September 2001

Nordic Freight Merger Green Cargo (formerly SJ's freight division) is merging its profitable combined transport unit, RailCombi, with unprofitable Norwegian NSB Gods. Almost half of NSB Gods' revenue comes from combined transport, and they signed agreements to start new services with their German and Swiss counterparts Kombiverkehr and Hupac last May. NSB will own 55% of the new company, and GC owns the rest. GC's board of directors okayed the deal September 26th and operations start January 1st. (September 28th)

Deal on Moscow-Sheremetyevo Rail Link Moscow City Hall, Aeroflot and the Railways Ministry on September 17th signed a deal to construct a 30km, $60m railway connecting Sheremetyevo Airport with Leningradsky Station. The link will be ready by 2003 and connect the yet-to-be built Sheremetyevo Terminal 3 to the Oktyabrskaya railroad and then on to Leningradsky Station. Sheremtyevo's terminals 2 and 3 will also be connected to the system. Aeroflot hopes the railway, together with the new airport terminal, will help the airline and Moscow become a transit hub between Europe and Asia. Aeroflot estimated transit operations, which currently account for 19% of passenger flows, will soar to 35% or 40%. The Railways Ministry is prepared to provide the initial financing for the project but is hoping to also attract outside loans, perhaps from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. (September 26th, thanks Alan Reekie)

Investors Line up for Urban Rail in South Africa South Africa's rail project linking Pretoria and Johannesburg is being critised since the government has promised a ridership guarantee. The good news is that most of the large train manufacturers attended an "investment conference" on the project. The new track connecting the existing Pretoria and Johannesburg stations and the airport will wind through 11km of underground tunnels and for 5km over bridges with branches to Johannesburg International airport and Hatfield outside Pretoria. The train will travel at speeds of more than 160 km/h. (September 26th, thanks Alan Reekie)

Photo of Kjell NilssonSJ Boss Resigns Over Maintenance Swedish SJs managing director Kjell Nilsson has resigned after two recent cases of broken axles on the X 2000 trains, Sept 8th and 10th. These bring the total number of such incidents to five, and he says he cannot guarantee the safety of the passengers, though he does not consider the trains unsafe. Nobody was hurt in the incidents, but ensuing safety checks caused delays. SJ is now only a passenger train operator after the company was split January 1st. Maintenance now falls under Euromaint, which is looking for a new owner. Mr Nilsson wanted to buy Euromaint to gain better control over maintenance of its trains, but the government would not allow that. Editor's comment: Mr Nilsson could easily increase safety by lowering the overambitious availability goals for the X 2000 trains. There would then be more time to maintain the trains. (September 18th)

DB Makes Pitch to Keep Netz AG

Minister of Transport Supportive Germany is reviewing its rules concerning who should control Netz AG, the rail network. DB AG wants Netz AG to stay 100% owned by DB AG, and DB boss Helmut Mehdorn has suggested a framework in which the track access prices charged by Netz AG must be okayed by another authority. In a conflict, the German federal rail authority Eisenbahn Bundesamt would arbitrate.

Last spring, the German transport minister suggested separating Netz AG from DB AG, and received political support, but Mehdorn threatened to resign if they did that, and had consultants McKinsey produce a report showing that a separation would result in increased co-ordination costs of billions of marks. The transport ministry then started the inquiry which will present its findings this fall. However, it already seems the government is going to let DB keep Netz AG. (September 17th)

Chur-Arosa Line Closed till November The Chur-Arosa line in western Switzerland, run by the private Rhätische Bahn, will not be opened untill November. It has been closed since an avalanche in April. See also Reuters bulletin. (September 17th)

Siemens Sells 15 Locos to Hungary Siemens has won an order from Hungary for 15 two-system locomotives worth around €46m. Ten of these are for the state railway MAV, the other five are for Györ-Sopron-Ebenfurti-Vasút (GySEV). The modular two-system locomotives will be delivered between June and December 2002. (September 15th, thanks Toma Bacic)

Luxemburg Buys 12 EMUs The Luxemburg railway, CFL, has ordered 12 three-car trains called "TER2N NG" for €70m. These are 160km/h bi-level electrical regional trains. Deliveries will take place between February 2004 and February 2006. The trains will be used for the cross-border service which CFL is developing between Gouvier (Belgium), Luxembourg-ville (Luxembourg), Thionville and Metz (France). (September 15th, thanks Toma Bacic)

Two Dead in Italian Crash Two Italian train drivers were killed Friday the 14th when a Eurocity passenger train collided with derailed freight cars in the Brenner pass through the Alps. (September 14th)

Profit at National Express National Express, the British rail operator, said on Wednesday the 12th that train passenger revenue had recovered to levels seen before last October's Hatfield derailment, but warned it had lost a year's growth in its rail business. Phil White, chief executive, said: "Without Hatfield, we would have been expecting a level 10 per cent higher." A £16m compensation deal with Railtrack, over and above net compensation under contractual agreements of £23m, offset lost passenger revenue following the Hatfield derailment, helping the UK rail business generate an operating profit of £20,3m. find (September 14th)

