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November 2003

Fourth Weekend Strike in Sweden

The renegade SLFF union continues to fight for their contracts with SJ to be valid, especially regarding pensions, even if they get transferred to another operator due to franchising changes or similar. Strikes resulting in about 50-80 cancelled trains per weekend are to continue through the Christmas and New Year's holidays. SJ and the Almega employees' alliance have locked out the 80 striking SLFF drivers. SLFF has 400 members but no contract with employers. SLFF's members are covered by contracts with the established Seko and ST unions. See also Almega press release. archive (November 30th)

Metronom Starts Hamburg-Bremen Service

Metronom train Metronom is a private German rail company starting hourly regional service Hamburg-Bremen and Hamurg-Uelzen in December. The new double-decker Bombardier trains are rented from a provincial rolling stock company. Usual DB and transit tickets are valid. See also reprinted Die Welt article. (November 30th)

Swedish Minister Cautious on Open Access

An inquiry presented its findings today, and recommended open access for licensed passenger operators in Sweden, abolishing the last of SJ's monopoly. But Minister of Infrastructure Ulrica Messing wishes to avoid disruptions for passenger and freight customers and says she will therefore "hurry slowly". The inquiry will be supplemented by an analysis of deregulation so far. To simplify train travel under open access, the inquiry recommends that the Rikstrafiken franchising authority should co-ordinate travel and delays info as well as ticket sales. Open access has already been implemented in freight, but the dominant operator, state-owned Green Cargo, is still very dominant. The inquiry suggests breaking out subsidiary TGOJ from Green Cargo. The inquiry was led by Jan Brandborn, former director general of Swedish rail administration Banverket and roads administration Vägverket. See also debate article by SJ's CEO and President, press release, full text download page, and earlier story. (November 25th)

Swedish Business Lobbies Against Halland Tunnel

Svenskt Näringsliv The Hallandsås tunnel is too expensive to complete and is taking resources from more economical projects such as extending the network for large freight cars like the StoraBox/SECU, and improving power supply, says Svenskt Näringsliv, a business lobby. Svenskt Näringsliv is also opposed to the 250 km/h Bothnia railway, under construction, and its eventual extension, the North Bothnia Railway. See also earlier bulletins on the Bothnia railway. archive (November 20th)

UP Delays Remote Control

Union Pacific has halted its rollout of remote-control devices in rail yards until early next year because of train-crew shortages due to more retirements than expected and demands of additional business. It plans to hire nearly 5000 people by the end of 2004. The BLE train drivers' union opposes remote control, saying only certified engineers should operate locomotives. However, the UTU conductors' and brakemen's union, says conductors and brakemen can safely control locomotives remotely in yards. Railways say remote control is safer since ground employees in the past directed the engineer by radio or hand signals, but now control the movement of railcars themselves. Railways also say local bans on remote control, in effect in 38 communities, hold no legal weight since federal law prevails in this area. archive (November 20th)

Amtrak Gets Less Than Asked

Amtrak logo The US government will grant Amtrak $1,2bn next year. Amtrak had asked for 1,8 and it now appears vital upgrades to dilapidated track and trains will be partially deferred. But no trains will be axed, and the amount is more than last year's $1,0bn. See also press release. archive (November 17th)

73 Injured in Melbourne Accidents

Second Rail Accident in Melbourne

A second rail accident occurred in Melbourne today. Three days after two trains collided, a regional train derailed completely after hitting a car left on the tracks. 60 people were injured. (November 15th, thanks David Trinh)

13 Injured in Melbourne

Thirteen passengers were taken to hospital with neck injuries after a country Sprinter train slammed into the back of another at Spencer Street Station in Melbourne Australia this morning. An investigation to find the cause is underway. See also MSN story. (November 12th, thanks David Trinh)

Airport Busses Fear Rail Links

Toronto Airport Link Ready 2008

SNC-Lavalin of Montreal was awarded a C$200m contract on November 13th to build a rail link between Union Station and Pearson International Airport in Toronto. Trains are expected to start running 2008 and will take 22 minutes with one intermediate stop at the Bloor Go transit station. The upgraded 130 km/h Bud railcars will share existing upgraded tracks with Via and Go trains, and a new spur line will be built to the airport. The service will run every 15 minutes for a one-way fare of C$20, will be privately financed apart from a grant to extend the airport terminal building. Bus lobbies suggest adding bus lanes to the eight-lane freeway. See also second Globe article. archive (November 13th/14th, thanks Kevin Egan)

