May 99

After 33 years of carrying theme park visitors through a 70-acre Serengeti Plain, the Busch Gardens monorail in Tampa, Florida has been closed permanently. "Our future plans, which we won't share with anyone, require some space that is taken up by the monorail," said Robin Carson, Busch Garden's general manager. (May 26th)

The broken wheel which caused an emergency stop at Gnesta outside Stockholm in January was caused by slag remains, ie impurities in the steel. They were smaller than a millimetre in size, which is inside normal international tolerance limits, but caused a crack and a 30 cm long and 1 cm thick peice of the wheel to break off. The train was moving at 200 km/h. find (May 26th)

An Amtrak train struck and killed a woman and three children early Tuesday (the 25th) in Connecticut as they walked along the railroad track. A fourth child was critically injured in the accident, which left books and backpacks strewn on the tracks. (May 26th)

Bombardier has clinched a C$655-million deal with New York's Metropolitan Authority/Long Island Rail Road to supply the mass-transit operator with 192 commuter cars for its suburban routes. The contract is unusual for the size of its options clause: an additional 808 EMU cars on option would boost the value of the deal to C$2.7 billion, the largest for any Bombardier group, including its soaring aerospace division. Press release. (May 25th)

More Trains for Rising Vancouver Volume

ZIM Israel Navigation Company has chosen Canadian National as its inland rail carrier for a new container ship service between Asia and North America. The inaugural vessel, the ZIM Vancouver, arrived today (the 25th) in the Port of Vancouver. Two dedicated doublestack unit trains will depart Vancouver tomorrow, one destined for the US Midwest and the other for Central Canada. (May 25th)

Canadian Pacific will carry transpacific containers to the US Midwest along the Vancouver-Chicago corridor for China Ocean Shipping. Later this month, China Ocean is to launch its new transpacific service, using for the first time the Port of Vancouver as the gateway to US destinations. Also see JOC story. Press Release. find (May 18th)

Four Italian football fans died when a special train carrying them to a match caught fire in a 10 km long tunnel near Salerno. (May 25th)

The British Office of Passenger Rail Franchising (Opraf) says many of the UK's 25 rail companies offered a worse service in the first three months of 1999 than they had a year ago. Only one of them had better than 95% punctuality. find (May 24th)

FT.comBritish Railtrack plans to acquire more than 1000 rail wagons in a move that has angered English Welsh & Scottish Railway, the largest freight operator, which has been expanding its own wagon fleet. EWS is incensed Railtrack can find the money for the wagons when it has been criticised for not spending enough on expanding track capacity. Railtrack retorts that EWS' wagons are not good enough for Railtrack's maintenance and construction work. (May 23rd)

Finnish VR wants to increase axle loads to 25 metric tonnes from 22,5 on certain main lines. The same project is underway in neighbouring Sweden. (May 23rd)

Etienne Schouppe, CEO of Belgian NMBS, wants the company to be privatized. Belgian premier Jean-Luc Dehaene last week entered the discussion with his book "Sporen naar 2000" (Traveling to 2000), in which he writes that the Belgian Railroads must comply with the European rules of free competition. find (May 23rd)

A direct container train will be introduced between the ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam: the AM-RO Shuttle. (May 23rd)

A Queensland tilt train train has set a new Australian rail speed record, clocking 210 km/h. More about the train. (May 23rd)

New Mexico is working to get investors for a proposed $250 million railroad near the Santa Teresa port of entry, part of an effort to make the port a major transportation hub to the north and south. (May 23rd)

Taiwan's long-awaited and much-needed rapid rail route between Taipei and the main Port of Kaohsiung looks to be stalled again. The consortium blames the government for the delay and vice-versa. find (May 21st)

A bridge over the Fehmarn Belt between Germany and Denmark would not be economically viable, the Danish Minister of Tranport Sonja Mikkelsen says. But the project primarily a political question, she adds. The bridge would allow faster trains between Copenhagen and Hamburg, but also between Germany and Norway/Sweden. (May 18th)

The Altamont Commuter Express in the Silicon Valley is seeking $14 million in federal funds to buy another locomotive and four or five more rail cars and to make track and siding improvements for a third daily round-trip train. But getting that money is proving to be a battle, with ACE forced to compete against several other California projects, many with higher profiles and more political support. The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission, which manages ACE, voted last week to hire a lobbyist to help shake loose the money. (May 18th)