Amtrak Increases Service As the disruption to the United States aviation system enters its third day, Amtrak is continuing to operate its regular weekday schedule throughout the country and is adding capacity to handle the growing volume of passengers, by almost 30% on the Washington-New York-Boston corridor. The nation's airspace reopened Thursday morning, but many airlines are reporting delays and limitations in the resumption of service. Meanwhile, Amtrak also announced it is partnering with the American Red Cross to deliver emergency relief supplies to New York City. (September 13th)

Germany Gets Double-decker ICEs? A DB AG spokeswoman has confirmed for the Handelsblatt newspaper that DB AG is planning on getting double-decker ICE trains to meet anticipated demand. Double-decker high-speed trains already run in France and Japan. Though DB AG is interested in purchasing a next-generation high-speed Eurotrain in collaboration with SNCF, DB AG is not attracted by the double-decker TGV and wants a modular design which easily can be adapted to single-deck or double-deck. Formal technical documents detailing DB AGs needs should be published by the end of the year. (September 11th)

Ten Per Cent of German Local Traffic Cut? According to a story in the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, DB AG wants to axe 10% of its local trains due to poor profitability. These 10% are run by DB AG itself, not on contract with regional or local authorities. (September 11th)

Finnish Timetables in One Place The Finnish government has started a project to make all Finnish public transport information accessible from one place. The ministry has arranged a bidding competition to select an operator. At the latest, the service would be ready by 2003. A similar service has been in use for a number of years and can sell tickets. (September 11th)

Hybrid Switcher Launched RailPower Corporation's Green Goat has just been launched in Vancouver, Canada. This 130 ton, 2000 hp equivalent hybrid switcher reduces NOx and particulates 80-90% and cuts operating costs over 30%. It will sell for about half the cost of conventional switchers in North America. The hybrid yard switcher uses a clean, efficient microturbine in conjunction with batteries which improves fuel economy, and reduces pollution over the latest model switchers. It is also more responsive, allowing for increased productivity. (September 8th)

30 Dead in Indonesia Two trains collided Sunday the 2nd in the Indonesian port city of Cirebon on the main island of Java, killing 40 people and injuring more than 40. A passenger train collided with a locomotive at 4am local time in the city's main railway station. Police said it appeared the conductor failed to notice the railway sign when approaching the city's main station. See also photo. (September 7th, thanks David Bromage)

not so fast young manICE3 reaches 368 km/h The German ICE3 reached 368 km/h on Monday the 3rd on the high speed line Wolfsburg-Rathenow. The test was an important step towards certification for the planned 330 km/h services. According to this source, the ICE3s have so far been crawling along at an anemic 230 km/h in regular service. Europe's new supertrain thus has a long way to go to break the German record of 407 km/h set in 1988 by the InterCityExperimental, not to mention the French world record of 515 km/h set in 1990. See also Die Welt story. (September 7th, thanks Toma Bacic; photo Christian Splittgerber)

Finland Orders Czech Rail Busses VR has ordered 16 rail buses from the Czech state-owned manufacturer CKD Vagonka. The company won the order in open tender due to its experience, the reliable design of the rail buses and its good price-quality ratio. The diesel-driven rail buses will be deployed on low-traffic lines that are currently served by locomotive-driven trains. The aim is that the rail bus drivers will also handle fares and tickets, which will reduce the cost of these services. The rail buses will have a top speed of 120 kilometres per hour. See also bulletin. (September 7th, thanks Toma Bacic)

Train Crashes into Rocks A night train in northern Norway derailed on Monday the 3rd after the locomotive ran into a rockslide. The passenger coaches stayed on track and nobody was injured. Twenty to thirty cubic metres of rock had fallen on the track, and the train crashed into this mass at 85 km/h, and didn't stop for 200 metres. See also NRK story (September 7th, thanks Martin Steinholt)

Wellington Runs Out of Trains Wellington (New Zealand) rail services could be cut back at any time, since operator Tranz Rail has sold some trains, and others are so old and rickety that they are unsafe. Tranz Rail wants to sell the commuter service, and Wellington Regional Council wants to buy it, but needs the law to be changed to allow it to do so. Former Tranz Rail chairman Ed Burkhardt said Tranz Rail's current management had "no competency in running railways". Editor's comment: oops! (September 7th, thanks David Bromage)

Rail Funding Bypasses Amtrak? Bypasses Republicans in Congress are preparing a $71 billion plan to develop high-speed rail services that would send money to states rather than to Amtrak, the national passenger railroad. The legislation would in effect separate the future of high-speed rail service from the future of Amtrak, which is struggling to meet a 2003 deadline to end its reliance on annual federal operating subsidies. (September 7th)

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