September 99

Four private companies want to use the Öresund fixed link after it opens in July 2000. Freight operators BK Tåg and Danish X-Rail want to run freight trains at night; SJ-owned TGOJ wants to run fifteen trains per day loaded with new cars. Finally, Sydvästen, the international consortium taking over the west coast main line passenger services which SJ considered unprofitable, wants to run some of its Göteborg-Malmö trains to København. The scheme for access charges on the link is still unclear. DSB and SJ were originally to have split the cost. (September 30th)

FT.comBritish Prism Rail has offered to invest up to £1bn in its four train operating companies, in London, the west country and south Wales, if it is granted 20-year extensions to its franchises. Meanwhile, Stagecoach, the company that runs South West Trains, says it was prepared to help finance removal of infrastructure bottlenecks on SWT's routes into central London jointly with Railtrack. (September 30th)

FT.comThe £2bn modernisation of Railtrack's West Coast Main Line will be speeded up by the introduction of a US-style "track muncher". The railway infrastructure group has awarded a £280m contract to Jarvis, the construction group, which has pledged to use the US track renewal machine - its first outing in the UK. (September 30th)

Kent station in Cork, Ireland, is being spruced up with the help of an estimated £20 million-plus coming from the sale and redevelopment of a freight yard called Horgan's Quay. But if Kent station is going to be the fulcrum of the new rail service in Cork, it is only the beginning, with the plans for the upgrading of the Cork-Cobh and Cork-Mallow section of the main line heralding something of a resurgence in rail transport in Cork. (September 28th, thanks Alan Reekie)

panorama car, 12kbNew private Swedish operator Svenska Tågkompaniet has obtained five ex-Rheingold observation cars as well as five refurbished sleeping cars from the Swiss travel agency Mittel Thurgau. Tågkompaniet will operate the overnight trains from southern Sweden to the far north starting January 10th 2000. The rest of their rolling stock will be leased from SJ. This is the first time that SJ won't be running the trains, despite the unprofitable services having been put out to competitive tender for several years. Background information in Swedish. (September 28th, reported by Jan Lindahl)

The first international freight train transited through Yugoslavia went through this week, one week earlier than originally planned, en route for Fyrom and Greece. The line had been closed to traffic since the beginning of the Kosovo crisis. (September 28th)

Betuwe Route Scaleback

The northern branch of the Betuwe line in the Netherlands will not be built, due to lack of demand. See also Cargoweb story. The main east-west part of the link will still be built, though. The Northern branch would branch off somewhere near Arnhem and go to Oldenzaal where it connects to the existing railway between Oldenzaal and Bad Bentheim (Germany). The purpose of the line was to take over cargotraffic to northern and eastern Europe and to the northern and eastern regions of the Netherlands from the existing lines and to provide extra capacity since there are hardly any growing possibility's on the busy existing tracks. (September 28th/October 1st, thanks Clemens Appelman)

The northern branch of the Betuwe railroad is endangered after the Dutch government has the intention to put it 'on hold'; and said it might not be necessary. This has prompted a sharp reaction from the Dutch premier Wim Kok as well as lifting Belgian hopes for a similar project in their (neighbouring) country instead.

The Betuweroute is a double track freight railway linking the Port of Rotterdam, one of the world's biggest, directly to the European hinterland. This railway will strengthen the position of the Netherlands as a distribution and transport country, without excessive environmental impact. As a future backbone of European freight transport the Betuweroute provides a new perspective on railway freight transport The Betuweroute is being constructed at a price of almost nine billion guilders at 1997 price levels. See map. (September 7th)

An eight-kilometre light railway in Ottawa, Canada, has been given a go-ahead by the regional council. Council approved one-time costs of $16 million and operating costs of $394,000 for each of the next two years. The line runs along former CPR tracks. (September 27th)

Dutch Lovers Rail has terminated all services. These services on Amsterdam - Haarlem were in direct competition with Nederandse Spoorwegen. The owner Vivendi (previously known as CGEA) announced that new services in direct competition with the NS for which it had a license (like for Utrecht - Hilversum), will not be started. However they intend to bid in the future for regional lines. Lovers blames the termination partially on NS, for not wanting to co-operate on fare collection. See also an interview with the minister of transport. (September 23rd, thanks Ernst Kers)

