November 2000

Flooding in Western Sweden Sweden's west coast main line was blocked south of Göteborg due to flooding in a tunnel after weeks of heavy rain. The railway to Norway has also been blocked in Arvika since Sunday. (November 22nd)

Floods in Italy Heavy rains washed trains off the lines on Friday the 17th as Italy was hit by its third bout of rainstorms in a month. In Sicily, the engine and two carriages of the mainline train to Milan were derailed by mud on the tracks, slightly injuring two people, police said. North of Naples, a local service engine also was derailed, but no one was hurt. (November 22nd)

overturned locoFlooding Isolates Oz Towns Ten days of torrential rain has caused severe flooding in northern New South Wales. A third of the state is under water, roughly an area the size of England and Wales. Many towns have been isolated and several rail lines cut. The Main North line has been cut by a rock slide. The North West line has been cut by flooding in several places. One branch line was closed to allow flood barriers to be erected. A cross country line has been severaly damaged, resulting in a locomotive overturning. This locomotive is now completely submerged. It may be several months before the ground is dry enough to get cranes to the location. Flooding has also been severe in southern and central Queensland. The terminus south western line is isolated, and coal traffic to Gladstone and Mackay has been disrupted. Railways in Queensland are often the only means of transportation during heavy floods. (November 22nd, reported by David Bromage)

Trouble for Sydney Airport Link The company behind Sydney's (Australia) new airport link is having financial difficulty just six months after opening. Ridership has not yet reached a forecast of 48 000 passengers per day. Ridership in October was 12 500. The link appears to be fully integrated with the existing public transport system, but experience from other countries shows that exceptional luxury is required to make people open their pocket books. The Sydney airport trips only take 9 minutes, however. See also editorial. (November 22nd, thanks David Bromage)

Oz: Melbourne Discovers Trams Melbourne is studying the possibility of giving trams traffic-light priority, as well as getting modern French low-floor trams and equipping tramstops with ticket machines and electronic signs about the status of the next tram. Signal priority and a partial ban on cars would let the trams run every three minutes on route 109. (November 22nd, thanks David Bromage)

Strike in Ireland A rail strike by Irish signal operators which will cause disruption to up to 40,000 commuters is to start on Wednesday the 22nd, after talks aimed at averting the action broke down at around 11 o'clock Tuesday. Management of Iarnrod Eireann and SIPTU representatives held 9 hours of talks at the Labour Relations Commission, but no agreement was reached. (November 22nd)

click for bigger picSNCF: 72 New Regional Double Deckers Bombardier and Alstom have received an order from French SNCF for 72 EMU trains, consisting of 30 two-car, 25 three-car, and 17 four-car units. Bombardier will build 89 of these 203 vehicles as well as the 203 power bogies. The firm order is valued at C$520m or €415m, with Bombardier Transportation's share to be C$130m or €103,5m. Deliveries are scheduled to take place from October 2002 to October 2005. The contract includes an option for 426 additional vehicles. Should this option be exercised, Bombardier's share would reach approximately C$376m or €300m. See also photos and info at Mercurio. (November 22nd, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

Railcare Sale Investigated The UK government has referred the purchase of Railcare by DaimlerChrysler's Adtranz rail unit to the Competition Commission over concerns for the market for heavy maintenance of railway rolling stock. The loss-making Railcare rail maintenance operation was sold by UK engineering firm Babcock and Siemens last month. (November 22nd)

Estonian Privatisation The Estonian privatisation agency said on Monday the 20th that all three second round bidders for 66 percent of state rail firm Eesti Raudtee had submitted offers in the third and final round. The bidders are Baltic Rail Service, local consortium RER, and RailEstonia, an arm of RailAmerica. (November 22nd)

Railtrack's Corbett Resigns Railtrack on Friday the 17th accepted the resignation of Gerald Corbett, chief executive, effective immediately. "Mr Corbett felt, and the board agreed, that having put in place the national recovery plan, the time was now right for someone fresh to lead the company," Railtrack said in a statement. Steven Marshall, the current finance director, has been appointed to replace Mr Corbett, 49, who has been with Railtrack since 1997. (November 17th)

DB AG Misses Revenue Goal German DB AG has missed its revenue goal for the year by 4,3%, but is still ahead of last year's revenue by 5,5%. This is partly because the trains to the Expo 2000 fair at Hannover only brought in DM125m compared to the expected DM400m. Also, the new German minister of transport wants to accelerate the privatisation process, and says that a key issue is open access to the rail network. He has earmarked DM15bn of new UMTS auction money for improving the nation's railways. The money comes from an auction of licenses for a new mobile phone technology which will give faster data transmission. See also another Welt story. (November 17th)

