In brief – 001

11/2021 to 06/2022

By Frédéric de Kemmeter, Railway policy observer – Freelance railway contributing writer – Suscribe my blog
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Germany
Good results for the operator Kombiverkehr – 23/06/2022 – In the 2021 financial year, Kombiverkehr saw a gain of 9.3 per cent and a total of 937,959 (1.88 million TEU) truck consignments shifted by rail. This corresponds to a total of 22.16 million gross tonnes. Transport output actually improved by 10.2 per cent to 18.46 billion tonne-kilometres, with consignments transported an average distance of 833 km. The company achieved sales of 421.9 million euros in 2021. Significant gains were realised in the National and International Transport business fields. The keys to this included new services on the Germany/Benelux – Italy via Switzerland corridor, along with the new routing options via the MegaHub Hanover Lehrte rapid-transfer facility. The company’s most important sphere of activity is currently service quality, in close collaboration with the rail operators, in order to be able to continue offering combined transport as the most climate-friendly transport solution for logistics companies, industry and retail in Germany and Europe, in line with market requirements. In addition, a brake on electricity costs is aimed at cushioning the growing financial pressure on intermodal users and at providing a financial offset on the customer side as compensation due to quality-induced congested supply chains. Development in the international business areas was varied. Whilst eastern and western Europe chalked up significant gains, volumes of consignments in transport to and from northern Europe fell slightly by 2.3 per cent. In the southern European market region Kombiverkehr was able to make up for slight losses from the year before last. The Benelux-Italy sales region, newly installed in 2021, posted over 34,000 consignments to the year-end. From autumn 2022, a new customer portal is intended to make access to combined transport and handling intermodal transports easier and even more transparent.
(Source: pressroom Kombiverkehr)

Italy
Trenord has ambitions for the future – 20/06/2022 – Italian-style regionalisation. Trenord is a railway company operating in regional and local passenger transport north of Milan. It is owned equally by Trenitalia and Ferrovie Nord Milano (FNM), a company listed on the Milan stock exchange. Trenord operates more than 2,170 weekday journeys, with more than 1.3 million seats offered, 6% more than in 2019. Trenord has just presented the broad outlines of its future in a regional commission. Train punctuality, investments, new trains, traffic information, new services and new sales channels are just some of the issues that the rail operator intends to address. The Lombardy Region seems satisfied: ‘We are happy with the introduction of the new Caravaggio and Donizetti trains, financed by regional resources’, explains Claudia Maria Terzi, regional councillor in charge of infrastructure, transport and sustainable mobility. ‘The positive impact of the new trains is beginning to be felt (…) So far, 57 of the 222 new trains planned for 2025 have been put into service, the result of a €2 billion investment by the Lombardy Region,’ she continues. Trenord’s rolling stock consists of 431 trains, 135 of which are still a legacy of the old FS. Next December, the fleet will decrease to 419 train sets despite the arrival of 68 new train sets, meaning a drastic melting down of obsolete rolling stock, such as the completely outdated Ale582 railcars. The improvements also apply to the availability of rolling stock: the unavailability of trains due to breakdowns in 2022 was on average 4 per day at regional level, a reduction of 50% compared to 2018, 44% compared to 2019 and 15% compared to 2021. Ticketing will be increasingly dematerialised and digital, with dematerialised subscriptions. In addition, 242 self-service ticket machines will be installed by 2023 – including 113 new generation machines – serving the 182 stations that account for 92% of Trenord’s passengers.
(source : Trasporti-italia.com)

Europe
The railways are working to become more sustainable – 17/06/2022 – As recent events have shown, railways often suffer from climatic hazards, such as floods, dramatic landslides or simply trees and objects falling onto the tracks. This has led infrastructure managers to take emergency measures and at the same time to develop prevention plans. But sustainability in the railway sector does not only mean taking preventive measures against extreme weather conditions. It also means producing rail services in a much more sustainable way, which is a long-term programme. Infrabel, for example, has produced « green » sleepers: instead of 1400 degrees, sulphur concrete only requires a temperature of 140 degrees to shape the sleeper. The production of CO2 is thus greatly reduced. This is also the case for new civil engineering methods that allow less soil to be excavated on the major HS2 construction site, the British new line. And also the production – and adaptation – of wagons to make them quieter, more energy-efficient and more economical than those used up to now. Innovative components are also part of the railway’s sustainability. The less wear and tear there is, the fewer parts need to be replaced. Innovative parts must themselves be produced with sustainability in mind.
(source : Railtech.com)

Sweden/Norway
Redeveloping the Göteborg-Oslo railway link – 13/06/2022 – The Swedish government has commissioned Trafikverket, in collaboration with the Norwegian Railways, to carry out a study on increasing capacity and accessibility on the Gothenburg – Oslo route. Sweden’s second largest city is poorly connected to the Norwegian capital, which is only 300 kilometres away. Currently, four Intercity trains cover the route in 3 hours and 44 minutes. As part of the assignment, Trafikverket will consult with the regions and cities concerned and other stakeholders. The starting point will be to investigate the remaining shortcomings identified by Trafikverket in its report « Utpekad bristanalys: Göteborg-Oslo, kapacitetsproblem och lange reistider », submitted last year. The assignment also includes an in-depth analysis of the conditions and possibilities for co-financing government measures by cities, regions or companies. The measures will be financed within the framework determined by the Riksdag (the Swedish Parliament) in an infrastructure bill following a proposal from the government. The priority is to see what kind of funding would be available depending on the nature of the work to be done. The results of the mission must be communicated to the Ministry of Infrastructure before 1 October 2023.
(Source: pressroom Regeringen.se)

Germany
New phase in sight for Alstom’s autonomous train in Germany – 10/06/2022 – The research project “Automated regional trains in Lower Saxony, Germany” is entering the next phase. Together with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the TU Berlin, Alstom is developing technical solutions to gradually digitise rail passenger transport in Germany. The project will explore the possibilities of automation in regional transport via the European Train Control System (ETCS). The Landesnahverkehrsgesellschaft Niedersachsen (LNVG) supports the project and is providing two regional trains for the tests. Automated driving is being tested on routes in Northern Germany. While the Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (BMWK) is supporting the automation research project, Lower Saxony’s Ministry of Economics is funding the necessary equipment for the two test vehicles with 5.5 million euro. For the trials, new systems for driverless operation are being developed in a first phase. This includes signal recognition, which will provide the ability to recognise and interpret the railway traffic signals set up along the track. In addition, the train must be able to recognise obstacles. In the event of a malfunction, the train is controlled remotely or guided by the train attendant. Alstom has already demonstrated with test trains in other countries that automated driving and remote control of trains can be technically implemented. The project will determine whether the existing regulatory framework for Automatic Train Operation (ATO) could be adapted. It will then examine which tests and results are needed to sufficiently prove safety standards for automated driving in passenger operation. In a second phase, automated driving must take place as a “living lab” under real conditions. The new systems will be installed in the two LNVG multiple units pre-equipped with ETCS and tested in operation. The findings from development and operation will help to prepare for the later approval of fully automated trains and to further automate regional transport.
(Press release)

Belgium
Belgian railways need an extra €3.4 billion – 06/06/2022 – SNCB and Infrabel are asking the government for €3.4 billion over ten years to finance the ten-year investment and financial plans decided by the two companies in the last few days, newspapers L’Echo, Le Soir, De Tijd and De Standaard reported on Saturday. Infrabel estimates that it needs 200 million euros more per year for investments (the current allocation is 926 million) and 100 million more per year for its operational expenses, i.e. a total of 3 billion over 10 years. For its part, SNCB has a similar request for €400 million over 10 years, i.e. a total of €3.4 billion to meet government ambitions. The two Belgian rail companies have submitted their respective investment plans to the government. Infrabel’s plan amounts to €11.6 billion over the period 2023-2032, while SNCB’s plan amounts to €8.6 billion.
(Various sources)

France
Service provisionally complete for Trenitalia France – 03/06/2022 – The train service of the Italian’s ‘Frecciarossa’ in France now includes two additional daily return trips, bringing to five the number of connections between at least Paris and Lyon, with two of these return trips continuing to Milan via Modane and Turin. On international traffic, with the fall of Covid restrictions in Italy, the occupancy rate would reach 93% according to Roberto Rinaudo, CEO of Trenitalia France. To the question of a rise in prices and why Trenitalia is finally present on French rails if it is doing the same thing as SNCF, Roberto Rinaudo declares that « we are complementary to SNCF. Our policy is based on quality of service and a pricing policy based on a very high quality/price value ». Concerning other developments from Trenitalia in France, Roberto Rinaudo remains cautious and wants to first consolidate and analyse the behaviour of the French market, but does not rule out other relationships. For its French service, Trenitalia is using 5 Frecciarossa 1000 trainsets from Hitachi Rail (a constructor which bought AnsaldoBreda as well as the high speed division of the former Bombardier). These trainsets are suitable for SNCF-Réseau and recently an order for a further 14 trainsets was placed, clearly indicating that Trenitalia is becoming a permanent fixture on the French rail scene. With its other developments in Spain, Trenitalia is slowly becoming more European, while Hitachi Rail now has high-speed rolling stock suitable for use in three countries. You can bet that neither of them will stop here…
(See also full interview – in french -, from Roberto Rinaudo, CEO of Trenitalia France – France Info)

