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March 2004

Back to Beige for SJ

brown and gray After a decade with blue interiors in X 2000 trains and red in ordinary trains, SJ is going back to the beige-brown look of the 1980s for their refurbished X 2000s. Euromaint, which has maintained them since their debut in 1990, has been contracted to refurbish 35 X 2000s for SEK400m. The first train will be ready in 2005. In contrast to the Linx sister trains, there will initially be no wifi internet access. See also stories at Ny Teknik and Vestmanlands Läns Tidning, and Euromaint press release in MS Word format. archive (March 30th)

Extortionists in France

French officials have released three people no longer suspected of extortion. The AZF group has threatened to blow up French track unless the government pays a ransom. However, the group recently sent the government a letter saying they were suspending their threat temporarily. See also Railnews UK story. (March 30th)

26 New 250 km/h Pendolinos

Trenitalia Orders 12 Pendolinos

Italian national operator Trenitalia has ordered 12 tilting 250 km/h Pendolino trains from Alstom for €240m. The trains are like those ordered by Cisalpino March 1st. (March 30th)

Cisalpino Orders Fourteen 250 km/h Trains

drawing Cisalpino, a joint venture between the Italian and Swiss railways, has ordered 14 tilting 250 km/h Pendolino trains from Alstom for €300m. The seven-car trains will seat 430 passengers and weigh 387 metric tonnes. Delivery will begin in May 2007 and be complete in January 2008. They will join the existing Pendolino fleet, which has been in service between Switzerland, Italy and Germany since 1996. The new NEAT Lötschberg tunnel will open in December 2007, and this will help reduce travel times between Switzerland and Italy by 50 minutes. See also SBB press release, Cisalpino's foto gallery with photos of existing Cisalpino Pendolinos, network map, and Alstom's page on existing Cisalpino Pendolinos. (March 2nd)

More Security

Manila Terror Plot Foiled

The President of the Philippines says the country has foiled a Madrid-style terror attack on trains and shopping malls. A series of arrests starting March 22nd and confiscated explosives stopped the attack. (March 30th)

US to Screen Passengers

The United States plans to tighten security on trains and transit by testing a program to screen passengers and their bags, and expanding the use of bomb sniffing dogs. But the National Association of Railroad Passengers says it makes more sense to improve security at rail bridges, tunnels, stations and maintenance yards. See also Washington Post story. (March 24th)

Harass Terrorists, not Passengers

A major challenge in securing rail and transit from terrorism is that checking all passengers reduces throughput and increases irritation. Instead, British Transport Police has deployed plain-clothes intelligence-gathering officers at key locations. The unarmed officers' main job is to disrupt terrorists' planning, and keep an eye out for suspicious packages. Technology is also being developed to analyse video surveillance. Computers could recognise and zoom in on individuals behaving unusually. Facial recognition technology has also been tested, but does not yet work well. (March 18th)

Competition for Polish Commuter Service

Following a recent reform, local authorities in Poland may now contract out local rail services to companies other than national operator PKP. So far, 33 carriers have obtained licenses to provide railway transport services, but only four of them, all PKP subsidiaries, are providing passenger services. archive (March 29th, thanks Piotr Nietz)

Ryanair Quits London-Brussels

Ryanair will stop flying the London-Brussels route on April 29th, it announced on February 26th. The pullout comes after an EU ruling on illegal subsidies payed to Ryanair by the Brussels Charleroi airport, and after phase 1 of the London-Chunnel high speed line opened, saving up to 25 minutes. Eurostar now takes 2:20 to go from London to Brussels. archive (March 24th)

CN Strike Over

The 5000 striking workers at Canadian National accepted the company's offer and agreed to end a four-week strike last Friday the 19th. The three-year deal includes annual wage increases of 3%, and no new disciplinary system. CN's US workers were not on strike. archive (March 23rd, thanks John Brydle)

Air Brakes DB

DB Starts RyanRail?

Der Spiegel reports rumours that German DB is looking at starting a low-fares train operator. One of the advantages of a new company is that it could sign new agreements with labour unions to lower labour costs. The rumour has been passed on by the Transnet union and Reuters, Der Spiegel writes. DB earlier introduced a price cap of €99 for long-distance travel, to meet the challenge from low-fares airlines. (March 21st)

DB Reduces Loss

DB logo German DB AG has reduced its loss from €454m in 2002 to €177m in 2003. Revenue jumped 50%, due to the aquisition of freight operator Stinnes. Freight and commuter volumes rose, while long-distance passenger-km fell 4,7%. Also, DB says that in February, long-distance passenger travel rose for the first time since last summer, but has still not reached the level before the terms of the popular BahnCard were changed in November 2002. The company hopes to be listed on the stock market in the spring of 2006. See also Der Spiegel story, Die Welt bulletin, Eurail Press stories 1 and 2, and DB press release. (March 16th)

