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September 2003

One Dead in Germany

One person died in Germany after two regional passenger trains collided 60 km south of Berlin on Sunday the 28th. Both trains were moving at over 40 km/h. One of them ran a red light, but it is not yet known why. See also press release. (September 29th)

DB Launches €50 Return Tickets

German DB AG is responding to cheap airlines by offering a limited number of €50 return tickets for five connections which will vary. The offer starts Monday the sixth with Hamburg-München and Berlin-Köln among others. Four companions can come along for €25 each. Tickets may only be used for the exact trains they are booked for, and must be booked and payed by credit card on DB's website. See also press release. (September 29th)

EU Temporarily Allows Alstom Rescue

this wheel gives a bumpy ride The French government's rescue of engineering giant Alstom has been okayed by the EU after the government dropped plans to take over 30% ownership. Many banks are involved in the rescue, and they stand to lose money they lent to Alstom earlier, if Alstom fails. The EU Commission will conduct a review into the €3,4bn package during the next six months. The Commission can have Alstom pay the money back with interest, if it finds that the package is against European competition law. Alstom sold its gas turbine business to German Siemens earlier this year. Alstom is the company that develops and manufactures the successful 300 km/h TGV trains. See also Le Figaro story, Alstom press release and bulletins at Eurail Press and Ny Teknik. archive (September 22nd)

Train Hits Bus in Pakistan

Forty people died in Pakistan after a train crashed into a bus at an unmanned railway crossing on Saturday the 20th. (September 21st)

Australian Transcontinental Complete

Australia's new 1420 km Alice Springs - Darwin railway was completed last week, six months ahead of schedule. The link completes the north-south transcontinental which will mainly be used for freight. However, the famous Ghan tourist train will do the whole 2979 km coast-to-coast trip in two days. The project is jointly managed by the South Australian and Northern Territory governments. The design, construction and day-to-day running of the railway are the responsibility of a private consortium. See also BBC story and construction data. archive (September 21st, thanks "kota16")

Network Rail Seeks Compensation over Derailment

British rail administration Network Rail (formerly Railtrack) will seek compensation, possibly over £1m, from the maintenance contractor responsible for Tuesday's derailment which caused delays for trains at King's Cross station in London. Train operator GNER had to cancel 40 trains a day for two days, including all direct services between London and Leeds. See also FT story. archive (September 18th)

Reform Comes to Austria

Austrian ÖBB is to be split into separate companies for passenger and freight traffic, infrastructure and personnel. The government aims to lower its grants to ÖBB of €4,4bn to €3,4bn annually by 2010. It will take over €6bn of ÖBB's debt but will no longer automatically cover ÖBB's losses. Finance minister Karl-Heinz Grasser says personnel should be managed better as some employees must work overtime while others do nothing, and it should be easier to fire employees. See also second article. (September 16th)

High Speed Reaches Britain

CTRL Phase 1 Opens

The first half of the UK high-speed Channel Tunnel Rail Link is due to open today, cutting 20 minutes from the journey time to London from Paris and Brussels. But it could cost taxpayers double the original estimate, the Observer reports. See also BBC photos. (September 16th, thanks Matt Carlson)

Eurostar Breaks British Record

swish! The Eurostar service reached a major milestone Wednesday the 30th as one of the trains reached 334,7 km/h on the new Channel Tunnel Rail Link, phase 1, the eastern part which will begin commercial service on September 28th. The western phase 2 will start service in 2007. Phase 1 saves 20 minutes and costs £1,9bn, while phase 2 saves another 15 minutes and costs £3,3bn. The time savings apply both to London-Paris and London-Brussels, with the former clocking in at 2 hours 15 minutes, and the latter at 2 hours flat in 2007. See also map, stories at, the Independent, BBC and CNN, and press releases at CTRL and SNCB. archive (August 1st)

330 km/h Eurostar Testing in England

A Eurostar train loaded with engineers and scientific equipment will be tested in England at 330 km/h on Tuesday the 8th. The testing will be part of getting ready to open the 74km first phase of the channel tunnel rail link, and will take place between Ebbsfleet in Kent and the mouth of the tunnel. The second phase of the CTRL involves building a tunnel beneath London from St Pancras to Stratford in East London where it will re-emerge above ground on its way to Ebbsfleet. archive (July 6th)

Toll and Government Split Tranz Rail?

If Australian Toll takes over ailing New Zealand Tranz Rail, the New Zealand government has agreed to buy the rail network for a token sum and then upgrade it, in return for which Toll would get exclusive use of the tracks but must invest in rolling stock and locomotives. This prompted New Zealand's competition authority to start an investigation at the end of July. Meanwhile, Toll has increased its bid for TR to NZ$1,10 per share and TR's board of directors announced on Friday September 5th that it recommends shareholders to accept the offer as it represents more value than the company is worth. See also TR press release. archive (September 11th)

Connex Appeals to EU Court

Connex has gone to EU court after a German court determined that the province of Brandenburg doesn't have to put its subsidised services out to tender. The trains are currently run by DB AG. See also Connex press release. archive (September 5th)

Delayed Privatisation in Germany

German DB AG will not be privatised untill 2007 at the earliest, reports the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The government feels that the company is not yet ready, which is a setback for DB boss Hartmut Mehdorn who has said that shares would be offered to investors in early 2005. Increasing financial losses have made the government think again, as has the new fares structure which didn't go over well with passengers. Revenue from long-distance traffic fell 13% in this year's first six months. Also, the Green party, part of the coalition government, feels that tracks should not be part of a privatisation. See Financial Times Deutschland article and Eurailpress bulletins from September and April 2003. archive (September 5th)

120 British Trains Cancelled

About 120 off-peak trains are to be cut each day across Britain from the end of the month in order to reduce congestion on the network. This is to reduce domino effects where a late train with few passengers in turn delays a full train. Similar cuts were made in May. See also Independent story. (September 3rd)

Five Dead in Chechnya

Five people died after an explosion ripped through an early morning commuter train in Russia near the war-torn southern region of Chechnya. Authorities suspect terrorism. See also CNN story. (September 3rd)

Berliners Not Allowed on the Platform

The Berlin local transport authority no longer allows people on the platform unless they have train tickets, as a way of avoiding druggies and other non-passengers. But this appears to contradict existing laws and the issue is being investigated further. It is also inconvenient for those only wishing to buy a sandwich or newspaper, or for non-travelling friends. Turnstiles or München-style platform tickets have been considered, but the former is expensive and the latter politically difficult. (September 2nd)

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