Ukraine
To switch progressively to the UIC 1.435mm gauge? – 30/05/2022 – The Ukraine, a country at war as we know, seems to be determined to turn its back on everything that represents Russia. One of the symbols that leads back to a nation now considered hostile is the gauge of the railways: Ukraine has about 21,600 km of lines in Russian 1,520mm gauge, a legacy of the former Soviet Union and its successors. A gauge also adopted by Finland, the Baltic States, Belarus and Moldova. Announcing a series of infrastructural and regulatory measures to integrate Ukraine more closely into the EU’s transport networks, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said his country would begin the gradual construction of railways that meet European standards. This responds to the issue of agricultural exports, which are normally carried out by sea via Black Sea ports, but which are currently under blockade by Russia as part of its invasion of southern and eastern Ukraine. The idea would be to dispense with the ports and turn to Europe to export grains in particular. The differences in gauge between the Ukrainian 1,520mm and the UIC 1,435mm in Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania require transhipment from one train to another or the use of special rolling stock for gauge changes rather than the widely available standard wagons. The upgrading of the Ukrainian network to UIC standards could avoid such transhipments. However, a large-scale conversion programme to UIC gauge would be a major undertaking and would take years.
(Source : Railway Gazette)

UK
Elizabeth line officially receives final approvals from ORR – 13/05/2022 – London’s Elizabeth line has officially received its final authorisations of its trains, stations, and infrastructure from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) rail regulator ahead of its opening on 24 May 2022. ORR has issued approvals for all the Elizabeth line stations, with the exception of Bond Street, confirming the stations and infrastructure meet the requirements for passenger use. Abbey Wood, Canary Wharf, Custom House, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Paddington, Tottenham Court Road, Whitechapel and Woolwich stations have all been given the green light and issued with authorisations. Bond Street has been given the go-ahead only for safe evacuation procedures, as it will open for passengers later than the rest of the line. ORR has also authorised the overall routeway for the Elizabeth line’s track and tunnel infrastructure, to allow trains to run through the central section. The new railway will transform how Londoners and visitors cross the capital with Paddington to Canary Wharf, for example, taking just 18 minutes. Transport for London recently confirmed the Elizabeth line will open to the public on Tuesday 24 May. Regulations set out that no new or upgraded infrastructure or rolling stock can be put into use on or as part of Britain’s rail system unless ORR has provided an interoperability authorisation for the placing in service to ensure it meets appropriate requirements. ORR has been working closely with, and assessing several aspects of, the Crossrail project over the last two years to ensure it meets the necessary technical, safety and accessibility requirements before it can open to passengers. ORR approved the Elizabeth line Class 345 fleet in 2020 and recently authorised use of the Global System for Mobile Communications-Railway (GSM-R). This delivers digital, secure, and dependable communications between drivers and signallers, helping increase safety, reduce delays and improve performance and providing a better experience for passengers. The regulator also approved the track access contract between Rail for London (Infrastructure) Ltd, the infrastructure manager for the Crossrail Central Operating Section, and MTR Corporation (Crossrail) Ltd, the Elizabeth line operator. This means that if in the future a train operator wants to access the Elizabeth line network, it needs a track access contract that has been reviewed and approved by ORR.
(Read more : Global Rail Review)

UK
Class 99 electro-diesel locomotive order confirmed – 01/05/2022 – GB Railfreight, leasing company Beacon Rail and Stadler have signed an agreement for the supply of 30 Class 99 six-axle electro-diesel locomotives for entry into service from 2025. The operator said they would the first electro-diesel locomotives capable of hauling heavy freight at main line speeds on the UK network. Stadler said the Class 99s would be a ‘versatile’ design, building on the success of around 100 six-axle EuroDual locomotives sold in continental Europe. The Class 99 would be adapted to the British loading gauge and specifications, with a maximum speed of 120 km/h and power at wheel of 6 000 kW under 25 kV 50 Hz electrification. The ‘high-power low-emissions’ Stage V diesel engine will enable the locos to operate on non-electrified lines. The Class 99 will have an ‘outstanding’ tractive effort of up to 500 kN, high haulage capability and performance. Drivers will benefit from ‘optimal visibility’ and ergonomic desks. The Class 99s are intended to replace EMD Class 66 diesel locomotives on trains to logistics hubs from ports such as Felixstowe. This is expected to cut emissions by around 50% per journey, reducing the operator’s carbon footprint by 428 tonnes per working day across intermodal services operating along partially electrified lines.
(Read more : Railway Gazette)

Scotland
ScotRail transfers to public ownership – 03/04/2022 – It was in the air. The takeover by public entities of traffic formerly handled by independent operators in Britain becomes reality. ScotRail has just taken over all of Abellio’s trains. For passengers, nothing will immediately change when ownership of the rail service changes hands. In an email sent to customers in March, ScotRail stated: « There are no immediate changes and there is nothing you need to do ». In order to reassure, ScotRail says there is also no plans to make any changes to the timetables. Passenger services in Wales and Northern Ireland are also operated by public sector companies, while in England the UK Department for Transport’s operator of last resort runs Southeastern, Northern and LNER services. In other cases, contracts are made with private operators while some mainline routes remain with their original operator, such as Avanti West Coast or GWR. First Group has even launched a series of open access trains between London, York and Edinburgh under the name Lumo. It will be interesting to see how the new public entities will be able to bear the costs of rail transport in the future and how they will deliver on their promises of improvement, in a context where the unions are outbidding the staff.
(Read more : Railway Gazette)

China-Europe
How the China-Europe Railway is affected by the Ukraine invasion? – 07/03/2022 – As the Russian invasion of Ukraine is causing additional strain to the global supply chain that is already dealing with coronavirus-related disruptions, rail transport in the region that is at the nexus of Asia and Europe has become a direct victim. The China-Europe Railway Express, or China Railway Express (CRE), is a key logistical cog in President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative. The cross-continent network has served as a critical pipeline for Chinese exports to Europe in the past few years, especially during the ongoing global shipping crisis as costs soared and port congestion worsened. But now it is facing the most serious challenge in its history. How has CRE been affected by the Ukraine invasion? As the war continues, concerns over further shipment and supply chain disruptions along the route are growing. Trains passing through Ukraine have been suspended or diverted, while the main route, which does not pass through Ukraine, has been so far operating normally. But the sanctions on Russia – a country the main routes all must pass through – have further complicated the situation.
(Read more : China Macro Economy)

Italy
State aid for Italy’s long-distance train operators approved – 04/03/2022 – The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules a €687m Italian government package intended to compensate operators of commercial long-distance passenger rail services for the impact of the coronavirus pandemic over the period between July 1 2020 and April 3 2021. The decision was welcomed by the AllRail alliance of new entrants to the passenger market, which said the Italian aid was ‘a model for the rest of Europe’ as it was ‘non-discriminatory, treats all operators equally and recognises the commercially driven, open access passenger rail services are not some kind of add-on extra but fulfil a societal need on long distance routes.’ Italian government measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus included a mandatory staggered seating reservation system that cut capacity by 50%, as well as limitations on business travel and meetings and the cancellation of events. Between late December 2020 and April 2021 there was also a ban on inter-regional travel.
(Read more : Railway Gazette)

Great-Britain
Network Rail uses new technology to detect faults on train tracks – 02/03/2022 – Network Rail is trialling technology that will allow digital sensors to spot track faults – in a bid to cut train disruption. Hitachi Rail and its subsidiary Perpetuum have been awarded a contract by Network Rail to develop a first real-time digital solution. It will monitor, and eventually predict, sections of track that affect ride quality and require maintenance. The monitoring equipment is installed on trains across Scotland’s networks, including the North Clyde Line, the Borders and Fife Circle. It is hoped such technology will help reduce disruption on the network, improve safety and reduce maintenance costs. At this stage of the development, Perpetuum solution can identify the onset of warping or changes to the track. It allows the network to build a picture of areas that are at risk, requiring inspection or maintenance in the future.
(Read more : Glasgow Times)