Trains Cause Airport Service Price Rise

swish! Stockholm's airport link was opened in 1999. Since the 200 km/h Arlanda Express trains started running, the competing Flygbussarna bus service has raised prices by 50% to 89kr (€9,94), while the train costs 180kr, both one way. Flygbussarna says the market is not big enough to support both road and rail; however, both have increased frequency and prices. The trains may have found a new market among people previously unwilling to consider busses, preferring taxis or their own car. • Link owner and builder NCC with its partners Vattenfall, Alstom and Mowlem plan to sell their stake in A-Train to Macquarie Bank, Australia. See also press releases from NCC and Mowlem. archive (November 13th)

British Parliament Investigates Indian Call Centres

Apu Nahasapeemapetilon British National Rail Enquiries is routing some telephone inquires to India to see if call centres can be run more economically there. If so, 1000 jobs in Britain are threatened. Parliament's transport committee has summoned rail bosses to a hearing on the subject. See also Guardian story. Alternate headline: Kwik-E-Mart Moves into Telecommunications. (November 13th)

SRA Assimilates Connex South East

South East Trains logo and site Connex on Sunday the 9th handed over its South East London commuter franchise to the British Strategic Rail Authority which is running the trains itself, untill they are refranchised in 2005, when the successful bidder for the Integrated Kent Franchise, including domestic services on the high-speed channel tunnel link, is expected to take over. See also Ananova story and press releases from SRA and South East Trains. archive (November 13th)

Austrian Ire

Second Austrian Strike

Austria's train network has again ground to a halt after the main rail union went on complete strike. ÖBB management says striking workers are guilty of refusing to work and may be dismissed. (November 12th)

Strike Stops all Trains

Gewerkschaft der Eisenbahner A strike stopped all but four trains in Austria between midnight and midday today. The government plans to cancel automatic wage increases and make it easier to lay off workers. The opposition Social Democratic party supports the strike. See also Erik's commentary. (November 4th)

Austrian Workers Fear Redundancies

photo of class 1044 A reform of Austrian ÖBB entails some legal changes to allow employees under 40 to be layed off. The Arbeitskammer union claims this is unconstitutional. AK also dislikes the division into separate companies for passenger, freight, infrastructure and personnel, plus subunits. This is just a ploy to privatise valuable assets like real estate, and sign away train traffic to trucker lobbies, according to the AK. Workers are taking action. The government is taking over 6,1 of ÖBB's €10,4bn of debt, but ÖBB will have to borrow €800m annually to finance infrastructure improvements. See also organisational diagram coming from a ministry of finance PDF. archive (October 23rd)

Brisbane Upgrade

A A$400m project in South East Queensland is bringing new trains and tracks to regional rail south of Brisbane. Capacity will be doubled, and peak frequencies will also be doubled, to 30 minutes. (November 12th, thanks Colin Weaver)

EU Connects Portugal to HSR Net

Portugal will build five new high speed railways by 2018, including four which will connect to neighbouring Spain. The EU is expected to cover more than half the €12,5bn cost while the Portuguese government will pay between 10 and 20%. Construction will start 2006 and trip times from Lisbon and Oporto to Madrid will be reduced to three hours. See also second AFP story and DN story in Swedish. (November 11th)

British Railnews Site Uses Erik's Technology

Railnews is a British weekly newspaper published since 1963. Their new website went live today with a news feed provided by Marvin, an automated search tool first developed by Erik to monitor press releases for Every day, Marvin tirelessly checks mainstream newspapers in five languages and press release pages from all over the world in his quest for rail news. The Swedish companion site to, Järnvägsnytt, is compiled and published entirely by Marvin. (November 6th)

Disney Brings Passengers to HSR

A planned high speed railway across central Florida will run directly to the Walt Disney World resort from Orlando International Airport, bypassing the taxpayer-funded Orange County Convention Center en route to Tampa, the Florida High Speed Rail Authority decided October 27th. Disney sold the authority on the potential revenue gained if the train's first leg followed the Central Florida GreeneWay toll road from the airport, instead of taking the Beeline Expressway to the convention hall, located in the International Drive tourist district in Orlando. Governor Jeb Bush is against the project, though a referendum has okayed it. archive (November 6th, thanks Jakob Christoffersen)

Spain Opens Slow HSR

A 450km high-speed railway between Madrid and Lleida in northeastern Spain was opened October 11th. The speed is so far limited to 200 km/h due to difficult shifting soil. Ecologists and geologists say up to 10 sinkholes have opened up in the past 18 months in different spots close to the rail route. The project is part of a broader project for a high-speed rail link Madrid and northeastern Barcelona, Spain's second largest city, by 2005. (November 6th)

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