An Amtrak passenger train rear-ended a freight train on Monday the 20th in a Maryland rail yard, injuring 37 people, at least one seriously. The impact buckled the lead Amtrak locomotive and the rear freight car. All cars remained upright, though some had their wheels off the tracks. See also Danger Ahead story. Several pictures here. (September 21st/22nd)

FT.comRailtrack's monopoly over the sale of electricity to Britain's train operating companies could be ended under proposals put forward by Tom Winsor, the rail regulator. Electricity accounts for nearly 6 per cent of track access charges paid by the train operators with the tariff depending on the season, the time of day and area. There is no method of directly metering the amount of electricity used by each train so estimates are made based on theoretical models. (September 21st)

Swedish SJ and Danish DSB have fixed the timetable for local trains across the new Öresund fixed link starting July 2nd. There will be trains every 20 minutes between Malmö and København, which will take 35 minutes (Malmö C to Kastrup Airport 21 minutes). The trains will continue further into each country as more trains are delivered (27 are on order from Adtranz). One ticket will cover travel in both transit authorities' areas. The will be three daily X 2000 train pairs to Stockholm from København, increasing to eight later on. Since today's X 2000 trains between Stockholm and Malmö take 4 hours at best, the timings to København may theoretically be 4hrs30mins. Timings to the populous (300 000) Östergötland region will be under three hours. (September 21st)

German DB AG is studying the possibility of making the Berlin - Hamburg Transrapid maglev single-track rather than double track, as a way of keeping costs down. Also, a new, cheaper type of track in concrete rather than steel is being tested on the test track in Emsland. The new technique might save DM1bn. Die Welt has two articles on the political wrangling about a single or double track maglev: 1, 2. (September 21st)

Taiwan High-Speed Rail announced a fresh delay on Thursday the 16th in selecting a contractor to build the island's US$12.7 billion bullet train, saying a September deadline would be pushed back to the end of January. The THSR Corporation is choosing between a Shinkansen train and a European TGV/ICE cross, with ICE power cars and TGV carriages. (September 21st)

Twenty people were killed in Pakistan when the Peshawar - Karachi Chenab Express collided with an unmanned locomotive late on Saturday the 18th. The Chenab Express was travelling towards the station at Taxila when the accident occurred at about 10:42 local time. (September 21st)

Hurricane Floyd Stops Trains

Hurricane Floyd dumped rain on the US east coast to the extent that several sections of track were (are?) underwater. Fallen trees had blocked Amtrak's Northeast Corridor. (September 19th/21st)

Hurrican Floyd caused less damage to the US East coast than feared. Still, some Amtrak trains have been cancelled or delayed several hours. Bill Herndon at the North Carolina Department of Transportation writes that a bridge on one of CSXTs main lines has been washed out or at least is under water. New York's Metro North commuter railroad Harlem line was washed out on a 150 metre long stretch. CSXT press releases, 1, 2, 3. (September 17th/18th)

RailionThe new name for DB Cargo and NS Cargo will be "Railion". The previous name for the merged company was Rail Cargo Europe. Railion is owned 94% by German DB AG and 6% by Dutch NS. The new name and logo has been presented on September 16th in Duisburg, and two locomotives (class 6400 and 152) and five freight cars have been relettered for the presentation. The actual merger will take place on January 1st 2000. Usenet thread. (September 18th, reported by Tobias Köhler)

Financing is in place for New Delhi's 55 kilometre, $1.13 billion metro. Japan's Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund will loan 56 percent of the total cost of the first stage in several phases over the years. There are plans for extending the metro to cover almost 200 kilometres. New Delhi is one of the world's largest cities, home to almost 12 million people. (September 18th, thanks Alan Reekie)

A project to build a rail link to the Montréal aiport is expected to get the go-ahead by the end of the year. A public-private consortium studying the idea says the link makes sense, and it expects to give a formal green light to the project soon. (September 17th)

Hartmut MehdornGerman DB AG's chief Johannes Ludewig has been ousted by the Ministry of Transport; he will be replaced by Hartmut Mehdorn (photo), currently chairman of Heidelberger printing machines as well as managing director of Deutschen Aerospace Airbus GmbH in Hamburg. The boss of DB AG's passenger division Reise & Touristik, Axel Nawrocki, will also be replaced. Ludewig's time at the top is considered to be one of stagnation in the "Bahn-Reform" and of worsening on-time performance for the trains. The union Gewerkschaft der Eisenbahner Deutschlands welcomes the change in management. The Nando Times reports that sales and profits were down last year, largely due to the impact of the Eschede crash. Deutsche Bahn's sales were flat 1998, while profits dropped to 334 million marks, or $191 million, from 533 million marks in 1997. See also Die Welt commentary, FT story, and DB AG press release. (September 15th)