USA
Amtrak to order 50 more long-distance Siemens Chargers – 10/02/2022 – On the day Amtrak placed its first Siemens ALC42 locomotives into revenue service — although not without some problems — the company announced it will acquire more of the locomotives. In a event at Chicago Union Station, Amtrak Vice President and Chief Mechanical Officer George Hull used the operating debut of the two long-distance Charger diesels to announce the company’s board of directors has authorized exercising the option to add 50 more to the 2018 production order of 75 now rolling out of Siemens Sacramento, Calif., production facility. Unit 301, in the “Day One” design mimicking a hastily painted EMD E8 locomotive created for Amtrak’s 1971 launch, had been tapped to lead sister No. 302 and heritage-painted P42 No. 161 on Tuesday’s westbound Empire Builder out of Chicago Union Station following a presentation from Hull and Siemens Mobility Rolling Stock vice president Michael Cahill. Operating three locomotives is standard practice in winter on the Builder to Seattle and Portland, Ore. However, after the media photo opportunity concluded, an additional P42 was added on the point, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari tells Trains News Wire, “for technical reasons related to positive train control.” The train was 34 minutes late when it arrived at its first stop in Glenview, Ill, and lost another 32 minutes at the station in Glenview. This also delayed the scheduled 3:15 p.m. Hiawatha departure from Chicago to Milwaukee for almost a half hour…
(Read more : Trains.com)

China
Double celebration in China: 50,000th train leaves to Europe – 03/02/2022 – Right before China transitioned into the New Year according to its calendar, it saw another reason to celebrate. On 29 January the 50,000th China-Europe train embarked on its journey towards the west. According to Xinhua News Agency, the departure of train X8086/5 from Chengdu Chengxiang station marked the magic number of 50,000 trains since the beginning. This beginning was around ten years ago, when the first China-Europe trains pioneered across the continents. In the year 2011, a marginal 17 trains were counted on the New Silk Road. This number saw a big boost when in 2013 China’s President Xi Jinping officially launched the Belt and Road initiative, with the aim of increasing the connectivity between China and Europe. The train was to play a central role in this. Over the years, the figures more than doubled every year, and more and more cities were added to the Eurasian corridor. At present, the China-Europe train reaches 180 cities in 23 European countries. In 2021, the number of trains between Europe and China amounted to 15,000, a year-on-year increase of 22 per cent.
(Source : Railfreight.com)

Germany
Deutsche Bahn orders 43 new ICE 3neo trains – 02/02/2022 – Siemens has bagged an order for 43 ICE 3neo trains to the tune of 1,5 billion euros. The Deutsche Bahn contract was announced earlier on Tuesday in Berlin and brings the total number of ICE 3neo trains ordered to 73. The first units are expected to be entered into service by the end of this year. The new ICE 3neo trains seat 439 passengers and can reach a top speed of 320 kilometres per hour. The train sets feature up to eight bicycle spots, power sockets and tablet holders. Additional doors should make for faster boarding and disembarking while new a new lift system should allow for easier access for passengers in wheelchairs. With the new order the total number of ICE trains in use is expected to hit 450 unit by the end of this decade. The 73 new ICE 3neo trains will increase long-distance passenger capacity by 32.000 seats. The first units will run between Cologne and the Rhine-Main a metropolitan area. According to DB, the new ICE 3neo trains will enable it to run the timetable as envisioned under the so-called Deutschlandtakt. This national strategy calls for twice the number of passengers by 2030 and an increase in the share of rail freight in overall transport to 25 percent. The plan also calls for two ICE trains between major urban centres every 30 minutes from 2025 onwards.
(Source : Railtech.com)

Germany
Green light for major S-Bahn project in Frankfurt – 28/01/2022 – After years of preparation and discussion, the construction of an important project for regional rail transport in the Rhine-Main region can begin. Unlike Berlin, for example, the region of Francfort lacks a rail ring around the city. For example, commuters and travellers north and northwest of Frankfurt have to go to the main station and change trains there if they want to go to the airport by train. This project for regional rail traffic west of Frankfurt is intended to relieve the strain on the main station. The railway line Regionaltangente West is to create a direct connection from Bad Homburg via Frankfurt-Höchst and the airport to Neu-Isenburg and Dreieich. It runs west past the city of Frankfurt – hence the name – and is to be completed by 2028. The first section has now been approved by the Darmstadt Regional Council, as the Hessian Ministry of Transport announced in Wiesbaden on Friday. The first work is to start in April. ‘This is the nucleus of a rail ring around the whole of Frankfurt,’ said Transport Minister Tarek Al-Wazir (Greens). ‘This mammoth inter-municipal project is an extremely important and urgently needed building block for public transport in the Frankfurt Rhine-Main metropolitan region.’ Altogether, the project, with an estimated total cost of 1.1 billion euros, comprises a route length of about 50 kilometres in four planning sections. 26 stops are planned, almost half of which are already on existing lines. After complete completion, two local transport lines are planned, each with a 30-minute frequency, and the trains are to run every 15 minutes on a common section.
(Source : Schiene.de)

India
Nokia works with Alstom for private wireless network in India – 27/01/2022 – Nokia announced it is working with Alstom to deliver a private wireless network for the National Capital Regional Transport Corporation’s (NCRTC) Delhi to Meerut Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS). It will support European Train Control System (ETCS) Level 2 Signaling to maintain safety for commuters on the high-speed rail route, currently under construction. The Delhi to Meerut RRTS is the first in a phased development of a high-speed rail network that aims to enable sustainable economic and social development through enhanced connectivity in Delhi and the surrounding districts. The low-emission RRTS, expected to be fully operational in 2025, will transport more people at average speeds of 100 kmph to reduce travel time and road congestion. Wireless solution (MPW) including its latest AirScale radios, Air Frame-based evolved packet core capabilities, the 7250 IXR IP / MPLS backhaul routers, Group Communication platform for mission-critical push to talk / video (MCx/GC) and Network Services Platform (NSP) management, will span the 82 km rail route which incorporates 25 stations. The private network is being deployed to support ETCS Level 2 & 3 signaling as well as automated operation (ATO), which enables trains to use radio signals to receive their movement authorities and to report their exact direction and position to ensure the safety of all on board.
(Read more: Telecomlead)

USA
High-Speed Las Vegas Train Back On Track As U.S. Reviews L.A. Extension – 26/01/2022 – High-Speed Las Vegas Train Back On Track As U.S. Reviews L.A. Extension Brightline, the only private passenger rail company in the U.S., could begin construction of its high-speed train from Las Vegas by early 2023 as U.S. regulators start reviewing an extension that would connect it to a Los Angeles suburb. The review focuses on a 49-mile section of Brightline West, the planned service, in California’s Cajon Pass by the Transportation Department’s Federal Rail Administration, the agency said. That segment of the railway, starting in Rancho Cucamonga, would run at speeds of up to 180 mph and connect to a previously approved 216-mile portion from California’s Victor Valley to Las Vegas (speeds on that segment will be up to 200 mph). The assessment could be completed by this November, allowing Brightline to finally begin construction of the project, with an aim of launching passenger rail service in 2026. If the Brightline West project receives final federal approval, the Miami-based company could apply for potential low-interest funding options for high-speed rail included in the recently approved U.S. infrastructure program. Details of the types of federal support for private rail projects haven’t yet been released. The company estimates construction of the 265-mile, electrified railway from Rancho Cucamonga (which connects to downtown Los Angeles via an existing commuter train) to Las Vegas will cost $8 billion and take three years to complete.
(Read more: Forbes)

USA
Ex SpaceX engineers want to build autonomous rail cars – 24/01/2022 – After the US company Intramotev Autonomous Rail, now three ex SpaceX engineers are teaming up to build autonomous, battery-powered freight train cars. The trio consists of CEO Matt Soule and co-founders Ben Stabler and John Howard. They have named their new Los Angeles-based startup Parallel Systems and it has raised $50 million in a Series A funding round. In an interview with Design Boom, Matt Soule said, « Our business model is to give railroads the tools to convert some of the $700 billion US trucking industry to rail. The parallel system can also help alleviate the supply chain crisis by enabling low cost and regular movement of freight in and out of ports. » In fact, the system would consist of autonomous electric bogies, which operate in pairs to transport one standard sea containers. A container would therefore sit on two of these autonomous bogies, simulating a wagon but without framework. These ‘pairs’ could then group together to form ‘platoons’, or trains. Parallel is developing software that allows its vehicles and platoons to safely integrate with existing rail operations so all freight trains and transit interoperate. The fully-automated connected system leverages machine learning to optimize vehicle routing, traffic scheduling and energy consumption. The result will provide customers with hassle-free, best-in-class service and freight tracking.
(Source: Business Insider)
>>> See the Parallel website