Alstom will build 28 six-car train sets for line 3 of Shanghai's underground, a new line scheduled to link southeastern and northern Shanghai beginning in 2000. Each train will be able to carry 356 seated passengers and another 2140 standing at up 80 km/h. find (May 18th)

A clutch of consortia made up of rail operators, heavy engineering companies and outsourcing specialists is expected to lodge final bids to take over key parts of the public transport system in Victoria, Australia. (May 17th)

A contract to build the commuter light-rail line between Trenton and Camden will be awarded just as soon as New Jersey Transit and Conrail reach agreement on how passengers and freight will share the tracks. find (May 17th)

7kbGerman DB AG will start running its new tilting ICT trains on May 30th on the Stuttgart-Zürich line. They have a max speed of 230 km/h and max tilting capability of 8 degrees. The tilting mechanism is of the Italian Pendolino type by Fiat Ferroviaria. In comparison, the Swedish X 2000 tilts at most 6,5 degrees, but this was found to make passengers "seasick". The ICTs, like other ICE trains, feature GSM-amplifiers to ensure good reception for mobile phones. The cars with enhanced GSM reception are marked with phone-pictograms so as to ensure that those who dislike phone chattering do not unwittingly choose a chattery car. Other features of the ICT include an electronic train timetable with optional printouts, a bike section (free reservation required), steel cables & padlocks for locking luggage, electronic seat reservation information, and video screens at certain seats. See also Mercurio ICT pages. Die Welt reports that the number of passenger kilometres grew at DB AG in the first quarter of 1999 compared to a year earlier, by 10% in subsidized suburban services, and 5% in intercity services. find (May 15th)

FT.comSiemens hopes that its acquisition of a 95 per cent holding in the transport arm of Matra, the French defence and space industry group, will open up the French market, which is dominated by its arch-rival Alstom, the Anglo-French consortium. Siemens also believes its partnership with Matra of France will help it to break into the potentially lucrative market for automatic metro systems in Germany. Siemens is researching the possibility of allowing the driverless trains in which Matra specialises to run alongside conventional, manned trains. It hopes to see such a system in Germany within the next four years. Troubled Siemens Verkehrstechnik hopes to make a profit in 2000. find (May 14th/15th)

China has announced the completion of a rail link to its westernmost city. The new line connects the city of Kashgar, close to China's border with Pakistan, to other parts of the mainly-Muslim autonomous region of Xinjiang, in the country's far North-west. More on China's rail program. (May 14th)

FT.comThe first stage of London Underground's long-delayed £3bn Jubilee Line extension is expected to open this week, raising hopes that the entire 10-mile long line will be completed in time for the millennium celebrations on December 31. Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott opened the line on Friday the 14th. find (May 11th/14th)

Union Feud

In the fallout after the breakdown of merger talks, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and the United Transportation Union are engaged in a power struggle over representation at the Union Pacific Railroad. See press releases from BLE & UTU. (May 12th)

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers has broken off talks to merge with the United Transportation Union. Last year, the boards of the two unions approved a plan to unite by Jan. 1. Merger talks broke off when UTU missed a May 1 deadline to provide BLE with financial information. (May 11th)

Norwegian NSB and Swedish SJ will be starting a joint limited company for services Oslo-Stockholm and Oslo-Göteborg-Köpenhamn (Copenhagen); each will own 50% and services will start in 2001. Trains will be purchased for almost 1 billion SEK ($120 million) and the operators expect governments to pitch in with 330 million SEK for track improvements (in Sweden: Stockholm line, Göteborg line. links in English) Travel times will be reduced 20-25%. (May 12th)

Rail services in Portugal were disrupted on Tuesday the 11th when drivers began paring their work schedules to press a pay claim. The state rail company, Caminhos de Ferro Portugueses, or CP, canceled about 20 percent of scheduled services in some areas and reported delays of up to one hour. The National Drivers Union claimed that 40 percent of services were canceled. The stoppages are to continue through May 25. (May 12th)

Amtrak's Acela train derailed under tow in Vermont near Bombardier's factory over the weekend. find (May 12th)

New York Regional Rail has bought three 2,400 horsepower general purpose locomotives and is upgrading its four switch engines as the carrier gears up for additional business on June 1. That's when Norfolk Southern Corp., CSX Transportation Inc. and CP Rail formally enter the New York market. All three carriers will interchange freight with NYRR, whose main subsidiary is Cross Harbor Railroad. Infoseek story. (May 12th)