One Dead in Italy

One person died after two trains collided in northern Italy in the early morning of Saturday the 20th local time. Both trains were sleepers, one going from Paris to Rome and the other from Rome to Paris. The last coach of the Paris-bound train derailed and got in the way of the train to Rome. See also ANSA story. (March 20th, thanks Glenn Olesen)

New EU Rail Packages

EU Agrees Dates for Open Access

Eisenbahnpackung mit Ungeahnte Möglichkeiten The European Parliament and Council of Ministers have agreed on a new law on open access, the Second Railway Package. It says that open access for all freight trains, including those within the same country, will start 2007, and that a European Railway Agency will be established to provide technical support for interoperability and safety work. The Parliament and Council also agreed to examine the Commission's Third Railway Package which proposes that open access also apply to cross-border passenger trains starting 2010. See also stories at Financial Times and Dagens Nyheter. (March 18th)

EU Proposes Open Access for Passenger Rail

EU flag The European Commission proposes to open international passenger trains to competition starting 2010. Operators of international trains would be permitted to pick up and set down passengers at any station on an international route, including stations in the same country. The European Parliament has already called for this reform to take effect 2008. The Commission says its proposal takes into account that open access may affect contracts between transit authorities and train operating companies. The Commission also proposes a harmonised train drivers' licence, and a travel guarantee for passengers. These proposals together make up the Commission's Third Railway Package. Open access on certain freight routes went into effect in March 2003. See also stories at EUpolitix and EUbusiness. archive (March 3rd)

Bombardier Closes Seven European Factories

Bombardier's train division is cutting 6600 jobs, mostly in Europe. This year, factories will close in Amadora, Portugal; and Doncaster and Derby Pride Park in Britain. Next year, the process will continue with closures in Pratteln, Switzerland; Ammendorf, Germany; Kalmar, Sweden; and Wakefield, Britain. Another train-manufacturing facility in Derby will not close, but have a reduced workforce. See also stories at BBC, Die Welt, and Dagens Nyheter. archive (March 17th, thanks David Peilow)

Combino Trams Out of Service

Cracks have appeared in several of Siemens' Combino trams, and the manufacturer has advised eight cities to take their Combino trams out of service. See also Eurail Press story. archive (March 16th)

Dubai Metro Crystallises

Tenders to build Dubai's driverless 70 km metro will be put out in May or June. It will have two lines and a fleet of 99 five-car trains. See also older Railway Gazette item and AME story. archive (March 14th, thanks Jakob Christoffersen)

Terrorists Attack Rail Passengers

Terrorism Alerts European Railways

Europe is tightening security at train and underground stations, stepping up police patrols, bomb-detection measures and electronic surveillance. Rail is considered more vulnerable to terrorist attacks than air since rail passengers are not required to go through security controls. A group calling itself AZF has issued a new threat to the French government, saying it will bomb the country's rail network unless it receives millions in ransom money. This group has been issuing threats for two months. See also Railnews UK article and SNCF press release. (March 14th)

Terror in Madrid

Ten bombs exploded on four trains on their way to Madrid Atocha station in the morning of Thursday the 11th. Later, authorities found more bombs that didn't detonate. Over 200 people died. On Friday, over 3m people demonstrated against the violence. Though the separatist ETA has denied involvment in the bombings, both it and the fundamentalist Al Qaeda are suspected of the crime. Three bombs went off on a train at Atocha station, four on a train approaching Atocha, two on the double-deck train at El Pozo, and one on a train at Santa Eugenia. See also (March 13th)

Ofotbanen Seeks Swedish Foothold

Private Norwegian train operator Ofotbanen has applied for a permit to run trains in neighbouring Sweden. It plans to run trains on Malmbanan, the ore railway in northern Sweden. The ore trains are run by mining company LKAB. Ofotbanen also plans to issue new stock in the company. See also press release. (March 8th)

Scandal Rocks VIA Officials

VIA logo Canada's prime minister Paul Martin fired Via Rail chairman Jean Pelletier on Monday the 1st, after he called a former Via employee a "pitiful" single mom after she came forward with allegations of misspending. She noticed Via may have been overbilled by an ad agency with connections to the ruling Liberal party. The ad agency was three years later identified as involved in a "sponsorship scandal". Via's president Marc LeFrançois has been suspended due to the scandal. See also report by Kevin Egan, Via profile of Marc LeFrançois, and press releases 1, 2, 3 and 4. (March 1st, thanks Kevin Egan)

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