8 years of disputes over who should pay for it. The isolated broad gauge line was mothballed in 1994 after the Melbourne - Adelaide line was converted to standard gauge. Disputes between the state and federal governments over responsibility and the subsequent privatisation of Australian National Railways have prevented any action to date. The South Australian state government will provide A$10 million and private operator Australian Southern Railroad will provide the remaining $8 million. This will be the second regauging for the line; it was converted from narrow (1067mm) to broad (1600mm) gauge in the early 1960s. (June 20th, thanks David Bromage)

Eurostar Goes On Wrong Line A Eurostar train with nearly 500 passengers on board sparked a full-scale emergency after a signal error directed it on to the wrong tracks outside London on May 28th. A Eurostar spokesman said the driver had gone through a correct green signal but was unable to explain why the train was then directed towards the wrong station. Investigators will look at whether they were set in the wrong direction, whether the green signal should have been at red until the points changed, or whether human error or faulty equipment was to blame. See also BBC story. (June 20th, thanks Dave)

SWT may Lose New Franchise South West Trains, the southwest London commuter franchise, could lose its proposed 15-year franchise because of continuing poor services. Transport Secretary Stephen Byers called SWT's services "not acceptable." His condemnation sent a shock wave through Stagecoach-owned SWT, which believed it had the franchise sewn up. SWT recently announced the completion of a £1 billion order for new trains. (June 20th)

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