Alstom has won an order worth a minimum of C$300 million to supply First Union Rail Corporation, the freight leasing arm of First Union National Bank, with 3100 freight cars. The contract calls for Alstom to supply four different types of cars, over a period of five years. The cars will be built in Alstom's plant in Montreal, Canada. (May 11th)

Dutch shippers, hindered by inadequate infrastructure and chronically jammed roads, gladly would shift their cargo to other modes -- if they were attractive. But the alternatives -- railroads, short-sea coastal shipping and river barges -- are inadequate to handle a major influx of freight, according to a controversial new study conducted for the Dutch Shippers Council. (May 10th)

The Port of Le Havre is setting up direct rail shuttle services to and from inland markets, with the aid of a $410,000 investment by the French government. Le Havre is France's largest container port. The new venture, called Le Havre Shuttles, is 34% owned by the Port Autonome du Havre (Le Havre port authority) and 66% owned by ship agents, freight forwarders and other private port users. It will allow the port to add three to four direct rail shuttle services a year, including possible new links to Milan, Milhouse and Strasbourg. find (May 10th)

The US General Accounting Office formally released a study of rail pricing and service trends that concluded most rail freight rates in the USA have declined, but the pattern of reduction was not uniform. (May 10th)

An investigation into a train derailment in Kenya that killed 32 people on March 24th on the main Nairobi - Mombassa rail line has determined that the driver failed to use the brakes correctly to control the train's speed. Infoseek story. find (May 8th)

Kombiverkehr, an intermodal operator, is bypassing DB AG and buying its own track access next month on 300 rail routes across the length and breadth of Germany, Europe's largest freight market. This makes Kombiverkehr independent of DB AG's operative side, but track access must be purchased from DB Netz, which is 100% owned by DB AG. Kombiverkehr hopes the move will improve the availability of service for its customers, which include more than 700 non-shareholders. Kombiverkehr is a private limited partnership of 275 German freight forwarders and intermodal transporters. find (May 7th)

Russia's rail shippers will not have to pay more to move their freight until at least the middle of the year, the Russian Rail Ministry has decided. Whipsawed between the federal government, which is pressing the Rail Ministry to raise more revenue to help meet the budget, and the regional powers and their industry constituents, who want relief from rising costs and rising taxes, the cargo tariff has been a punching bag in Moscow for months. Those seeking relief have won out -- at least for now. find (May 7th)

Siemens and Norwegian NSB have agreed on terms for the return of the problematic Di6 diesel engines. NSB will return the locos and get their money back; on top of this, Siemens will compensate NSB for the problems arising from the locomotives. More in English about the locos. find (May 7th)

Norwegian NSB wants out of Malmtrafik AB, the operator of the Swedish and Norwegian ore trains in the north. MTAB is 50% owned by LKAB, the ore producer, and the rest is split between SJ and NSB. NSB fears that their 25% stake will become meaningless if SJ leaves the company. find (May 7th)

French CGEA will take over operation of the Stockholm subway in Europe's first subway privatisation; CGEA will purchase 60% of in SL Tunnelbana AB. The rest of SLTAB will be sold later. SL, which is run by the Stockholm provincial government, will continue to stipulate fair structures and timetables. In contrast to the London Underground Public-Private Partnership, SLTAB is being sold as a whole and not divided up into pieces. Following this deal and the Citypendeln deal from December, all rail commuter services in Stockholm will be operated by private companies under contracts with SL. find
Press Release
Stories at Svenska Dagbladet
Story at Financial Times (May 6th)

Canadian National will install Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) on two segments of CN' mainline track in Ontario over which passenger trains travel. With these installations, CN's entire Quebec City-Montreal-Toronto-Niagara Falls-Windsor-Sarnia, Ontario corridor will be electronically signaled. This corridor was the scene of the tragic Via Rail accident on April 23rd. Interestingly, this announcement comes only weeks after CN's president and chief executive officer Paul Tellier lashed out at those who claim the company's cost-cutting has led to recent accidents on its rail lines. Also see story at Toronto Star. find (May 6th)

A $1.5 billion plan to build a light-rail connection to Kennedy Airport in New York City got a pivotal approval yesterday from the City Planning Commission. In a 12-to-1 vote, the commissioners agreed to relinquish to the Port Authority city land along the project's right-of-way. (May 6th)

Two trains collided on a busy track in northwest Ohio early Wednesday, derailing 17 freight cars and dumping mail, televisions and Beanie Babies. About 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel from the locomotives spilled. No one was seriously injured. (May 6th)