British Freight Expansion

FT.comBritish government efforts to boost rail freight are being frustrated by the reluctance of many local authorities to give planning permission for terminals, freight operator English Welsh & Scottish Railway says. Councils fear residents will object to plans for terminals, and so vital sites alongside railway lines are being sold off for developments that could equally well be sited elsewhere, EWS says. Also, the British government on Tuesday the 14th gave the go-ahead for a big sell-off of railway land, releasing 1400 sites, after agreeing new procedures to make sure future transport needs are taken into account. (September 15th)

Fresh attempts have been made to win European funding for a rail freight terminal in the north of Scotland. Previous plans for the transport interchange at Georgemas Junction, Caithness, failed because of a lack of interest from potential users. But Highland Council said it believes the time is now right to try once again to secure funds for the project, which would cost an estimated £1m. (September 15th)

Finnish VR's CEO, Henri Kuitunen has voiced support for a new 300km/h railway running northeast from Helsinki. This would ease pressure on an almost-parallel older railway and speed connections to eastern Finland and Russia. See also map, and more on the new line. (September 15th)

The collapse of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia means it's time to invest in Cambodia's railways, acting director Sokhom Pheakavanmony says. Specifically, the goal is linking the system with networks in neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam. (September 15th)

FT.comPlans for a £170m rail link between Heathrow airport and a range of destinations in south London and southern England have been given the go-ahead by BAA, the airport operator, British Airways, and Railtrack. The project, known as Airtrack, is expected to carry 5m people a year, including air travellers and Heathrow employees. It would make use of a disused railway track alongside the M25 motorway north of Staines before plunging into a tunnel under the airport. (September 14th)

Poland's cabinet has approved a sweeping reform plan for the ailing state railway PKP which envisages breaking up the company into smaller firms before selling them, and issuing state-guaranteed bonds. The bill will be put before parliament within a few months. The Ministry of Transport estimates that over 15% of 212 000 staff must be laid off to trim costs. (September 13th)

Finland launched a new initiative on Wednesday the 8th to break an impasse over plans to open up European Union rail freight to greater cross-border competition. Finland, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, proposed the gradual opening of rail markets beginning with freight transit services, to be followed, three years later, by international freight services. France and Belgium are expected to block this and other attempts at liberalization, since their inefficient railways would be forced to heavy and politically sensitive job losses. (September 13th)

Belgium's train service will be suspended on New Year's Eve to allow checks for millennium bugs on the computer system of operator SNCB, a spokesman for the state-owned enterprise says. (September 13th)

Oslo's new Gardermoen airport railway has noted a 20% increase in passenger numbers after the opening of a new tunnel on the railway. Oslo is Norway's capital and biggest city. Official site. (September 13th, thanks Martin Steinholt)

New Jersey Transit has taken several steps into the future for its rail passengers, who by 2002 will have new rail cars, "real time" public address announcements, and a new $448 million transfer station to speed trips into Manhattan. The biggest of three recently approved contracts is for a transfer facility by Penn Station. NJ Transit is also buying lots of new trains and implementing a Train Management Control System which will let more trains squeeze on to the tracks. (September 13th)

The public agency building the Los Angeles Alameda Corridor rail cargo expressway has approved its second largest contract for construction of a new interchange that will ease traffic and rail congestion immediately north of the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. (September 13th)

18 kbAdtranz has recieved an order for 21 Regio-Shuttle trains from Bietergemeinschaft Südthüringen (map) in Germany. They will be delivered by April 2001, and begin revenue service in May. (September 8th)

FT.comMore than 1000 passengers travelling on the Heathrow Express service between London Paddington and Heathrow airport have been overcharged due to a "technical glitch," the company revealed yesterday. The service, operated by the British Airport Authority, said 90 per cent of the errors occurred during one week in June when 1,400 passengers had their credit card transactions duplicated. (September 3rd)

The Euro-Train consortium is willing to take a 10 percent stake in Taiwan's US$13 billion bullet train, in an effort to help clear financial logjams and ensure it wins the lucrative contract. (September 3rd)

