May 00

Potentially toxic smoke billowed Sunday (the 28th) from freight cars carrying hazardous chemicals near Eunice, Louisiana, 24 hours after a derailment and explosion forced 3500 people from their homes. The fire erupted from 10 Union Pacific Railroad cars shortly before noon Saturday after 30 cars derailed near Eunice, a town of 12 000 people in southwest Louisiana. (May 29th)

wap displayEricsson and Swedish SJ are conducting the world's first trials with Bluetooth wireless technology in public environments. Bluetooth is a short-distance wideband wireless information link; put simply, it is a serial or USB cable, such as a printer cable, but without the cable. It connects any information device to the network, such as a printer or a pocket computer. The Ericsson Bluetooth Phone Adapter, available this fall, will enable Ericsson phones to connect to a Bluetooth network. The purpose of SJ's trial is to test new information services for SJ's passengers and to test Bluetooth wireless technology for communication in public environments. With WAP and Bluetooth mobile phones, passengers can book tickets, confirm seat reservations on spot and also connect to a network on the X 2000 train to reach public and corporate information resources. Using conventional technology, SJ's business passengers may book and pay for paperless train tickets using their GSM phones. See also photos here and here. find (May 26th)

Arzoon logoArzoon, an internet shipment-tracking firm, has received investment from four major American and Canadian railroads. Arzoon's application lets transportation professionals request services from transport providers, and track progress in real time when the move is ocurring. The system can track shipments made via any combination of rail, highway, air, and water. The railroads investing are Canadian Pacific, CSX, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific. A spokesman for CN suggested the four-way alliance is nothing more than a "ploy" to further delay the proposed merger of CN and BNSF. He pointed out that CN wasn't invited to participate in the Internet alliance. find (May 26th)

Amtrak recently released an as-yet unfinanced $3.9 billion five-year plan that would result in additional roundtrips, faster trip times (but slower than 200 km/h) and increased ridership on California's passenger rail routes. The five-year proposal is the first step in the development of a twenty-year vision for existing and emerging rail corridors in the state due out this fall. The twenty-year document and the five-year summary, called the California Passenger Rail Plan, is currently being developed in partnership with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), local communities, transportation agencies, commuter railroads, freight railroads and the Federal Railroad Administration. See also the complete report (1,5mb) in PDF format. The press release is available at the Amtrak site in Adobe's PDF format, and at Erik's Rail News in html (plain) format. find (May 26th, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

The city of Izmir, Turkey's third largest city (pop.: 3,5 million), has opened its new Metro supplied by a consortium led by Adtranz. The metro comprises 11.5 km, 10 stations and 45 six-shaft articulated vehicles. Also included are power supply, signalling and communication systems and a service workshop and depot. The total order value of the project is $US570m. More on the project. (May 23rd)

Sydney's newest rail line, the Airport Link, opened on Sunday May 21st, providing a direct link to both the Domestic and International terminals. The Airport Line is integrated into the existing CityRail network with fast regular services to the two airport stations and three new stations at Green Square, Mascot, Domestic Terminal and Wolli Creek. There will be eight trains per hour each way during peak periods, six trains an hour outside the peaks and four trains an hour at weekends. find (May 22nd, thanks Alan Reekie)

Danish DSB Stykgods, the single consignments division of DSB's freight division, has been sold to Danske Fragtmūnd. Danske Fragtmūnd will take over on August 1st if DSB's and Danske Fragtmūnd's boards accept the deal. DSB Stykgods has 755 employees. The minister of transport, Jakob Buksti, says in a press release that the development is good for intermodal transport, and for employees of DSB Stykgods. find (May 22nd, thanks Flemming Block)

A fire in a Northeast Philadelphia warehouse on Saturday the 20th sent a cloud of smoke into the sky and forced the closure of Interstate 95 and Amtrak's line between New York and Philadelphia for several hours. (May 21st)

Itino trainTwo Swedish regional train authorities have ordered eleven Adtranz "Itino" diesel regional trains for EURO40m. Starting in the summer of 2002, three 2-car and and six 3-car units will be delivered to JLT, Jšnkšpings LŠnstrafik, in the central part of Sweden. Two 2-car multiple units will be delivered to TiB, TŒg i Bergslagen, northwest of Stockholm. Adtranz has previously sold 35 of the bigger and faster Regina EMUs to VL and to X-trafik. find (May 21st)

Safer railways in India is top priority for Indian Railways' budget for 2000-01, approved by parliament on March 13. The other two main priorities are improved capacity and better passenger facilities. All three areas have increased allocations, while investment in new lines is up by 61%. There is funding for three new gauge conversion projects, 15 doubling schemes, seven new lines and 25 new line surveys. Total investment rises 23% to Rs1,1bn. (May 18th)

Hong Kong has unveiled a $12.8bn blueprint for six proposed new railway projects to be completed through 2016 to reduce traffic congestion and support economic growth. "Railways will be vital in supporting the economic, social and population growth of the HKSAR (territory) in the next 15 years," Transport Secretary Nicholas Ng said in a statement. find (May 18th)

