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November 2004

Trains outcompete Planes

Swedish airport authority Luftfartsverket wants to get out of two unprofitable airports because the towns they serve are well served by road and rail, and passenger numbers have fallen 40% since 2000, and they are still falling. Jönköping is three hours by train from Stockholm, and two hours by car from Landvetter international airport. Norrköping, the other airport in danger of being closed, is 75 minutes from Stockholm, and lies between Ryanair's international Nyköping base and Linköping airport with daily flights to København international airport. See also Luftfartsverket press release and map of LFVs airports. archive (November 20th)

Triple Effort Rescues Two Trains

The unprofitable trains between Norway and Sweden will continue to be run by Norwegian NSB after Linx is liquidated December 31st. NSB will use permits belonging to Tågkompaniet for running in Sweden, and tickets will be sold in Sweden through SJ. There will be three trains weekdays Oslo-Göteborg, and on Oslo-Stockholm there will be trains Friday-Sunday. Right-wing political parties have suggested propping up the trains with tax-free shopping, or putting the trains out to competitive tender if neither SJ nor NSB want to run them. Train fans have suggested changing the Swedish end station from Stockholm to Örebro, which is closer to Oslo and does not have competing airline connections. See also privatisation article, tax-free article, and NSB press release. archive (November 20th)

Czech Pendolino Delayed

The Czech train operating company CD took delivery of the first two of seven tilting Pendolino trains last year, but they will not be put into service until next year due to problems the trains cause with the Czech signalling system. The trains were ordered ten years ago but have been delayed as train maker CKD went bankrupt. A new deal was signed with Alstom which has now built all seven trains. The trains are to run Berlin-Praha-Wien, and will cut the Berlin-Praha trip time from 4.40 to 3.00. See also background story and usenet discussion. And a press release about a 237 km/h Czech speed record. archive (November 20th)

Is the FRA Cozy with the Railroads?

Who is Operation Lifesaver Really For?

The New York Times continues its scrutiny of the American rail industry with an article about Operation Lifesaver, which informs car drivers of the dangers at rail crossings. This article says Operation Lifesaver hushes information on broken or missing warning equipment at level crossings, in order to lessen the impact of lawsuits against railroads. (November 20th)

Amtrak Pays $186m for Others Track Faults

Since the US government demands that Amtrak be granted passage on tracks owned by freight railways, it has balanced that demand on private property by calling upon passenger railroads to bear the costs of insuring against potential liabilities. But this has meant that Amtrak has had to pay $186m since 1984 for accidents directly caused by broken track owned by the freight railroads, The New York Times writes. (November 20th)

FRA Hits at UP Over Safety

The Federal Rail Administration has told UP to improve safety in Texas. UP has signed a "compliance agreement" with the FRA, which can enforce the measures in court. (November 20th)

NY Times Details FRA-UP "Partnership"

The New York Times writes that the United States Federal Rail Administration has a cosy relationship with the companies it is oversees. Among its tasks, the FRA is to fine railroads for safety failures. But FRA boss Betty Monro and Union Pacific's chief Washington lobbyist Mary E. McAuliffe vacationed together on Nantucket several times since Ms. Monro joined the agency in 2001.

UP logoThe rail industry is a rich source of campaign contributions, mostly to the Republicans, with Union Pacific as the biggest giver. Its corporate political action committee was among the top 10 donors to Republican candidates for this election cycle, and Ms. McAuliffe is the treasurer of the company's PAC. The railroad's chairman, Dick Davidson, is identified by the Bush campaign as a "Ranger," having raised more than $200 000 for the president. Until he became Mr. Bush's running mate in 2000, Vice President Dick Cheney was a member of the Union Pacific board. archive (November 9th, thanks RRESQ)

Tilt Train Derails in Northeastern Australia

One hundred people were injured, two seriously, when a Queensland Rail tilting train derailed last night in Northeastern Australia. Seven of the nine carriages derailed. The train was travelling on a section of track inspected the day before the accident, and rated to 150 km/h. The track is 1067mm gauge. See also stories at Sydney Morning Herald, Courier-Mail, and another at ABC News, and QR press release, and QR tilt train page. (November 16th, thanks David Trinh and Owen Clancy)

