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September 2004

Travel Planner Pits Trains Against Planes

A new internet travel planner has been launched for domestic travel in Sweden, including Oslo and København. It lets users compare trips by train, express bus, air, sea, or any combination. Total travel time is listed, but not price. The travel planner says the fastest airline connection from Stockholm Central to Göteborg Central (454 km) takes 2:45, beating the fastest X 2000 connection by six minutes. (September 22nd)

Two Deaths in Sweden

Truck Driver Charged With Manslaughter

The driver of the truck/lorry which caused the train crash on a level crossing outside Kristianstad has been charged with manslaughter, as well as carelessness in traffic and causing injury. The driver is 61 years old and admits the circumstances but not the crime. So far no faults have been found on the crossing, which has lights, bells and barriers. The truck driver says the sun was shining on the lamp so he couldn't see if it was on or not. See also stories mentioning this TV report at DN and SvD, and definitions of manslaughter and of vållande till annans död. (September 22nd)

Two Train Drivers Dead in Sweden

derailment Two train drivers died on the morning of Friday the 10th after their three-car diesel train collided with a truck/lorry at a level crossing near Kristianstad in southern Sweden. The front coach hooked into the truck, spun round 180°, and landed on its side. The other two derailed. Newspapers report that the trains run at 140-160 km/h at the site. See also aerial photos, other photos, interview with the truck driver, press releases from rail administration Banverket and pages on the railway and train. (September 12th)

Union Sues Employer

Linx network map The Seko union is taking Linx to the Swedish Labour Court for laying off workers. Seko says SJ is taking over Linx' business and that the employees must therefore be offered new jobs at SJ. The legal issue is whether SJ is technically taking over or not, since they are only continuing with the København-Göteborg and Stockholm-Karlstad trains, not the Göteborg-Oslo or (Stockholm-)Karlstad-Oslo trains. Seko also questions whether NSB has the right to take over the Oslo-Göteborg trains. Linx is being liquidated in January. archive (September 22nd)

'Government Wanted Railtrack to Fail'

Gerald Corbett, former boss of British Railtrack, was on September 2nd cleared of allegations in connection with the Ladbroke Grove crash. He said that the government was too keen to blame derailments on Railtrack. The furore the government helped create caused Railtrack to impose extra speed restrictions after the next crash, from which Railtrack never recovered. Mr Corbett says his company was more efficient than Network Rail, its successor. (September 22nd)

15% of British Trains Delayed

On-time performance in Britain continues to improve after the upheaval of accidents and political reforms. In the first seven months of this year, 84,6% of trains in Britain arrived on time, which is better than the 77,3% achieved by British domestic airlines. (September 22nd)

Surfin' GNER

British GNER says passengers' internet usage on its trains is increasing 77% per week, and many second class passengers are upgrading to first class where the wifi broadband wireless internet is free. Wifi is also available on Linx trains in Scandinavia, where usage has also gone up steeply recently. "It seems the use of wireless connections is really taking off now," says Icomera boss Michael Johansson to the Ny Teknik newspaper. Icomera has fitted the Linx and GNER trains with the wifi technology. See also Ny Teknik story. Getting connected on one of these trains is really easy, but GNER has set up a special Wifi site just to make sure. archive (September 22nd)

Two Dead in Italy

Two people died after a commuter train derailed in northern Italy this morning. See also Channel News Asia story. (September 13th)

Modest Improvements at SJ

New Tracks Help SJ Limp Along

Swedish SJ's revenue per passenger has fallen 8% so far this year, mostly due to competition from new airlines. But boss Jan Forsberg says the company will break even this year, and new track completed in the next eight years mean faster trains, higher revenue and lower costs. August 16th saw the first new X 2000 line in years, Göteborg-Örebro (2 hours) - Västerås (3 hours) - Stockholm, a result of the improvements made on the Örebro-Västerås-Stockholm line during the 1990s. Ordinary direct trains have already spelled the end of a Göteborg-Västerås airline connection.