Spain
Renfe lauch four Avlo services between Madrid and Valencia – 20/01/2022 – From 21 February 2022, it will be possible to travel between Madrid and Valencia with the low-cost train Avlo, Renfe’s low-cost service, with three daily return trips, offering 2,200 seats per day. Although two trains – one for each direction – are direct, the other four Avlo trains will stop at the stations of Cuenca Fernando Zóbel and Requena-Utiel, in line with what the operator has also indicated in a statement. The first train will leave Madrid-Puerta de Atocha station at 06:30 and is scheduled to arrive at Valencia-Joaquín Sorolla at 08:23. In the opposite direction, the first service will depart from Valencia station at 09:28 and will arrive in Madrid at 11:20. From Thursday onwards, ticket prices will start at seven euros and the tickets will be sold in a single class through a dynamic system that offers the best price available at any given time for the journey requested. On top of the base price, the customer can add additional services such as seat selection, changes or cancellations and additional luggage. Avlo trains have protocols certified by Aenor and by SGS, the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company, which is an additional guarantee for passengers. In this way, Avlo and Ave trains have double certification in terms of health and disinfection, which is a differential element of the first order in relation to any other collective transport.
(Source : El Confidencial)

Great-Britain
Rail services cut due to staff absence – 18/01/2022 – Rising Covid case numbers have led to large numbers of people self-isolating and being unable to go to work, which has acutely affected industries where staff are unable to work from home. The Rail Delivery Group’s latest figure for rail staff absences is at 11%. Avanti West Coast, c2c and East Midlands Railway have reduced services from Monday. South Western Railway (SWR) said it was running 28% fewer weekday trains from Monday, compared with pre-pandemic levels. Train companies such as ScotRail, CrossCountry and LNER have already announced reduced timetables and warned passengers of cancellations. Elsewhere, Merseyrail has said all of its lines will change to a 30-minute service from Monday until further notice. East Midlands Railway has also cut its timetable by about 4%. Greater Anglia changed its timetable to Sunday-style levels of services in response to fewer passengers travelling, but has since added more services after feedback from passengers. On the main lines, Avanti West Coast said it would only run one train per hour in both directions on each of its routes from London Euston to Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester. The company said the reduced timetable would remain in place until 25 February.
(Read more: BBC News)

Great-Britain
How HS2 will maintain its network using Virtual Reality and ‘digital twin’ technology – 17/02/2022 – HS2 is using virtual reality and real-time monitoring technology built into infrastructure such as rails, bridges and overhead lines in a push for greater reliability. It said that engineers are preparing designs using the latest software. The data produced from this work will inform construction and help build a ‘digital twin’ – a 3D replica as detailed as the real thing. The sensors, HS2 said, resemble those used in Formula One and aviation, and this will help anticipate potential failure to boost reliability. This information is then built into the digital twin, allowing HS2 to have a complete virtual replica of the network. Sensor data collected by its trains will be transmitted directly to HS2’s Birmingham-based Network Integrated Control Centre (NICC) at Washwood Heath. There, engineers and maintenance teams will analyse data with the use of Artificial Intelligence to monitor asset performance trends across the network. Any sign of a downwards trend will mean a triggering of HS2’s predict-and-prevent maintenance programme. However, the teams will not necessarily deploy to the site immediately.
(Read more: Rail Business Daily)

The Netherlands
Digital solution partnership agreed to boost rail freight reliability – 14/02/2022 – Hitachi Rail and Netherlands-based independent telematic solution provider, Intermodal Telematics (IMT), have agreed an exclusive long-term partnership that will add IMT’s pioneering monitoring sensors to Hitachi’s existing digital freight service. The agreement will allow Hitachi to offer rail freight companies around the world a solution that provides real-time monitoring to improve efficiency and safety. IMT digital monitoring sensors and telematics solutions can verify the exact location of freight cars, the loading status, the open/close condition of doors and hatches, the temperature and pressure of the cargo and the health condition of bogies and wheelsets. The data is then sent to the Cloud via a solar powered GPS device which allows the condition of the train and its cargo to be monitored in real-time, as well as alerting operators about potential issues. The partnership allows the use of AI analytics to optimise the efficiency and safety of its customers’ freight services worldwide. The technology will allow Hitachi to provide fully-fledged telematics solutions that improve reliability and performance for the freight market. The technology can give companies the vital information they need to control their supply chains more efficiently and respond with appropriate interventions more quickly. With global supply chains having faced major disruption throughout 2021 and challenges predicted to continue, the partnership offers enhanced resilience for companies transporting goods via rail freight. The partnership with will complement Hitachi Rail’s purchase of Perpetuum in 2021, who provide Hitachi with digital solutions that improve train reliability and performance. Its remote condition monitoring detects emerging damage in train bogies long before it can be identified by other means, thus preventing failures, facilitating more efficient maintenance cycles, and increasing the life of the wheels. Coupled with the IMT solution, Hitachi will now be able to completely monitor freight vehicles in real-time.
(Read more: Global Rail Review)

Great-Britain
LNER ready to inspire next generation once again – 14/02/2022 – London North Eastern Railway (LNER) is preparing to inspire the next generation of rail employees next month when it launches the second of its Tomorrow’s Talent work experience programmes. The Tomorrow’s Talent programme showcases the wide range of opportunities available in the rail industry. Those taking part will complete several online modules on topics such as the increasing use of innovative technology and sustainability. The first Tomorrow’s Talent took place in August 2021 and LNER said it had a positive impact on the attendees: 88% said they would recommend it to a friend. Crucially, the same students were asked how confident they felt about finding a job both before and after the programme; the result was a 35 per cent increase in students saying they were ‘very confident’. Hot on the heels of this success, LNER is once again inviting applications from young people aged between 14 and 18, in school years 10-13, along the East Coast route. David Horne, managing director at LNER, said: “Education and employability are important to LNER and the communities we serve, and we want to do all that we can to support the next generation in developing their skills, regardless of where their career takes them. “Tomorrow’s Talent provides young people with a great opportunity to engage and hear from experts in a wide range of different roles, equipping them with important knowledge and insight as they begin to think about their future career journey.”
(Source: Rail Business Daily )

Germany
DB and northern federal states form alliance to spend €30Billion – 13/01/2022 – Deutsche Bahn (DB) and the federal states of Bremen, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein have formed a joint alliance to drive forward rail expansion in northern Germany. The aim of « Zukunft Schiene Nord » is to promote and accelerate new and expansion projects, to make the existing infrastructure more robust and to strengthen long-distance, local and freight transport – across federal state borders. The alliance partners thus want to expand rail services and increase the attractiveness of the railway. The overarching goal is to attract more passengers and freight transport customers to the environmentally friendly means of rail transport and thus protect the climate. In total, more than €30Billion are to be invested in the rail infrastructure of the North by 2030. Representatives of the partners signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) today to establish the alliance. The Memorandum of Understanding focuses on four points:

  • Investment offensive:
    More capacity on the railways: at least €30Billion will be invested in the expansion of the rail infrastructure in the North by 2030.
  • Catalogue of measures:
    The alliance « Zukunft Schiene Nord » is developing joint measures to make the rail infrastructure in the North more robust, more efficient and more attractive for customers.
  • Accelerated planning:
    The federal states and Deutsche Bahn agree to jointly initiate planning at an early stage. To this end, they will contribute ideas and feasibility studies for future projects.
  • Construction site management:
    The alliance partners will improve construction site management so that trains can continue to run despite the many construction sites. Construction and driving are to be optimally coordinated.

Great-Britain
South Western Railway has extended its lease on 12 Class 707 electric multiple-units – 13/02/2022 – South Western Railway has extended its lease on 12 Class 707 electric multiple-units, following delays to the introduction of its Alstom Arterio Class 701 EMU fleet and the decision to bring forward the end of its lease on the two-car Class 456 units from February to January. SWR said the inability to use the Arterios had brought ‘challenges’ around fleet availability and capacity, as it had refrained from spending ‘significant sums’ on overhauling older EMUs which were due to be replaced. Delivery seems been delayed because audits made by Alstom following its purchase of Bombardier Transportation identifying problems with the manufacturing process that were leading to trains being completed with large numbers of defects needing to be rectified at significant cost. 12 out of 30 of SWR’s 707 fleet was due to move to the Southeastern network but, following an agreement signed between the two train companies, SWR’s lease on the units has been extended until August 2022. As well as securing the Class 707s for more time and working closely with Alstom to roll-out the Arterios, SWR has taken further measures to maximise fleet availability in readiness for customers returning to the railway once restrictions are lifted. Commenting, SWR’s Managing Director Claire Mann said: ‘Prior to the outbreak of the most recent coronavirus variant, the delay to the Arterio roll-out had created a challenging situation on parts of our network and I’d like to apologise to our customers and thank them for their patience during this testing time.’
(Source: Rail Advent)