Ohio off the Track

Taking a train will not be an option for people traveling between Columbus and Cleveland during the widening of I-71 in the next few years. "The project is dead, but this committee is not disbanded," Jim Seney, executive director of the Ohio Rail Development Commission told a frustrated 2-C Steering Committee yesterday. The committee was formed nearly two years ago to look at temporary train service during the $500 million widening of I-71. The service originally was pegged at a cost of $32 million. But the merger of private freight railroads and related track congestion pushed the cost of the service to more than $50 million. See also Toledo Blade story and earlier Columbus Dispatch story. (May 18th)

Ohio is little more than a whistle-stop in the US federal government's plan for high-speed rail corridors that pass through 25 states. "It's the only state in the Midwest high-speed rail initiative that doesn't have a corridor through it," said Jolene Molitoris, the federal railroad administrator in the U.S. Department of Transportation. The only Ohio train is a Cincinnati stop on a line to Indianapolis and Chicago. And Columbus, the nation's 15th most-populous city, is the largest U.S. city with no intercity or commuter passenger-rail service, she said. Nonetheless, Molitoris is optimistic about prospects for her home state. "I am hopeful the leadership in this state and its cities will coalesce around what's right," she said yesterday. "Ohioans can have high-speed rail in their lifetime." find (May 9th)

Merger Moratorium Implications

The STB's merger moratorium gives Canadian Pacific more time in deciding how best to restructure its holdings for the global economy. The transportation, energy and hotel conglomerate is trying to erase the estimated 30 per cent discount on its shares by expanding its geographic reach while streamlining holdings. The most talked about divestment candidate is Canadian Pacific Railway. Long the backbone of the Canadian Pacific empire, the railway has improved dramatically of late by slashing costs and investing C$3.3bn ($2.2bn) to upgrade equipment, facilities and systems. Those efforts appear to be paying off as CPR last year achieved its best operating ratio, the benchmark by which railways measure their performance. (May 10th)

The BNSF-CN merger is really all about control over the Powder River Basin and the clean-burning coal there. BNSF is currently the dominant carrier, hauling up to 56% of production from the Basin. Merging with CN would mean that BNSF gets more potential customers for this attractive energy source. It would consolidate BNSF's lead position in this market. find (May 9th)

The Train Chartering Company & announce the launch of live interactive broadcasting via the Internet and satellite, for presentations, conferencing and meetings onboard private Trains such as The Orient Express Northern Belle. (May 10th)

Alstom, in cooperation with French SNCF is developing a new design of TGV called AGV. It will be the first articulated high-speed train with distributed traction rather than power cars at each end. Prototype AGV cars are under construction and should be ready to start testing in March 2001. See also Die Welt stories, 1 & 2. find (May 9th, thanks Tobias Kšhler)

A dispute over privatisation in Estonia has cast a shadow over the small Baltic nation's normally close relationship with Finland, its largest trading partner and staunch ally. Estonian railway officials and some government members are lobbying to exclude Finland's state-owned railway company, VR Yhtyma, from a tender for 66 per cent of Eesti Raudtee (Estonian Railways), the operator of the railway line that carries transit cargo from Russia to Estonian ports. (May 9th)

Norway's biggest strike since 1986 was called off by union leaders on Tuesday morning (the 9th) following an improved offer from the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (NHO). Passenger rail services continued as normal during the strike, but without food & drink services. Certain freight trains were cancelled. See also the press release. (May 9th)

Brian Souter, chairman of Stagecoach, the British transport operator, has criticised both government and regulators for strangling growth on the railways. Mr Souter said confusion caused by having three rail regulators and the lack of bold action or money from ministers was creating too much uncertainty. "We need to sort out the issues as it will be very ugly in three to four years' time," he said. find (May 9th)

British passenger and freight groups are angry that the shadow Strategic Rail Authority and Railtrack are selling land that they say is needed to improve the network. Campaigners have drawn up a list of examples in the hope of shaming the authority and the network operator. "This asset-stripping of the railway's future runs directly counter to the government and the shadow SRA's stated intention to increase the capacity of the network," said Stephen Joseph, director of Transport 2000, the campaign group. find (May 9th)

Australia NSW Treasury officials say the State Rail Authority should be allowed to raise an extra $70 million in train fares next year - $19 million more than the authority's own request to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal. In a submission to the annual review of public transport fares, Treasury said fares should go up by 3.7 per cent on July 1 to compensate for inflation, rather than 2.7 per cent as sought by the SRA. And that is before commuters are hit by the GST (VAT/sales tax) component which will push fares up by about another 9 per cent. (May 1st)

When construction clogs traffic on Interstate 95 in Northeast Philadelphia and Bucks County late this summer, SEPTA hopes its new Regional Rail cars, unveiled yesterday for the Trenton and West Trenton lines, will help relieve the pain. Intent on luring drivers from their cars while crews rebuild the highway in the years ahead, the state Department of Transportation provided the money for 10 new stainless-steel cars - the first additions to SEPTA's railroad fleet in 13 years. They cost $1.3 million each. find (May 1st)

Florida Tri-Rail officials are in the design phase of a $327 million grant project that would add a parallel track along the current one that services Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. That project, expected to be completed by 2005, would add a second line to 44 miles of the tracks that run for a total of 71 miles (114km). find (May 1st)

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