November 99

© René St Olsen/METROPAThe first of the new Öresund trains were presented November 10th in Västerås, Sweden. Simply put, they can be described as a cross between the Danish IC3/IR4 trains and Adtranz "Crusaris Regina" wide-body trains. Regular service on the link will start July 1st. (November 29th)

© Jan LindahlThe Arlanda Express trains connecting Stockholm with the airport have finally started services. King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia attended the opening ceremony. The first train in revenue service left Stockholm at 04:35 November 25th. The trains do the trip in 20 minutes at 200 km/h, and are Sweden's fastest non-tilting trains. The ticket price one way is 120kr, twice as much as the competing busses, which take 35 minutes. Arlanda Express is a private consortium, but SJ will be allowed to use the Arlanda link against access charges. SJ will be running regional and national trains to Arlanda starting in January. (November 29th, text & photo © Jan Lindahl/TÅG used with permission)

New York's MTA has picked Siemens-MATRA's solution for modernising signalling on its Canarsie Line. The MTA is migrating from a simpler block signalling system not unlike that on a model railway, to moving block technology, aka Communications Based Train Contol CBTC or TBTC (Transmission Based Train Control). Alcatel will be supplying the MTA along with Siemens-MATRA, but according to Siemens-MATRA's interface specifications. Both Siemens-MATRA and Alcatel have based their systems on a wireless Internet Protocoll system called RailPath. The deal is very important not just for the companies involved, but also because there is not room enough on the market for many competing CBTC technologies. The system implemented in New York will probably be adopted across North America under an open standard. Read an informative and interesting reprint on NYC resignalling from Mass Transit Magazine. See also Infoseek story. The Railway Gazette September 1999 issue was a train control special, worth a read. Siemens has also won an order for a complete communications system for the new West Rail metro extension in Hong Kong. (November 29th, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

RhB logoSwiss Rhätische Bahn has opened the 19-kilometre Vereina Tunnel in Klosters, Canton Grisons. The tunnel forms part of the metre-gauge Vereina Line, opened on 19 November 1999 after a construction period of 8 years. The new connection improves travel services in the Graubünden area and on the Rhätische Bahn. The new Vereina line connects the Lower Engadine Valley and the southern Val Muestair with the northern part of Graubünden. (November 25th/29th)

People who attempt suicide or fall under trains at tube stations with drainage pits running below the tracks are only half as likely to die as those at other stations. The finding comes in a study looking at the effect of station design on deaths in the London Underground. (November 29th)

The final section of London Underground's Jubilee Line extension has opened, linking London to the Millennium Dome. John Self, general manager of the "jube tube", says that the majority of the 45 000 passengers at Charing Cross each day would have "easier and shorter" journeys, while the thousands wanting to use the new Jubilee link would receive a "real boost". The UK's biggest construction project since the Channel Tunnel has taken almost two years longer than expected and cost almost twice as much as originally forecast. (November 29th)

A Trans European Rail Freight Network that includes all important rail corridors, ports and terminals is the European Commission's new recipe for better rail freight services in Europe. Access to this network would allow for all licensed railway undertakings to provide international freight services. The idea appears to be a warmed-over version of the existing Freight Freeways, established in 1997. Another proposed law sets rules for allocating infrastructure capacity and charging "non-discriminatory" fees for using it. A regulatory body would be set up to ensure fair treatment. The Commission also aims to encourage and, in some cases force, harmonisation in areas such as signalling and power systems. See also story and Cargoweb story. (November 29th, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

FT.comThe British rail regulator says he plans to amend Railtrack's network licence and issued the enforcement order which he had threatened in August. The order came after Railtrack failed to hit targets to improve passenger train performance by 7.5 per cent last year. It now must improve passenger train performance by 12.7 per cent this financial year or face up to £40m in penalties. (November 29th)

FT.comThe British Strategic Rail Authority kicked off a new round of franchising negotiations last week, holding out the prospect of contracts of up to 20 years for Great North Eastern Railway, Chiltern Trains and Connex South Central. The announcement relaunches the franchising process two years earlier than originally planned and is intended to provide train operators with an increased incentive to invest by offering significantly longer deals. The 18 franchises with seven-year contracts will be renegotiated first. (November 29th)