Europe
AERRL and ALLRAIL want a European database for the deployment of ERTMS – 11/01/2022 – Railway rolling stock owners, represented by AERRL, are very interested in the modernisation of existing as well as new rolling stock. But they are facing important costs. In order to support private investments in railway rolling stock, AERRL and the association of private operators ALLRAIL call for the creation of a database at European level that would encourage funders to make investments that take into account the current situation of the networks and the planning of the future deployment of ERTMS. This tool should, according to the two associations, reflect the level of characteristics, as well as the planning of the deployment of ERTMS on the corridors of the European TEN-T network and thus allow the development of locomotive upgrades and new orders. Although the various operators agree with the Commission’s objective of 100% ETCS-equipped rolling stock by 2040, it must be recognised that many current vehicles are not equipped with ETCS. This database should then make it possible to coordinate the decisions taken by infrastructure managers and rolling stock owners to install ETCS on rolling stock in a gradual manner. The development of this tool should be a priority on the corridors of the European TEN-T network.
(Source: AERLL)

Germany
North Rhine-Westphalia wants to give €568 million for regional rail services – 07/01/2022 – The state of North Rhine-Westphalia wants to invest a total of €568 million in additional subsidies for the operation of the S-Bahn and regional trains, in order to expand rail services in the future. This was announced by the state transport minister Ina Brandes (CDU) to the three transport authorities Rhine-Ruhr (VRR), Nahverkehr Rheinland (NVR) and Nahverkehr Westfalen-Lippe (NWL). These subsidy pledges, which extend up to and including 2031, are not yet voted on, but it is assumed that any regional government will adhere to them in the future, as the Red-Green opposition is committed to the development of local public transport. A change of coalition after the regional elections in May would not change this. Many of the 18 projects in total involve the construction or extension of important railway lines, which will be financed by other federal and state funds. One of the most important projects is a significant increase in the frequency of S-Bahn trains on the S11 line, which is expected to improve services to Düsseldorf airport. The S11 currently runs from Dormagen/Bergisch Gladbach via Düsseldorf Central Station to the airport, but from the end of 2028 it will continue to Wuppertal-Vohwinkel. 11 million euros will be allocated to ensure that trains run at 20-minute intervals on Sundays from 2024 instead of the current 30 minutes. From 2029 onwards, with a further €40 million, the timetable will be even more dense so that more air passengers arrive at the airport by S-Bahn than by car. From 2024, the RE 60.2 between Rheine and Braunschweig will be upgraded, from 2026 the RB 64 between Münster and Enschede, and later on the S-Bahn line 6 between Cologne and Essen. Routes such as the Röhrtalbahn from Neheim-Hüsten to Sundern in the Hochsauerlandkreis are also to be reactivated.
(Source: MSN.com)

Great-Britain
Network Rail complete biggest track upgrade at Leeds station in 20 years – 05/01/2022 – The biggest track upgrade at Leeds station in 20 years is now complete, as Network Rail deliver a more reliable railway for passengers. Between Saturday 25 December 2021 and Monday 3 January 2022, more than 200 railway staff successfully remodelled the track layout between platforms 4 and 6. The new layout improves the way trains move in and out of the station which will help to reduce delays. Further upgrades included installing over 1500 metres of new electric wires – used to power some trains – and renewing over 200 metres of track to improve reliability. Platform 7 was also extended, allowing longer trains to serve the platform. Matt Rice, North and East Route Director for Network Rail, said: “These important improvements at Leeds make it easier for us to run more trains on time right across the North. We had to run some bus replacement services over the course of the festive period and Covid also affected some services, so thanks to all those passengers who chose to travel. “The progress we’ve made means better journeys for everyone using the train in 2022 and beyond.” Minor follow-up work will take place on Sunday 30 January 2022, which will mean some changes to services to and from Leeds station.
(Read more: Network Rail)

Germany
Deutsche Plasser merged with Robel service business – 04/01/2022 – The largest service organisation in the Plasser & Theurer Group was created on January 2022 in Germany by the merger of Deutsche Plasser Bahnbaumaschinen GmbH and the ROBEL Business Unit Service & Customer Service to form Plasser Robel Services GmbH (PRS). With 250 employees at the Munich, Opladen and Freilassing locations, PRS will provide whole-life support and maintenance for rail vehicles and machines supplied by Robel globally and by Plasser & Theurer in selected markets, acting as first point of contact for service customers for both brands. Legal continuity is assured through the renaming of Deutsche Plasser Bahnbaumaschinen as Plasser Robel Services. The service company will keep its headquarters in München.
(Read more: Railway Gazette)

Italy
Trenitalia gets 6 million fund for on-board ETCS – 03/01/2022 – Trenitalia aims to have ERTMS installed on its train. With support of the European Investment Bank (EIB) and Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), it has obtained a non-repayable contribution fund of over 6 million. Of the resources received by the EIB, approximately 4 million euros will be used for the installation of the ERTMS on 76 regional hybrid trains. From Cassa Depositi e Prestiti comes a non-repayable fund of 2.2 million euros which will be reserved for updating the system on 12 high-speed trains intended for international and cross-border traffic between Italy-Switzerland-Germany (seven ETR 610s) and internal traffic within Greece (five ETR 470s). In particular, the high-speed ​​trains will be subject to a technological upgrade with the installation of ERTMS Baseline 3, which is the most updated version of the train control system.
(Read more: Railtech.com)

Poland
Poland: soon at 250 km/h on the Centralna Magistrala Kolejowa – 31/12/2021 – Poland will certify its Centralna Magistrala Kolejowa (CMK) to be suitable for a speed of 250 km/h from December 2023. The Centralna Magistrala Kolejowa (CMK) is a railway line originally intended to connect Warsaw to Katowice in the south of the country. It was built between 1971-1977 in an almost straight configuration. It is 224 km long and connects Grodzisk Mazowiecki, 30 km south of Warsaw, with Zawiercie, about 45 km northeast of Katowice and about 70 km northwest of Krakow. Electrified at 3kV, it is currently limited to 200km/h. The Poles have now started a series of works to increase the speed of this line to 250km/h.
(Read more: Railtech.BE/FR)

Europe
How the state railways are expanding through Europe – 29/12/2021 – The year 2021 has been rich in new long-distance rail service launches in Europe. New trains have appeared in Spain, France and on the segment of night trains. What these new services have in common is that many are initiatives by public companies. It would seem that the amount of challenges that need to be overcome to establish a new service abroad is such that a solid base of rail expertise and for example rolling stock is vital. This is more the case for incumbent companies than for new operators, which face several barriers. …
(Read more: Railtech.com)

China
In China, the largest high-speed train network – 28/12/2021 – In fifteen years, China has built the world’s first high-speed train network, with 37,900 km of lines. This development has come at the cost of an astronomical debt. In the past, slow and often uncomfortable trains travelled across this vast country, with average speeds so low that journeys such as Shanghai-Beijing proved to be a test of travel endurance.China’s high-speed rail project emerged in the 1980s, but in the 1990s the Chinese Ministry of Rail chose to gradually increase the speed of existing lines rather than embark on a new line project. There were three stages: first, in the 1990s, exploration, then various phases of network acceleration…
(Read more: CNN news)

Germany
A Stadler battery-powered trainset world record for 224 km range – 22/12/2021 – Stadler has set the record to be officially entered in the Guinness Book of World Records for a battery train journey in battery-only mode. Travelling on the route from Berlin to Warnemünde in the company of independent technical consultants, the FLIRT Akku test carrier reached a range of exactly 224.00 kilometres at wintry temperatures around freezing point. The trainset used for the record journey is a FLIRT train from Stadler, developed since 2002. The FLIRT has turned into an international bestseller with over 2,000 vehicles sold. Today, vehicles of this type are being operated in 20 countries in virtually all climate zones, from the equator to the polar circle, 528 of them in Germany alone. Two- to six-unit train compositions are realizable in normal and broad gauge designs for top speeds of 160 to 200 km/h. In doing so, the FLIRT can be customized to individual client requirements very flexibly in terms of its drive technology, number of seats, passenger flow and interior design. With the FLIRT Akku, Stadler has developed a so-called BEMU (battery-electric multiple unit) that will run as both a classic EMU (electric multiple unit) under overhead contact cable or battery-operated on unelectrified routes. This makes it optimal for partly electrified routes that currently still need to be served with diesel trains. Stadler had already won the first green technology tender in Germany and sold 55 FLIRT Akkus to NAH.SH, the Schleswig-Holstein Local Transport Association in 2019. In November 2021, another order for 44 vehicles followed from Deutsche Bahn Regio. In addition to which Stadler is also building the first hydrogen-powered FLIRT for the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA) in the USA.
(Source: Stadler)

Belgium
Alstom to supply SNCB with an additional 98 M7 cars – 21/12/2021 – Alstom has received a new order for the delivery of 98 double-deck cars to the Belgian National Railway Company (SNCB). This order, worth a total of approximately €268 million, is part of a framework contract signed in 2015 to supply up to 1,362 Class M7 coaches. To date, SNCB has ordered a total of 747 cars. SNCB is looking to change its train fleet. In 2002, it decided to migrate to as many double-deck trains as possible, in order to cope with a strong increase in traffic. The aim is to replace the M4 and M5 series of cars as well as the « break » EMUs, whose comfort no longer meets current standards. A gradual replacement of these different fleets led to a conversion to a double-deckers fleet to offer the best standards. The 492 double-decker M6 cars, an offshoot of Bombardier’s Dosto concept, were the first to be introduced. The M7 cars followed but are technically similar. The centrepiece, and probably the only one of its kind in Europe, is the M7 power car, developed by Alstom at its centre of excellence in Valenciennes, France. Other components are manufactured by various entities of the Alstom Group.
(Source: Railtech.be)

