March 2002

Jernbanverket Installs GSM-R Norwegian rail administration Jernbaneverket has awarded a NOK1,2bn order for GSM-R to BaneTele. BaneTele will roll out the European GSM-R mobile phone system, specially adapted for railways' safety requirements, over Norway's 4000km rail network, including 1000 tunnels. The system is only available to rail personell, not "mere mortals". (March 22nd)

Chunnel Reopened for Freight

Eighty Extra Guards The French government decided this week to send a squadron of 80 extra gendarmes to protect the Fréthun terminal from illegal immigrants hitching a ride on Chunnel freight trains. SNCF hopes to restore a normal service with the help of the extra gendarmes. "We think we should be able to return to a situation where we serve all our clients - except, of course, those who have adopted alternative routes," said Francis Rol-Tanguy, SNCF's managing director of freight. Sixty per cent of normal services are still not operating. See also EWS press release. (March 22nd)

Chunnel Freight Halted Indefinitely The French government has promised to send police reinforcements to the Channel tunnel in an effort to reopen rail freight. The UK and French authorities reacted on Wednesday the 13th after SNCF, the French national rail operator, concluded months of disruption by stopping services "until further notice". Trains were halted on Friday after more than 200 asylum seekers gained access to the yard. Since October, when SNCF said it could run only up to five of the normal 15 to 20 daily services from France to the UK, EWS estimates it has lost £6m revenue. The ability of asylum seekers to board so many trains has also raised security fears about terrorism. See also BBC story. (March 14th, thanks Bengt Mutén)

National Express Resists Pay Demands British train operator National Express on Wednesday the 20th signalled its intention to take a hard line against demands for steep rises in train drivers' pay, describing demands for a 22 per cent pay rise as "untenable" and "outrageous". (March 22nd)

460 New London Commuter Trains

swish!Bombardier Builds 460 Trains For GoVia London Bombardier, thumped by allegations it is partly responsible for train delays in Germany and stung by investor nervousness over its purchase of Adtranz, has snagged a hefty C$1,49bn order to provide 460 Class 377 Electrostar commuter trains for London's SouthCentral franchise. The sum includes a 20-year material supply and technical support agreement for GoVia's Electrostar fleet, which totals 700 cars with this order. GoVia is a British holding firm jointly owned by the Go-Ahead Group plc and France's Keolis SA.

Fine Trains The air-conditioned trains reach 160 km/h and have modern audio and visual passenger information systems linked to the Global Positioning System. Fifteen 4-car trainsets will be dual AC/DC voltage, the remaining 167 3- and 4-car sets (640 cars) being single DC voltage. Each car will also be fitted with a closed-circuit television surveillance system for enhanced internal security, allowing drivers to view car interiors whilst the train is stationary. (March 15th)

Britain Bails Out Operators Britain's losses are spreading from Railtrack to the train operators. The Strategic Rail Authority struck a deal with National Express on Thursday the 7th to bail out its ScotRail and Central franchises. Both suffered badly from the speed restrictions imposed on the network following the Hatfield accident in October 2000, NE says. Taxpayers have now rescued eight of the 25 privatised train operating franchises, the Financial Times reports. Also, Britain has made a deal with the EU to lend £5,5bn to Railtrack or underwrite private loans until 30 September. But Ernst & Young administrator Alan Bloom has called the deadline 'challenging and tight', and many industry and City observers think Railtrack could remain in limbo until well into 2003. See also National Express press release. (March 10th)

Amtrak Boss Resigns

Amtrak Boss Resigns Amtrak President and CEO George Warrington has resigned and will become executive director of New Jersey Transit, which handles 226m rail and bus commuter trips per year and has 10 000 employees. Warrington was general manager of New Jersey Transit's rail operations from 1988 to 1990. Amtrak faces radical surgery after the House of Representatives has found that it will not be self-sufficient by the end of this year. About 70% of Amtrak's expenses are covered by its revenue. Last year, Amtrak served a record 23,5m passengers and earned revenue of $2,1bn, also a record. See also stories and Amtrak press release. find (March 10th, thanks Bengt Mutén)

Senate Wants More Money For Amtrak A Senate committee suggests spending $4,6bn a year on Amtrak as a first step toward a revitalized passenger rail system. The five-year bill would retain Amtrak as the operator of all national passenger service, which goes counter to the recommendations of the Amtrak Reform Council. While the ARC suggests Amtrak lose the North-East Corridor where the fast Acela trains run, the Senate committee wants it to become a separate financial unit under Amtrak, but with profits being spent on the corridor and not on unprofitable trains. The committee's $4,6bn proposal is more than nine times greater than Amtrak's current federal budget. See also Amtrak at Risk Of Shutdown. (March 6th)

TGV Est Under Construction Construction of the 300km, €3,13bn Paris-Strasbourg Ligne à Grande Vitesse Est Européenne started at the end of January and will be completed in 2006, putting the two cities 2h18m apart, down from 4 now. Trains will reach 320 km/h, taking 3h45m to reach Frankfurt. €1,9bn is coming from the French government, the train operator SNCF and the track company Réseau Ferré de France. The rest is coming from regional and local authorities, the European Union, and Luxembourg. In comparison, SNCF and RFF funded 90% of the TGV Méditerranée, completed last summer. See also SNCF press release with PDF links at the bottom. find (March 7th)

Accidents in Austria

Poor Braking Power Blamed ÖBB says the Wampersdorf rolling highway train accident was caused by poor braking power. Die Presse speculates that the brake pipe was broken, but that would increase braking power, not reduce it. However, the wording of the ÖBB press release is "poor braking power", not "defective brakes". The Die Presse article speculates further that the train was not coupled correctly, and this made the brakes inneffective. See also info on how brakes work. (March 5th)

Second Accident The day after the fatal accident, a mild one occurred in Vienna when a mixed freight train and an empty one collided. Nobody was injured. (March 5th)

Eight Dead in Austria At least eight people died after two freight trains collided head-on in Wampersdorf, Austria Tuesday the 26th. One of the trains, a "rolling highway", was carrying trucks/lorries and their drivers; the sleeping car with the drivers ended up perpendicular to the track. The collision ocurred at 4 pm near Wampersdorf, 30 km south of Vienna. The rolling highway train was on its way southward to Sopron in Hungary, and the freight train was going northward to Vienna. The cause of the accident is unclear. See also CNN story and AP stories 1 and 2, all in English. (February 27th, thanks Toma Bacic)

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