Adtranz Cutbacks

Adtranz plant closures in Switzerland have caused widespread indignation in labour, business and government quarters. The Swiss say Adtranz will lose know-how and competitive export-oriented facilities with production costs 30% below German levels. P Christener summarizes the gripes. (November 26th)

A majority of Adtranz staff at the Pratteln facility in Switzerland (previously Schindler) held a demonstration on the factory grounds to protest the closing on Monday the 15th. The demonstrators received support from officials of the Basel cantonal government, which has already opened talks with the Adtranz management in Berlin. Rolf Eckrodt, the German boss of Adtranz, says that the Swiss units might be able to continue as independent sub-contractors. The Swiss Adtranz protests have a website. The Swiss debate strengthens the impression that it is the German operations which are the most inefficient operations in the Adtranz group. The Neue Zürcher Zeitung says that while the Swiss operations are centred on engineering and not on production, this need not be a disadvantage since locomotives are not mass-produced like cars or Bic pens. (November 25th)

The German Adtranz works council says it will oppose job cuts and ask governments to support the industry. See also story in English. (November 19th)

Adtranz is closing facilities at Nürnberg in Germany, Amadora in Portugal, Oerlikon and Pratteln in Switzerland, Strømmen in Norway, and Elmira in the United States. 3000 jobs will be cut from its 24,000 strong workforce by 2002, yet sales are projected to rise by a quarter to 5 bn Euros ($5bn). Adtranz hopes to reduce costs by 300 million Euros each year. Swiss unions say they oppose the closing and will try to get the Swiss railway, SBB, to overturn the decision. But SBB says its fleet policy will not change as a result of Adtranz' actions. In Britain, 260 jobs will be cut: 130 staff will go from Derby, the UK headquarters and manufacturing base, 70 from the refurbishment plant at Crewe, and 60 from the wheel forging and machining operation in Manchester. See the press release, and stories at German Yahoo, and International Yahoo. (November 12th/17th)

The Transrapid Berlin-Hamburg maglev consortium has a cheery attitude despite key member Adtranz abandoning the project, saying that there is no future for the project. The consortium has released yet another study concluding that a single-track "light" version of the project would be feasible after all. The costs for the track itself, which the government has promised to pay for, would not overrun the DM6,1bn limit set by the government. The Transrapid consortium will pay for the trains. The consortium is also looking at an extension of the maglev past Berlin through the Czech Republic to Vienna and Budapest. See also Die Welt's special Transrapid page. (November 15th)

FT.comEast Japan Railway (JR East), the world's largest railway company in passenger numbers, said parent net profits increased 80 per cent from ¥24.3bn to ¥43.7bn ($412m) in the six months to September, year on year, thanks to cost-cutting measures and changes in tax accounting rules. (November 25th)

Some small Danish rail lines are so heavily subisidized that it would be cheaper to pay taxi fare for the passengers than to continue running the trains, a report to the Ministry of Finance says. There are three possible remedies. The first is to turn over responsibility for the small rail lines to municipalities which may be better able to tailor popular services. This approach has succeeded in Sweden where ridership has grown manyfold without an increase in subsidies. Another solution would be to incorporate the small lines into national railway DSB which may yield economies of scale. A third solution would be to leave the structure as it is, yet reduce subsidies. (November 22nd)

FT.comThe cost of upgrading Britain's west coast main line, a crucial project for Railtrack and for the future of the rail industry, could almost double to £4bn, the company says. The sharp rise in costs, from the £2.1bn originally planned, is the result of rising passenger numbers, changes in the details of the project and Railtrack's decision to drop a high-tech signalling system because it is too risky. The increase is bound to rekindle concerns that prices rise sharply on projects in which Railtrack becomes involved. (November 22nd)

French SNCF and Italian FS have formed a limited company under French law called "fran ital rail" to run passenger services between France and Italy. The commercial name will be "artesia". FS has earlier formed a joint venture with Swiss SBB for cross-border freight. (November 19th)

French SNCF is buying out the BNP/Paribas bank's shares in operator Via GTI. Via GTI's other main owner CGEA Transport, also known as Vivendi, will also leave Via GTI while taking some of its activities with it. Other owners will be offered to sell their shares at a later date. Vivendi's portfolio includes the Connex trains in the UK and Sweden as well as an interest in operations of the Swedish west cost main line. (November 19th)