Acela Launched Amtrak's Acela fast train was launched on an inaugural run from Washington to Boston on Thursday the 16th. The train's top speed between Washington and New York was 217 km/h, just 16 km/h faster than Amtrak's current intercity trains. Before the Acela can reach its top speed of 240 km/h, miles of catenary must be brought up to scratch. The tilting Acela is expected to shave 15 minutes off today's quickest trip between Washington and New York, and 45 minutes off the trip from New York to Boston. Acela begins regular passenger service on December 11th. The one-way fare to New York will be $143 in business class, compared with $120 for the Metroliner. (November 17th)

WCLX - A Sellout Launch? "If the domestic operation [Wisconsin Central] is worth more as a part of Canadian National or CSX or Norfolk Southern than it is as a stand-alone, then sell it," says Ed Burkhardt, who is mounting a take-over battle for the company he was deposed from in July 1999. He says he would consider selling the company if he wins the battle and if a sale would increase shareholder value. On Saturday the 11th, Burkhardt, a 7 per cent shareholder in WC, mailed ballots to shareholders proposing his previously reported plan to replace the board of directors with a new slate of directors including him. He also wrote to shareholding employees, saying that their names would be kept secret, should they vote against the current management. Mr Burkhardt has an ally in Southeastern Asset Management Inc., which owns a 14 per cent stake in the company. Shareholders must vote within 60 days. See also earlier story at the Chicago Sun-Times. (November 17th)

150 Dead in Austria

Rescue workers in Austria have begun the grim task of hacking through the charred wreckage of an Alpine ski train in which more than 150 people died on Saturday. Officials have confirmed that 12 passengers managed to scramble from the burning train, but that 155 people died in the inferno.

The fire started 600m into the tunnel outside Kaprun, near Salzburg, on Saturday morning. The train is a funicular, not part of the railway system. It is pulled up the steep, 3,2km tunnel incline with cables. Once the fire had started, it quickly grew stronger as hot air rose up through the tunnel and cold air was sucked in from below. Investigators believe the fire may have started before the single-carriage train entered the tunnel. "We have received information that the light of a fire was already visible to outside witnesses as the train was entering the tunnel," Austria's public security chief, Erik Buxbaum, said. See also Yahoo Full Coverage in German. (November 12th, thanks John Shell)

trains on fireNorwegian Safety Inquiry: Conflict of Interest An inquiry into the Åsta accident in which 19 people died, says that Jerbanetilsynet, the rail safety inspectorate, is undermanned. It also points to a conflict of interest: Jernbanetilsynet reports to the ministry of transport, which also owns the Jernbanverket rail authority as well as NSB, the train operator. See also VG's special Åsta page, and the Justice Department's full text of the report, dated November 6th. find (November 9th, thanks Martin Steinholt)

Denmark Starts Franchising The Danish government intends to invite tenders for the operation of public rail passenger service. The subsequent contracts will comprise operation of approximately 15% of the passenger transport services presently carried out by DSB (Danish State Railways) corresponding to approximately six million train kilometres per year. The services will not include the S-train system (suburban train) in the Copenhagen area. See also the Transport Ministry's website. (November 9th)

Estonian Rail Sale The Estonian government hopes to announce who will buy two thirds of Estonian National Railways by the end of the year. Three consortia are bidding, consisting of organisations from Britain, the US and Sweden. One of the consortia is half-Estonian, the others foreign. (November 9th, thanks Tobias Köhler)

Finland Installs GSM-R The Finnish national radio system for the rail network is to be renewed by 2006. The old system relies on tecnology from the 1970's, whereas the new network will be based on the European standard system for rail - GSM-R. RHK has ordered the work which will cost approximately FIM300million, and FIM68million has already been allocated from this autumn's supplementary budget. (November 9th)

Red Light for Swedish Reslust Swedish SJ will throw out the irritating ticket system with cheap pink and red tickets, a bewildering system of exchangeability, tickets that were first class on some trains certain days, and the goofy Reslust (resbluff) card required to get the cheap tickets. There are now plain tickets, business tickets, and advance-purchase tickets. The system will be finalised after New Years, so the not-quite-first-class tickets may still survive. SJ implemented a revenue-maximising ticket system a few years ago, which takes competitive factors into consideration, such as the speed of the train and the frequency of competing busses or airplanes. (November 9th)

Spain Buys HSTs Spanish RENFE intends to order between 26 and 40 trainsets capable of 350 km/h before the end of this year, within a budget of Pts111bn. Siemens is proposing an ICE and Talgo/Adtranz a Talgo 350 with between eight and 12 cars. Alstom and CAF are offering three different designs: an AVE 2000 development of RENFE's existing trains, a double-deck unit with up to 1000 seats and the AGV with distributed traction. (November 9th, thanks Tobias Köhler)

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