Sweden
Public operator SJ places order for 25 trainsets– 20/12/2021 – Alstom, via the former Bombardier Sweden, has just been awarded the contract for at least 25 new trainsets capable of reaching speeds of 250km/h. However, these trains are not high-speed trains in the strict sense of the word but will be used for long-distance rail traffic between Sweden’s major cities and also for cross-border traffic to Denmark and Norway. The new trains are part of SJ’s planned investment of around 1.16 billion euros (SEK 12 billion) in new and refurbished trains. The 25 trainsets ordered from Alstom are part of this investment for around €680 million, which means that the purchase is one of the largest railway transactions in SJ’s history. The new trainsets will complement the X2000 fleet currently being refurbished. The new high-speed trains have space for bikes, good luggage solutions and a fully equipped SJ Bistro with hot food. An innovation is that the train can run on battery power in the event of power supply disruptions on the overhead. The trains are expected to be in service from 2026.
(Source: jarnvagsnyheter.se)

France/Italy
The first Frecciarossa left Paris this Saturday – 18/12/2021 – The first Frecciarossa of Trenitalia France (ex-Thello), left Paris Gare de Lyon at 7.26 am (+ 2 minutes…). The Italian public operator is initially offering two return trips between Paris and Milan, which will be increased to three during 2022. The important thing to understand here is that Trenitalia can offer French domestic tickets, in this case on Paris-Lyon. Trenitalia is putting the best of its Zefiro range of trains from the former Bombardier, now acquired by Hitachi Rail, on this route. Further views of this French premiere can be seen here. . Trenitalia has been on a major international offensive in recent years. After its involvement in Greek railways, Trenitalia also became First Group’s partner in 2019 to operate its ‘Avanti’ between London and Glasgow. More recently, the company has also joined forces with Spain’s Air Nostrum (ILSA) to operate the iryo brand, which should launch its first Frecciarossa in 2022 in Spain, within the framework of a highly regulated liberalisation.
(Source et photo: Pricille Garcin via LinkedIn)

Sweden/Switzerland
Swiss diesels locomotives resold in Sweden? – 17/12/2021 – According to online magazine Järnvägar.nu, a large number of Swiss diesel locomotives may end up in Sweden in a few years. The company Nordic Re-Finance would have started negotiations with the Swiss state railway company SBB. Nordic Re-Finance has already signed a contract to bring 26 Danish ME diesel locomotives back to Sweden, to be used in Sweden and Norway by Railcare in Långsele. The locomotives will be delivered in the next few months. According to Sven Engquist, CEO and chairman of Nordic Re-Finance, the idea is that ME locomotives will replace 50-70 year old diesel locomotives with poor environmental and climate performance while waiting for more sustainable solutions with battery or hydrogen power for traffic on non-electrified routes. But the danish ME locomotives are most suitable for heavy freight haulage and less suitable for shunting. Therefore, Nordic Re-Finance is considering purchasing a number of diesel locomotives with a cab that makes switching easier but with sufficient traction to pull railway work machines and light to medium-weight freight trains. Switzerland has decided to phase out the use of fossil fuels on its railways by 2030 and SBB is now considering how to phase out the fleet of 73 locomotives Class Am843, acquired in 2003-2005 from German Vossloh. The locomotives, designated G1700 BB, were based on the G1206 from MaK that Vossloh acquired in 1998. This coincidence with Nordic Re-Finance’s timetable would allow a gradual transfer of the Swiss Am843s to replace the Swedish T43s and T44s, which are still in service but completely obsolete. Sven Engquist did not wish to comment on the discussions with SBB at this time.
(Source: jarnvagar.nu)

Slovakia
Stadler delivers double-decker multiple-unit trains to Slovakia for the first time – 16/12/2021 – Stadler has emerged as the winner of another international tender in Slovakia. Stadler today signed a contract in Bratislava with the Slovakian railway company ZSSK for the manufacture and delivery of four double-decker multiple-unit KISS trains with electric drive. The six-car vehicles are intended for use on regional lines in western and central Slovakia. This is the first time that double-decker multiple-unit trains from Stadler will operate on the Slovakian rail network. According to the contract, the delivery of the four new KISS vehicles should take place by the end of 2023. The ZSSK fleet already includes 21 single-decker articulated railcars (GTW) from Stadler, 15 of which are narrow-gauge GTW with electric drive and 6 are standard-gauge GTW with diesel-electric drive. In autumn 2018, ZSSK also placed an order with Stadler for five GTW rack-and-pinion adhesion multiple units and a multifunctional rack-and-pinion adhesion locomotive for use on the rack-and-pinion and adhesion network of the metre-gauge electric TEŽ mountain railways in the High Tatras, the “smallest high mountain range in the world”. The six-car KISS vehicles are 155 metres long and have more than 600 seats in 1st and 2nd class. Like all KISS trains from Stadler, they are characterised by high drive power and sprint-capable acceleration. When operating on electric drive powered via the overhead contact line, the KISS vehicles can reach a maximum speed of up to 160 kilometres per hour. The trains have a step-free entrance area and four toilets, one of which is for people with reduced mobility. The multifunctional compartments offer not only places for wheelchair users, but also generous storage space for bicycles, prams and luggage. The new KISS vehicles have an HVAC system for the passenger compartments and driver’s cabs. Passengers benefit from a modern passenger information system (PIS) and WLAN. Cameras inside and outside as well as on the roof to observe the pantograph ensure safe rail operation. The vehicles are also equipped with a certified energy consumption measuring system and a precise passenger counting system. The drivers can take advantage of a modern, ergonomically designed driver’s cab.
(Source: Stadler)

Germany
Olaf Scholz: Expansion of railways becomes the focus of climate policy – 15/12/2021 – The new German head of government Olaf Scholz has addressed the Bundestag for the first time as Chancellor. He once again made clear that tackling climate change is a top priority for his government. According to him, the railway will have a central role in this. The traffic turnaround is to become a « central pillar » of climate policy for the traffic light coalition. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) gave this assurance in his first government statement in the Bundestag on Wednesday. « In the coming years, we will ensure that mobility becomes easier, more comfortable and more climate-friendly, while remaining affordable for all, » Scholz said. Scholz named the expansion of rail transport as a priority. He said that the major cities would be better connected to long-distance transport, but that rural areas would also be better connected and, if necessary, disused lines would be reactivated. He also announced an « expansion and modernisation pact » for better local passenger transport. At the same time, the new chancellor acknowledged the importance of car traffic: « Many people like to drive, and we want to keep it that way. However, vehicles must be powered in a climate-friendly way. » He therefore envisages 15 million electric cars on German roads by 2030.
(Source: Schiene.de)

Czech Republic
Some PSOs won by private operators, others by the public company ČD – 15/12/2021 – The timetable introduced on December 12 brought changes in passenger traffic operated by the incumbant operator Ceske drahy (ČD). Other operators have indeed gained some PSOs. For example, private operator RegioJet took over operation of eight R23 express services each way on the Kolín – Ústí nad Labem line. It had offered the lowest bid of €22 million for the eight-year contract, beating the incumbent which proposed an offer of €25.84 million. RegioJet has promised to significantly enhance passenger comfort, using air-conditioned coaches with vacuum toilets, wi-fi and 230 V power sockets. Netinera’s subsidiary Die Länderbahn CZ has taken over from ČD as operator of regional trains on Rumburk – Mladá Boleslav service L4 under a 10-year contract with the Liberecký region which was signed on November 5. Arrriva has taken over from ČD on the whole of service L3 between Liberec and Jaroměř via Stará Paka, using Siemens Desiro DMUs. But CDs still carry the bulk of Czech regional and long-distance traffic. Sometimes they can even take over traffic that was previously lost. For example, ČD has replaced Arriva on the short Stará Paka – Lomnice nad Popelkou line 046, which will be now worked by Class 810/843 railcars. Under a contract with the Hradec Králové region, ČD also returns after 24 years to line 032 between Trutnov and Svoboda nad Úpou, replacing private operator GW Train Regio. In early November ČD was directly awarded PSO contracts to continue to operate express services on two lines, after no other bidder was interested. In early October the ministry called bids for a 15-year contract worth up to €240 million to run fast trains on the route starting in December 2024, for which it requires new push-pull trains capable of 200 km/h for the first time. A fleet of 10 train-sets with a capacity of 200 to 300 seats will operate at 2 h headways on the Praha – Havlíčkův Brod – Brno route, supplemented by Praha – Havlíčkův Brod – Jihlava trains every two hours. Bids are due to be submitted by April 2022.
(Source: Railway Gazette)