The new high-speed Malpensa Milano Airport Express set off from central Milan (Italy) to the airport for a preview run on May 5th. Regular service starts May 30th -- seven months after the airport first opened its doors. Milan's controversial Malpensa airport continues to grapple with problems like aircraft ripping roofs off nearby houses, but one major headache neared solution on Wednesday as the long-awaited rail shuttle prepared for launch. (May 6th)

More Eurostrikes

A week-long strike at France's SNCF is expected to disrupt services on Thursday the 6th although the high-speed rail service linking Paris to Brussels and London will be assured, the SNCF says. (May 6th)

German rail workers went on strike briefly on Monday the 3rd ahead of pay talks later in the day, disrupting train services mainly in eastern Germany, the GdED union said. The stoppages, described by the union as warning strikes, affected long-distance and local services as staff in Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden, Halle, Erfurt and Magdeburg stopped work. (May 3rd)

French railworkers on Sunday threatened to extend their protest, due to end on Monday morning, and demanded the reopening of talks on cutting the legal work week. (May 2nd)

Strikes badly disrupted trains in the Paris region and northern France on Friday the 30th for the third successive day and SNCF said it expected much of the same on Saturday. (May 2nd)

The Los Angeles MTA sent the first trainload of riders on its new Hollywood subway line Monday evening (the 3rd), but--like so much connected with the trouble-plagued project--the trip turned out to be a mistake that left passengers puzzled over where they were headed. The transit authority's latest misadventure began when passengers were accidentally allowed to stay on a Hollywood-bound test train. (May 5th)

Three people have been charged for crimes associated with the environmental scandal at the Hallandsås (Halland Ridge) tunnel in southern Sweden; two at the contractor Skanska and one at Rhodia Sverige (formerly Rhône-Poulenc). Skanska says Rhodia's information on the watertighting agent Rhoca-Gil was incomplete and partially erronous. It did not mention that it could harm the nervous system, and the indicated proportion of acrylamide was incorrect, Ny Teknik writes. The prosecutor says the Skanska project- and production chiefs did not do enough to ensure the safety of their workers. Official Hallandsås page; West Coast Line page in English. (May 4th)

German Deutsche Bahn AG has paid out around 10 million marks ($5.4 million) compensation to victims of last year's Eschede crash, when an ICE slammed into a concrete bridge at 200 km/h and 100 people died. Die Welt writes that compensation amounted to 30 000 DM per death, payed to families of the victims. A state prosecutor's investigation of the accident is still not complete but could lead to legal proceedings against DB AG. (May 4th)

A German freight train carrying flammable chemicals derailed at 120 km/h in a tunnel on Wednesday the 28th between Kassel and Frankfurt. Passenger trains Hamburg­Kassel­Frankfurt and Bremen­Kassel­Frankfurt were delayed by 40 minutes due to the clean-up; more than a dozen serious train accidents have occurred so far this year in Germany. (May 2nd)

FT.comThe British government is facing legal action to oblige it to provide direct Eurostar services from Scotland through the Channel tunnel. The passenger transport authority for Strathclyde argues the British Railways Board has reneged on a commitment it made in 1989 to run regional services. (May 2nd)

Toronto's Pearson airport needs a privately financed rail link to downtown, Federal Transport Minister Collenette says. He expects to present a deal early in 1999. His office has been approached by at least one private-sector company and by financial houses interested in the project. But Greater Toronto Airport Authority president Lou Turpen fears the aiport may be stuck paying for an unprofitable railway. (May 2nd)

Many Toronto commuters have decided to continue riding GO Transit suburban commuter trains after they were forced to find other transportation during the two-day TTC strike, a GO Transit official says. (May 2nd)

Halifax (Canada) commuters may be able to get from Bedford and Sackville to downtown on a rail service in a few years if Bedford Councillor Peter Kelly can convince city council to back the idea. The trains would presumably run on the CN tracks by the Bedford Basin. Big map, small map. Your editor is a former "Haligonian". (May 2nd)

RailAmerica's subsidiary, Freight Victoria, has completed its acquisition of the V/Line Freight Corporation railroad in Australia; operations started May 1st. The transaction included the purchase of 107 locomotives and over 2800 rail cars, which will provide rail freight service across southeastern Australia over approximately 3000 miles of track. The acquisition was a major component of the Australian privatization initiative and is the largest Australian state-owned rail freight business to be privatized to date. This acquisition follows RailAmerica's successful acquisition of a controlling interest in Ferronor, a 1400-mile Chilean railroad operation. (May 2nd)

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