A freight train struck an empty grain train in northwest Iowa late on Wednesday the 18th, killing a conductor and the driver of a van that was parked by the tracks. A second train accident injured at least 15 in California on Thursday when a commuter train and a freight train collided near Fullerton, California injuring 18 people. See also Yahoo Full Coverage, and Yahoo Iowa crash story. (November 19th)

Prospects for 110-mph (177 km/h) train service between Richmond (Virginia) and Washington DC accelerated this week after exchanges between Gov. Jim Gilmore and the head of Amtrak. Amtrak could create 90-minute train service from Richmond to Union Station in Washington, knocking an hour off the current trip, as well as increase the number of trains businesspeople and tourists could catch between the cities. With state and federal backing, Virginia's first modern rail service could roll by 2006. Also see the report to Congress. (November 18th)

FT.comThe German railway's housing estate is likely to be sold, in what would be one of continental Europe's largest property sales. A deal is likely to value the estate in excess of DM7.1bn (E3.6bn, $3.7bn). (November 18th)

FT.comEurostar still expects to move into profit in 2005 in spite of a 40 per cent rise in flights by low-cost airlines over the past year. The low-cost airlines that fly to Paris and Brussels are seen as rivals to the train service. It increased revenues by 6 per cent to £297.6m in the first nine months of this year while passenger numbers rose 3 per cent. In the third quarter alone, revenues rose 6 per cent while passenger numbers rose 7 per cent. (November 17th)

Australian Freight Victoria has won two contracts with the Australian Wheat Board to move 90% of the Wheat Board's export traffic. Freight Victoria is owned by RailAmerica. (November 16th)

Amtrak has signed a 15-year agreement with ExpressTrak to add up to 350 refrigerated rail cars to ExpressTrak's service moving perishable commodities in RoadRailer cars attached to regularly scheduled Amtrak passenger trains. See also the press release. (November 16th)

Cutbacks and New Orders at Bombardier

Bombardier is cutting 1129 jobs from its DWA unit in Germany. The IG Metall union accepts the gradual cuts as necessary due to insufficient orders. Other Bombardier plants in the danger zone include Aachen (Talbot), Görlitz (double-decker coaches and tilting ICEs) as well as Vetschau. "The situation for the entire rail industry is exeptionally dramatic," said a DWA spokesman. He probably meant the entire German rail industry. See also Yahoo story. (November 15th)

Bombardier has started a joint venture with Chinese rail operator Sifang and Power Pacific to build 300 inter-city cars for C$345-million. Bombardier and the subsidiary of Power Corp. of Canada both said that "with this order in hand," the three partners will now launch their C$110m, 50 000m2 facility at an existing Sifang factory in Qingdao, 650km southeast of Beijing, halfway to Shanghai. The deal, five years in the making, includes options for 200 more cars, representing an additional C$200m. See also the press release.

Some more of Bombardier's other recent orders:

Budapest's Ferihegy airport will be linked with the city center following an agreement between the Hungarian government and a Hungarian-Canadian joint venture to build the $500 million link. (November 10th)

The Russian Rail Ministry wants to raise the domestic freight tariff by 12.7%, but the Ministry of Anti-Monopoly Policy, says a 10% increase is sufficient. A Rail Ministry spokesman says inflation of over 30% in from January '99 till September '99 necessitates the rise. Costs were cut by 40% last year through the introduction of modern technologies and a decrease in the number of employees, the railway says. Overall growth in cargo transportation amounted to 13 per cent. But it is widely believed that people with connections to the Kremlin get better rates than everyone else. (November 10th)

Amtrak promises trains up to 110 mph (175 km/h) to cut the trip between Philadelphia and Harrisburg from two hours to 90 minutes. Electric-powered trains, using new or refurbished passenger cars, likely will stop only at Paoli and Lancaster when runs start. Other stops are to be added and a station is to be built at Harrisburg International Airport as new high-speed trains are phased in over the next five years. Half of a $140 track upgrade with welded track and fewer grade crossings is being payed for by Amtrak, with the rest of the money coming from the federal and state governments. See also map and press release at Yahoo. (November 10th, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