East London Line Ready 2010

The East London Line Project has been transferred to Tansport for London from the Strategic Rail Authority. TfL will be responsible for the £850 million conversion of London Underground's East London Line to a National Rail network line running from Crystal Palace to Dalston by 2010. See also route map. (November 16th, thanks Ifor Davies)

10 Dead in the Pilippines

At least 10 people died yesterday when a train plunged into a deep ravine in the Philippines. The eight-coach Philippine National Railways train was travelling overnight from Naga City to Manila. See also Melbourne Herald Sun story. (November 12th, thanks Glenn Olesen)

DB Improves Slightly

DB logo German DB AG has improved its earnings after tax to -€54m, and revenue grew 4% in the first nine months of the year. Passenger-kilometers were flat at 52,1bn. Also, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder thinks it's a bad idea to break out the rail infrastructure from DB. See also Eurailpress bulletin with Schröder's comment. (November 11th)

SJ's Biggest Ever Profit

SJ logo Swedish passenger rail operator SJ has increased its quarterly profit by reducing costs 10%. Jobs have been cut and catering and cleaning have been insourced. Though revenue fell 2%, profit increased to SEK67m. This is the best performance since the state-owned company was formed out of the old SJ in 2000. The plan for the future includes more automated ticket sales, and more passengers through better wifi internet and better phone reception in the trains. See also press release, and stories at Dagens Nyheter, and Svenska Dagbladet. archive (November 11th)

Railworld Buys Green Cargo?

Green Cargo logo Railworld, headed by shortline legend Ed Burkhardt, is interested in bidding for Swedish Green Cargo, which Swedish government is thought to be selling to German Railion. Parliament has granted the government to sell all or parts of Green Cargo by 2005. See also Railworld's website and Ny Teknik story. archive (November 11th, thanks Bengt Mutén)

Seven Die in England at Level Crossing

Six people died west of Reading in England Saturday October 6th when a high-speed Great Western train hit a car on an unmanned level crossing. The track has a 160 km/h speed limit at the site, and the crossing does not have a blocked-track sensor. Among the dead is the train driver. Speculation is that the car driver was committing suicide. Bob Crow, the leader of the RMT rail union, demanded that all level crossings on intercity lines be replaced with bridges or tunnels. But George Muir, the director general of the Association of Train Operating Companies, said the money would be better spent improving safety on Britain's roads. See also map and Geat Western press release. (November 7th)

Anti-Nuclear Protester Run Over

An anti-nuclear protester died in north eastern France Sunday after being run over by a train carrying nuclear waste from France to Germany. The 21-year-old man lost a leg after he was crushed by the train and died despite receiving emergency treatment at the scene. See also Expatica story. (November 7th)

Siemens Demonstrates Driverless Freight Wagon

Siemens has shown off its new driverless freight car, the CargoMover. It has laser and radar sensors which can detect obstacles, and a powerful horn to beep at them. It also has a video camera at the front which lets a control centre see what is in front of it. It is controlled via GSM-R radio and European Train Control System (ETCS) signalling. Siemens says it is economical for shorter distances like 50-150 km, where manual labour makes it too costly for conventional rail freight to be profitable. At an average speed of 70 km/h, power consumption would be 30% lower than a truck/lorry due to its lower rolling resistance. Siemens envisions the CargoMover paying lower track access charges since it can run in empty time slots by using information from the ETCS. See also press release from 2002 and Siemens article, Kompetenznetze article, and Financial Times Deutschland article reprint. (November 4th)

Florida Votes Against High Speed Rail

Florida has voted in a constitutional amendment to repeal a high-speed rail project. Construction hadn't started, but the first leg connecting Orlando and Tampa had been laid out and a contractor was selected. The cost of that first leg was estimated at more than C$2,3bn. The train was to eventually connect the two areas with Miami. See also Miami Herald story, earlier stories at Orlando Business Journal, WTEV, and the Christian Science Monitor's endorsement. archive (November 4th, thanks Bengt Mutén)

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