Portugal
A consortium led by Medway to recreate the Portuguese railway industry – 14/12/2021 – Medway, through a consortium of 10 companies, will develop a strategy to recover the railway wagon manufacturing industry in Portugal, in order to bring back productive capacity to the country, with the creation of intelligent wagons for goods – called « smart wagons ». This consortium comprises five companies (MEDWAY Maintenance & Repair, MEDWAY Terminals, MEDWAY Railway Freight Operator, Nomad Tech and EVOLEO Technologies), four ENESIIs (Non-Enterprise Entities of the Research and Innovation System) and the cluster for competitiveness, the Portuguese Railway Platform, capable of producing a product with high added value, with the incorporation of technology, technical and scientific knowledge and industrial production, covering the entire life cycle of the wagon. Bruno Silva, General Manager of MEDWAY highlights: « This consortium, of which MEDWAY is part, intends to transform the Portuguese profile, enhancing the production capacity of freight cars and of sensor systems, as well as the implementation of predictive maintenance methodologies, reducing waste and increasing the availability of this asset. Besides the impact on the specialisation profile of the Portuguese economy, this investment will also allow the recovery of Portugal’s railway industry and reverse the country’s trade balance, replacing imports by exports. » The development of smart wagons will also have a significant impact on the reduction of carbon emissions, reducing CO2 emissions by 55% during the production process, since, in addition to more efficient maintenance, production will use renewable energy and incorporate recycled materials. Paulo Duarte, Executive Director of the Portuguese Railway Platform said: « This is a unique opportunity to demonstrate our industrial production capacity, combined with innovative, high added-value and differentiating technologies in the railway market, showing the results that can be achieved through teamwork and national valorisation from the Railway Cluster. This investment will enable the creation of 65 direct jobs in the Middle Tagus region, meeting the recent challenge of generating new jobs in compensation for the closure of the Pego Thermoelectric Power Plant.
(Source: Medway Portugal)

Irland
Alstom wins major contract for Dublin network – 14/12/2021 – Alstom today signed a ten-year framework agreement with Iarnród Éireann/Irish Rail (IE) for up to 750 new X’trapolis commuter rail cars for the Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART) system, with an initial firm order for 19 five-car trainsets. The Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART) network is a rail-based rapid transit service serving Dublin and its surrounding area. It was established in 1984. With a planned start date of 2025, the initial order for new rolling stock is for six conventional electric trains (EMU) and thirteen five-car battery electric trains (BEMU). This concept will enable the BEMU fleet to operate more than 50 miles outside the electrified network on battery power and will be the first modern battery fleet in Ireland. This order reinforces Alstom’s position as a leader in the innovation and delivery of sustainable mobility technologies. Alstom will service the DART fleet for 15 years, providing technical support and spare parts, and deploying its HealthHub and TrainScanner predictive maintenance technologies.
(Source: Railtech.be)

Sweden
Snälltåget’s traffic increases – 13/12/2021 – The private operator Snälltåget, which is owned by Transdev Sweden, reports good ridership figures. The company basically operates 3 round trips between Malmö and Stockholm as well as seasonal night trains. « It’s getting better and better, » says Marco Andersson, sales director at Snälltåget. « The recovery in private travel has gone very fast. There is a very strong demand for travel on Södrastambanan, there have been very large numbers of travellers on our night trains to Berlin and we are now seeing a lot of interest in night trains to the Swedish mountains next winter. » According to the management, Snälltåget trains fill up better in the middle of the week and the night trains to Berlin are sometimes almost full. Like everyone else, Snälltåget was hit hard by travel restrictions during the Covid19 pandemic. The company was forced to reduce the offer to a minimum and lay off some staff. But since last summer, travel has increased and during this autumn, the number of travellers was even higher than autumn 2019, the last « normal » year, a sign of a significant recovery…. « It was especially the trip between Stockholm and Berlin that went extremely well with all cars fully booked to Berlin at the beginning of the holiday and all cars from Berlin fully booked at the end of the holiday, » says Marco Andersson. Transdev, the owner of Merresor, which runs Snälltåget, has decided to sell the company’s share of Snälltåget. The sale, which is expected to take place this spring, will not affect Snälltåget’s traffic during the coming winter and spring.
(Source: jarnvagar.nu)

Austria
Austrian private operator WESTbahn is already 10 years old – 11/12/2021 – Ten years ago, on 11 December 2011, passengers could take a train other than those of the state-owned operator ÖBB between Vienna and Salzburg. A revolution. 172 years after the birth of the Austrian railways, WESTbahn launched its own trains from Vienna West. The Stadler Emu KISS have since covered almost 40 million kilometres since the first day of operation, serving almost 45 million passengers. But it has been a difficult financial journey. In July 2019, the company reported losses of €83 million. The problem: the leasing conditions for its KISS Emu, which seem to have been quite onerous. The contract was concluded after the financial crisis of 2008 by Swiss banks at unfavourable conditions. In order to break this bad contract, WESTbahn sold its 17 KISS trainsets to Deutsche Bahn…. and bought 15 new ones, but with completely different interest rates. And in the meantime, they pressured Stadler to get other prices. For its 10th anniversary, WESTbahn is therefore planning to double its offer from 12 December 2021 for all those who travel a lot by train. The framework conditions are still difficult, with falling demand, the pandemic and the strict traffic conditions in the country, which only allow for a limited expansion of the market at the moment.
(Source: various)

Italy/France
Trenitalia plans to launch its Milan-Paris service on December 18 – 10/12/2021 – While the Frecciariossa trains have been running dry runs since September, the actual launch date of the Milan-Lyon-Paris service has been awaited. According to AFP, the Italian public operator will start operating its Frecciarossa on 18 December. The company would thus become the first foreign operator to challenge the SNCF on the hightly coveted high-speed market in France since the opening of this sector in December 2020. All of that, while we await the other major launch, in Spain, scheduled for 2022, under the brand iryo. For this first Milan-Turin-Lyon-Paris link, Trenitalia will initially provide two return trips per day. This service will be increased to three return trips in 2022. The challenge of this link is not so much Paris-Milan but rather Paris-Lyon, since the Italian company can do domestic traffic. Of course, it will not be a strong competitor to the SNCF, which still provides 24 daily return trips between Paris and Lyon. But the Italians could demonstrate their know-how in business class, « where they are stronger than us », whispered an SNCF executive. The french company has recently upgraded its own business class on the TGV inOui, which demonstrates why a certain amount of competition can be beneficial for customer service. « A myth of ‘Made in Italy’ is about to come to France, we are working to make what seemed like a dream come true. The route in Italy will be at high speed, and then we will connect to the French TGV line, » said Trenitalia CEO Luigi Corradi last Thursday. To cover the almost 900 kilometres between Paris and Milan, Trenitalia is talking about a journey time of six hours, compared with seven hours currently with the French TGV. While some of the time savings will be realised between Turin and Milan, where the Frecciarossa is authorised to travel at high speed, for the rest, the savings have yet to be evaluated. For its part, SNCF Voyages Italia, which has just celebrated 10 years of TGV service on the Paris-Milan line, plans to develop its own services on other lines in Italy.
(Source: various)

Great-Britain
DB ESG wins TfW Mk 4 door deal – 10/12/2021 – We do remember that TfW has taken over a series of Mk4 cars in 2019 from East Coast Main Line to run between Holyhead and Cardiff. But delays in handing over the Mk 4 carriages from LNER, their previous operator, to Transport for Wales (TfW) and the need to adapt them to work with Class 67 locomotives has led to a delay. DB ESG plays a significant role in the development of the UK’s rolling stock, offering innovative and value-led advice, technical consultancy and technology integration. The company has confirmed last August that they have won the contract to design, approve, supply, install and test the modifications needed to allow Transport for Wales Mark 4 coaching stock to be operated by Class 67 locomotives. Transport for Wales (TfW) has a requirement to have an additional four 5-car sets of MK 4 coaching stock operated with a Class 67 locomotive and a Mk4 DVT. They have already modified and are operating 3 similar vehicle rakes. This unit formation is currently not compatible and so modification work is needed to facilitate their operation in revenue earning service. This project not only involves compatibility modifications but also reconfiguration of the CCTV and Passenger Information System to allow them to be fully functional in passenger service. Work on the rolling stock should be completed by March 2022.
(Source: Modern Railways)

