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October 2004

Entrepreneurs Offer Calgary-Edmonton HSR

A group of entrepreneurs is ready with a proposal to build and operate a high-speed rail line between Calgary and Edmonton, saying they can do it for less than the estimate in a goverment study. The government study estimated it would cost C$1,7bn for a 240 km/h diesel train track, or C$3,4bn for an electric railway for 300 km/h. (October 28th)

225 km/h Commuter Service in England

Britain Buys 30 Bullet Trains

Shinkansen train Hitachi has been selected to build thirty 225 km/h trains with six carriages for high-speed commuter services between Ashford in south-east England and London. Service will start in 2009, and the trains will run on six routes which will make up the new Integrated Kent Franchise. The company that will run the bullet trains has yet to be chosen. The contract will be put out to tender within weeks. See also Hitachi press release,, Transport department press release, and BBC stories 1 and 2. archive (October 27th, thanks Richard Mlynarik)

High-Speed Commuter Service Delayed

The planned start of commuter trains on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link may be delayed past 2007/8. The trains would run from Ashford to St Pancras. Eighteen trains would be needed, costing £20m each. (October 21st, thanks Nic Newman)

Märklin Adjusts Its Suit

Lower Prices Force Märklin to Cut Jobs

German toy train maker Märklin plans to move 400 jobs from its Göppingen factory to Thüringen and Nürnberg where wages are lower. Wages in Göppingen are €2200 per month, but only €350 in Märklin's Hungarian plant. In 2002, Märklin had half of the German market, where 70% of its products are sold. Total revenues were €170m. See also Die Welt story. archive (October 27th)

Märklin System Replaces Digital

Märklin Mobile StationMärklin is renewing its digital offering which lets you control several trains on one circuit. The new system is simply called "Märklin System" and replaces "Märklin Digital" which was pioneered in 1984 but was surpassed technically by competing products. The new Mobile Station lets you control the trains, while the Central Station controls signals and switches/turnouts/points with a touchscreen. They are not wireless, but a good tailor could probably hide the wires under your suit ;-) (October 27th)

Berlin-Hamburg in 90 Minutes

The upgrade of the Hamburg-Berlin railway is complete and starting December 12th, the 287 km trip will take 90 minutes at up to 230 km/h, an average of 191 km/h and 40 minutes faster than now. This upgrade finally makes the trip faster than in was in the 1930s. Fifty-two level crossings have been removed or replaced, though some platforms for passengers remain adjacent to the high-speed tracks. See also DB article and Car Order article. (October 27th)

Shinkansen in First Derailment

A strong earthquake in Japan derailed a Shinkansen train at 210 km/h on the Joetsu Shinkansen on Saturday 23 October, the first time a Shinkansen has been derailed in service. Eight of ten cars derailed, and cars 1 and 9 ended up leaning over at 30°. No-one was injured. A number of other trains were also stranded for several hours without power before passengers could be evacuated. See also Shinkansen map, and stories at Railnews UK, Japan Times and Ny Teknik. (October 27th, thanks Dave Fosset)

Network Rail Could Pay for All Late Trains

Britain is considering making Network Rail pay for all train delays. At present, Network Rail is unaffected by delays caused by the operators, for example when one's broken-down train holds up another's service. A wider incentive system might encourage Network Rail to work closely with operators introducing new trains, which tend to be unreliable at first, to ensure that failures cause minimal disruption to other services on the same line. See also story at The Independent. (October 22nd)

New Eurostar Terminus Links to Northern England

channel tunnel rail link While the planned Eurostar trains north of London never materialised, the company says the new London terminus at St Pancras will improve connections between ordinary north-of-London trains and Eurostar. Together with phase two of the London - Channel Tunnel Rail Link, this will make rail competitive with airlines timewise and pricewise as far north as York, which is further from London than Paris is. Phase one of the link, which opened 13 months ago, has let Eurostar increase market share from 60% to 66% on the Paris line, and 47% to 59% on the Brussels line. Ryanair has pulled out of the market. See also The Telegraph's excellent graphic, SNCF press release on market share. archive (October 21st)

Tel Aviv Airport Linked

A new railway linking Tel Aviv and Ben-Gurion Airport in Isreal opened Sunday the 10th. The trip takes ten minutes and there are trains every half hour or every hour. Israel Railways expects 100,000 passengers to use the line each month. The line will eventually be extended to Jerusalem. (October 21st, thanks Les Brown)

Probotec Speeds Freight Trains

Swedish mail train Probotec, formerly known as Powell Duffryn Rail, has obtained approval from the Germany Federal Railway Authority, Eisenbahn-Bundesamt for its Axle Motion III bogies with integrated brakes. Products manufactured by the company are already in wide use in the UK and Scandinavian markets, among them Sweden's 160 km/h, 23 tonne-per-axle mail trains. See also item in Swedish on the mail trains. (October 20th)

Treasury to bankroll Crossrail

The British government has decided to foot the entire cost of the £10bn London Crossrail project, rather than making it a public-private partnership. See also Guardian story. archive (October 20th)

Private Railways in East Africa

East Africa Rail Concession

The Ugandan and Kenyan governments are contracting out train operations on 2190km of railway for 25 years. One of the bidders is Danish A.P. Møller Mærsk, which runs railways and ships. The governments hope that private investors can double rail revenue by 2009. The railways link Victoria Lake with the port of Mombasa on the east coast, with spurs northward to Uganda. (October 18th)

New Mombasa-Sudan Railway

A German consortium has invested €1bn in studies of a new railway linking the port of Mombasa in Kenya to southern Sudan. The consortium is also bidding on a concessioning contract for Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) and Uganda Railways Corporation (URC). (October 18th, thanks Alan Reekie)

Denmark Signals Renewal

The Danish ministry of transport is looking into a plan to loan DKK7bn to renew all signals on the network. The current plan of gradual renewals may be too slow as the signals are worn out and cause many delays. See also Berlingske story and Ministry press release. (October 18th)

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