17 kbCommuters using Bangkok's new elevated railway will be able to do their shopping at the same time-at 23 stations on the route. The 24 km route opens December 5th. The fare structure has not been finalized, with the city council wanting a 15-baht flat rate, but the Bangkok Mass Transit System Corporation wants 15 baht to be the minimum fare. The BTSC wants the increase to compensate for that the railway is 24 km long, rather than 14 km which was the earlier plan. (September 3rd, thanks Alan Reekie)

train, 10kbIncreasing traffic over the new Great Belt fixed link has caused Danish DSB to lease a double-decker train from Switzerland for 1½ years. Swiss SBB can't use the spanking new cars untill some tunnels are modified. One morning and one evening train will run between København and Fredericia, on the east coast of Jylland, starting September 6th. There will also be a train pair between København and Odense. Numbers of the coaches. Photo Ritz Daniel. More photos here. (September 2nd)

11kbThe launch of Amtrak's Acela service will be delayed until next spring at the earliest because of lingering problems with the train's wheels, company officials said Wednesday the 1st. The 150-mph (241-kph) bullet train was to have gone into service later this year, but "excessive wheel wear" on the passenger coaches has prompted additional refinements, said Jacques Lapare, North American head of Bombardier, which is building the train with Paris-based Alstom. Officials said at a news conference that the consortium is obligated to a graduated penalty for each of the 20 train sets that is delivered late, starting at $1,000 per day per train and rising to $13,500 per day per train. The last of the train sets was to have been delivered by June 2000. But, "This in no way affects our ability and desire" to meet the financial plan, says Amtrak President George Warrington. See also Amtrak press release, Bombardier press release. (September 2nd, thanks Matthew Johnson)

11kbDB Cargo has ordered 100 new locomotives of class 189, suitable for all four continental current systems, based on the existing locomotives class 152 with similar technical data: 6400 kW, 140 km/h. These locomotives will be delivered from 2002 on. They will be equipped with GPS (Global Postioning System), GSM-R (special mobile phone system for rail), ETCS (European Train Control System) and EBuLa, a computerized system cataloging temporary speed restrictions. The 189s are similar to DSB Gods' new locos. See also Siemens press release. (September 2nd, thanks Tobias Köhler)

A high-level review of railway safety in India has expressed concern over the widespread manipulation of accident statistics by officers to show better performance than their predecessors. By brushing two-thirds of accidents under the carpet, the Railways avoid going into their causes and the remedial action remains muted and low- key. Till an accident involving heavy loss of life takes place. (September 1st)

One of Canada's oldest running steam engines and an integral part of the country's heritage could be sidetracked unless $500,000 is raised to keep it rolling, says the head of a historical group. Built in 1883 for the Canadian Pacific Railway, Engine 136 was in use during the construction of the transcontinental railway and before the last spike completed the iron road that linked Canada as a nation in 1885. (September 1st)

The Federal US DOT Transportation Technology Center will be conducting a series of full- scale passenger train crash tests this fall. The first test will involve a full-scale passenger rail vehicle traveling at 30 miles per hour colliding into a rigid concrete wall. Future tests at TTC will examine the behavior of multiple cars in collisions on curves and at switches, and collisions between cab-car trains and freight locomotives. See also Danger Ahead story. (September 1st)

FT.comA blow will be struck for égalité and perhaps fraternité today with the abolition of first-class travel on the RER, the Paris suburban rail network. (September 1st)

More Passengers, More Bickering

More Britons are using the national rail system this year than last, according to new government figures. (September 1st)

FT.comThe UK's train operators may be grateful that it is Railtrack's turn right now to take it in the neck for the low quality of the railways. The markets are clearly less sanguine, since National Express, Stagecoach and FirstGroup have all seen their stocks edge down. The nervousness is understandable. Deterioration on the railways cannot all be blamed on Railtrack. (September 1st)

FT.comBritish Railtrack has been threatened with a fine of more than £40m unless it makes up a backlog of work on reducing train delays. This is the first time that enforcement action has been taken against Railtrack in the company's 5½ years of existence. In more bad news for Railtrack, Standard and Poor's has placed Railtrack on CreditWatch. Also, complaints by rail passengers about the quality of train services in Britain rose 8% and broke the 1 million barrier in the year ended March, the rail regulator says. Virgin Trains and Great North Eastern recieved the highest number of complaints. (August 21st/25th)

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