Here are some other track projects and their impact:

See also VLT story on X 2000 to Västerås and Örebro, and SJ press release. (September 12th)

SJ Unwires Trains

Alstom X40 double-decker SJ is installing GSM repeaters for better mobile phone reception in all X 2000 trains and the new Alstom double-deckers. The double-deckers will even have wireless broadband internet. The new trains are also accompanied by a slightly modernised logo. archive (September 12th)

IC4 Delays Stirs Danish Media

DSB's new IC4 trains are an unusually risky project and should maybe even postponed indefinitely, says a consultant's report to DSB. The report, prepared by Det Norske Veritas, has been leaked to media but DSB has restated its confidence in manufacturer AnsaldoBreda, which has had to pay DSB charges due to the delays. The first of the 83 four-car, 200 km/h diesel trains were to be put in service in January, but have been delayed to 2005 or 2006. archive (September 12th)

Congestion at UP Again

New Jams at Union Pacific

UP logo In the late nineties, Union Pacific's network seized up because of a string of bad luck and a poorly implemented merger with Southern Pacific. Now it's happening again, this time because of demand and retirements both being higher than expected. But things aren't as bad as they were, and the railway is hiring over 6000 new staff and buying 745 locos this year to get ahead of the ball. archive (September 12th)

Computers Could Help Deal With Disruptions

Since computers were introduced in North America the 1950s, preexisting manual methods for routing cars have been simply automated. The result is that cars continue to be sent into congested yards while other facilities operate under capacity. Computers could thus also be used to optimise yard usage. Computer models can also simulate and manage the effects of a terrorist attack. (September 12th)

UP Track Trucks Inspect Track

Union Pacific tracks are inspected by 23 trucks that can run on roads and railways. After receiving permission from the train dispatching center and a thorough job briefing, the crew positions the truck over the tracks at a railroad crossing. Behind the truck, an array of sensors is lowered onto the rails. The sensors are inside hollow rubber wheels filled with liquid that ride on top of each rail. There are four of these wheels transmitting sound into each rail at up to 16 different angles. When the sound travels into the rail and hits something irregular, it is reflected back, much like a ship's sonar searching for submarines. (September 12th)

German Intercities in Red Ink

German DB's long-distance traffic is losing €260m this year according to internal numbers obtained by Die Welt. Reasons for the loss include energy price rises of 30% and competition from low-fares airlines. The company plans to reduce the number of InterCity and EuroCity trains while running more InterCityExpress trains, as well as raising fares 3,5% after a 3,4% rise last spring. See also second Welt article and another at Financial Times Deutschland. (September 10th)

End of Orientexpressen

Orientexpressen Bankrupt; Sues Connex

Orientexpressen logo Swedish caterer Svenska Orientexpressen has gone bankrupt and is suing operator Connex for not giving Orientexpressen access to its inventories. See also stories at Norrbottens-Kuriren and Göteborgs-Posten, and press releases from Connex and Orientexpressen. (September 10th)

Connex and SJ Dump Orientexpressen

Upstart train caterer Svenska Orientexpressen may have served its last supper. Their old-style navy blue restaurant coaches have run in Connex' night trains to the north and in SJ's Stockholm-Göteborg frequent-stop trains. But Connex switched to ISS TraffiCare on Monday the 30th because of Orientexpressen's shaky finances and a better deal from TraffiCare. SJ has been lengthening Orientexpressen's contract one month at a time lately, but cancelled it starting today. TraffiCare was formed by selling off SJ's own catering division Trafikrestauranger. It is now owned by ISS. With the loss of these two contracts, Orientexpressen is without most of its income, and it looks like creditors will force it into bankruptcy. It is unclear how many employees will be transferred over to Orientexpressen's successors. See also press releases from SJ, Connex and Orientexpressen, and more stories at Norrbottens-Kuriren 1 and 2 and Göteborgs-Posten story on employment. archive (September 1st)

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