British Railtrack has announced profits of more than £1m a day, prompting attacks over its investment in safety following the Paddington crash. The company posted pre-tax profits of £236m for April-September 1999, a 5% improvement on the previous six months. Both freight and passenger train improved punctuality by 11% in the six months to September 30th. See the press release. (November 10th, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

Rolling stock in Northern Ireland and the funding of new trains has been described as a "shambles" by the environment minister. Lord Dubs was speaking after the breakdown of a train on Tuesday the 2nd resulted in delays of up to three hours for many passengers. (November 6th)

FT.comRailtrack has shelved plans to introduce a sophisticated signalling and train control system on its flagship west coast main line project because of fears that it could not be made to work properly. (November 6th)

BNSF will break ground this month on a state-of-the-art intermodal facility to be built on a 470-acre site seven miles southeast of Stockton, California. Currently, BNSF operates 62 scheduled intermodal trains per week on its Northern California to Midwest corridor, including 36 westbound and 26 eastbound trains. The facility will contain two loading/unloading tracks 2 km long (!), with capacity to hold approximately 150 intermodal railcars. The three storage tracks will be able to accommodate 230 intermodal railcars. (November 5th)

Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji wants a Transrapid maglev to be built between Beijing and Shanghai. Talks have taken place between Mr Rongji and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and German industry is enthusiastic, especially since the Berlin-Hamburg project looks increasingly unlikely to materialize. (November 5th)

Children climb under boxcars to get home from school. Firefighters send two trucks on different routes to the same fire -- just to be sure one gets through. One neighborhood can be entirely hemmed in by trains. No wonder many people in northern Ohio are experiencing "rail rage," as a bottleneck of train traffic boils tempers and tests patience. (November 5th)

The restructuring of Adtranz will consist of selling off non-core activities and concentrating production to the Germany, England and Sweden. No further details are available, but this may yet mean more spectacular cutbacks in line with previous expectations. (November 4th)

Bombardier is closing a bogie factory in eastern Germany, which will result in the loss of 1129 jobs. The IG Metall union accepts the changes due to a lack of demand. Canadian Bombardier plans to let go of a quarter of its 5100 employees in Germany. Also, Bombardier has recieved and order for 34 commuter rail cars from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Long Island Rail Road. More on LIRR. (November 4th)

Railtrack is to appeal against a ruling banning it from using signal 109, the key signal in the Paddington rail tragedy. The company also wants to overturn two other improvement notices relating to rail signals passed at danger (Spads). (November 3rd)

Railtrack has admitted defeat in the battle to keep Britain's railway tracks clear of leaves as commuters face an autumn of "natural" delays. Despite spending more than £50m on new technology to ease the problem, the company says it will "never beat nature". Its admission comes as a heavy leaf-fall caused a clutch of delays on the rail network on Monday the 1st. (November 3rd)

At least two people were killed and up to 23 injured when two commuter trains collided in the suburbs of the Swiss capital, Bern. The accident happened shortly after 1800 local time on Monday the 1st at the Bern-Weissenbuehl station, when a train coming from Bern ran into the side of another train coming from the lakeside town of Thun. (November 3rd)

FT.comGeneral Motors and Ford are to create separate large-scale internet exchanges to handle billions of transactions a year with their suppliers worldwide. The plans represent a breakthrough in the scale of electronic commerce, transforming the internet into a a central part of the operations of traditional manufacturing industries. This development is important to anyone in the transport business. (November 3rd)

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's biggest expansion plan in decades, linking Philadelphia with its western and northern suburbs, is being threatened by Norfolk Southern Corp.'s objection to allowing the company's passenger cars share its freight track. (November 2nd)

Ten Alaska Railroad tank cars derailed early Sunday morning (the 31st) north of Talkeetna, and one leaking tank may have spilled more than 7,000 gallons of the fuel. Absorbent materials were spread and artificial dams were built to keep the fuel in trackside drainage ditches and away from the surrounding marsh area. (November 2nd)

The Montreal Railroad Modelers Association has implented a digital control system which lets them run 20 trains on their layout simultaneously, rather than four or five with conventional technology. The layout is 140 feet long and 50 feet wide, and takes up the entire room. There are more than four kilometres of track and 480 switches. Trains run through mountains 10 feet high, over trestles, across prairies and through miniature towns. It takes 15 operators to run the 20 to 25 HO-gauge trains that ply the tracks. (November 2nd)

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