Great-Britain
Hitachi and Alstom win order to build and maintain High Speed Two trains in Britain – 09/12/2021 – Alstom and Hitachi Rail have today confirmed that the Hitachi-Alstom High Speed (HAH-S) 50/50 joint venture has signed contracts with High Speed Two (HS2) to design, build, and maintain the next generation of very high speed trains for HS2 Phase 1 as part of the £1.97 billion contract, including an initial 12-year train maintenance contract. The UK’s two leading train manufacturers will deliver Europe’s fastest operational train, capable of operating at maximum speeds of 225mph (360 km/h), significantly reducing journey times for passengers. The fleet will be 100% electric, and be one of the world’s most energy efficient very high speed trains due to the lower train mass per passenger, aerodynamic design, regenerative power and latest energy efficient traction technology. In a major boost to grow and rebalance the economy, the HAH-S joint venture will manufacture the 54 trains at newly enhanced facilities in County Durham, Derby and Crewe. The award to the British-based firms will protect and create thousands of green jobs and add £157 million GVA to the UK economy for every year of the train building phase. The new 200m-long, 8-car trains are set to run in Phase 1 of the project between London and Birmingham, and on the existing network, and will dramatically increase capacity and connectivity between towns and cities across the country including Stoke, Crewe, Manchester, Liverpool, Carlisle, Motherwell and Glasgow. They will have a major impact in reducing carbon emissions from transport by encouraging people away from fossil fuelled cars and planes, and onto rail.
(Source: Hitachi Rail)

Italy
Interporto, a tool to create the conditions for modal shift – 05/12/2021 – It is misleading to think that the mere construction of a railway infrastructure in a economic area can generate a process of economic growth. There are a need for more complete facilities and industries around them. This is what the Italian example shows us with his ‘Interpoto‘ concept. The Italian regional model has long been original in Europe, with its « special status » regions with a strong regional banking network, shows us a powerful and creative model, where SMEs dominate the economic space. One of the concrete characteristics of this policy is the establishment of numerous ‘Interporto’ (dry ports) throughout Italy. The Italian’s freight village is a complex infrastructure and must necesserally, by law, include an intermodal railway station and direct rail links with the main national rail network, suitable for forming or receiving complete trains, in accordance with European standards, capable of operating with a number of no less than ten train pairs per week. They have also different areas destined, respectively, to the functions of intermodal transport, supply logistics, industrial logistics, distribution logistics and urban distribution logistics. The freight village can therefore be considered a sort of ‘port’ within the territory, from which ships do not leave or arrive, but trains and/or lorries do. This regionalisation shows how the state becomes a strategist, without interfering with the regional businesses or the owners of the warehouses. These structures and services are financed by local and regional public and private capital. The Italian example thus shows us that by means of formally established laws, an economy can move towards modal shift, provided it is given the means. The article details this particular Italian railway policy.
(Source: Mediarail.be)

Great-Britain
Government must back UK train travel or risk long-term retreat to cars – 03/12/2021 – Is the new British rail entity, a kind of partial nationalisation, really good for the rail industry? The Conversation don’t thinks so. A recent government decision is to trim back the plan for more high speed rail in the north of England, again with major public opposition. He has abandoned an important leg to the Midlands of its high-speed rail link (HS2). The promised £96bn of rail investment is subject to “individual schemes proceeding subject to future approval at key gateways to ensure ongoing control of costs and value for money”. The lines that were removed from the original plans would have permit to create extra capacity for passengers and freight on existing network. It is difficult to believe whether the new plans will provide any extra capacity to allow growth. Increased rail fares are also on the horizon – the government has continued with above-inflation fare increases (RPI+1%), with more to come. This contrasts with continued freezing of fuel duty for road transport and cutting air passenger duty on domestic flights. Current policies, with reduced rail services, increased fares and investment uncertainty will clearly be bad for the environment, the railway sector and the economy. This requires the UK government – especially the treasury – to take a new approach, supporting railways, and public transport generally, as the backbone for a zero carbon transport network. This is not the path chosen today…
(Source: The Conversation)

Germany
German SMEs do not use combined transport – 02/12/2021 – A first systematic company survey of road hauliers in Germany shows: numerous small and medium-sized transport companies could use combined transport (CT) of trucks and railways for the main leg on suitable transport routes and thus shift freight transport to rail. But many of these companies do not make use of this. A total of more than 200 companies took part in the survey. According to the survey, 62 percent of the small and medium-sized providers questioned stated that they transport goods by truck over distances of 300 kilometres and more. From this distance onwards, environmentally friendly CT can bring its economic advantages to bear. At the same time, 62 percent of the respondents stated that they do not currently use this option. According to the survey, three hurdles in particular are currently preventing CT from exploiting its potential among small and medium-sized enterprises. For many companies, due to limited personnel capacities, the planning effort for the change from truck to rail and back is too high and the necessary know-how is lacking. In addition, they often do not have any loading units in their own fleet that a crane can grab for reloading onto rail. However, this is often the only way to switch from truck to rail and back in CT. Finally, many are simply not aware of the offers and prices of CT operators. Often, however, there is also a lack of suitable CT train connections close to the location. Another important issue for the respondents is punctuality and reliability in rail freight transport.
(Source: Dispo.cc)

Spain
Spain extends lower rail fees for 2022 – 02/12/2021 – In order to mitigate the effects of the crisis caused by Covid-19 on rail transport, Spain extends the reduced track access charges. This was detailed in one of the amendments to the General State Budgets for 2022. In the current context of the health crisis caused by Covid-19, railway activity has been sharply reduced. The current track access charges system limits the independence of infrastructure managers to modify amounts in an agile manner and makes it difficult to adopt relief measures similar to those implemented in the European Union. In this context the track access charges in Spain for 2022 will maintain the same price structure as for the current year, reports El Español. For this year, the minimum access fee for long-distance passenger trains that circulate on high-speed lines was reduced by 23 per cent. It also depends on the route and the number of seats in a train. It is probably the last time that the charges for the use of rail infrastructure are set out in the Spanish state budget. A rail law will be renewed, which is expected to take place in the next year, after a draft was adopted recently. After that, infrastructure manager Adif will decide on the track access charges independently. This is in line with the European directive to make railway managers more independent from the governments.
(Source: Railtech.com)

USA
State appeals court rejects long-standing challenge to California bullet train – 01/12/2021 – The last pending civil lawsuit seeking to stop the California high-speed rail project hit a wall Tuesday when a state appeals court affirmed a lower court ruling that the project did not violate the California Constitution by adopting a segmented approach to building the system. The american bullet train project has encountered in California an array of problems with financing, permits, engineering and land acquisition, but it has a near perfect record for surviving legal challenges that could have proved crippling. Some segments of the system would be shared with conventional rail, resulting in improvements to conventional rail that would eventually benefit the high-speed rail. So, the concept that the system would be built in segments remains well established. The result of the blended system meant that the rail authority has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to improvements to the Bay Area and Southern California far in advance of any bullet trains that would operate. It is currently building 119 miles of structures between Madera and Wasco and plans in years ahead to operate a 171-mile system between Merced and Bakersfield. When it would reach Los Angeles or San Francisco is still uncertain.
(Source: Los Angeles Times )

Finland-Sweden
Work set to begin on cross-border Finland to Sweden rail line – 30/11/2021 – Work on a long-anticipated rail line that would link Finland’s network with the Swedish border town of Haparanda will begin once funding is secured, the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency said on Monday. The project will electrify the Laurila-Tornio-Haparanda section of the network, thereby opening up a cross-border rail connection between Finland and Sweden. Haparanda station reopened for passenger trains in March this year after a 29-year break, offering connections to long-distance trains in the south of Sweden. The transport agency’s project manager, Terhi Honkarinta, said that plans are expected to be completed during the coming winter with the aim of receiving final approval by next summer. « According to the current schedule, construction will start no earlier than the end of 2022. Most of the work will take place in 2023 and 2024, » Honkarinta said in an agency press release. The project aims to improve the cost-effectiveness of rail transport for industry as well as enable rail passenger traffic between Finland and Sweden as part of the trans-European TEN-T network. In addition to electrifying the line, the project will also build safety equipment required for cross-border traffic, make changes to railway bridges as required by electrification, and modify passenger facilities at Tornio rail station.
(Source: Yle)

China-Europe
Germany’s Deutsche Bahn sets up firm to strengthen China-Europe freight transport – 30/11/2021 – Deutsche Bahn’s subsidiary DB Cargo established a new company to strengthen rail freight transport between China and Europe, the German state-owned rail operator announced on Friday. « Climate-friendly and reliable goods transport by rail is becoming increasingly important for global supply chains, » Deutsche Bahn noted. That is why demand along the Belt and Road, the rail route between Europe and China, is booming. With the establishment of DB Cargo Transasia in Shanghai, Europe’s largest freight railroad provider is « considerably strengthening » its services in the Far East, connecting 18 European countries, Deutsche Bahn noted. Chinese customers could be offered a variety of services from DB Cargo Transasia instead of having to contract multiple service providers as in the past, according to Deutsche Bahn. The German rail operator already opened several new routes between China and Europe this year, most recently the connection between Shanghai and Hamburg at the end of September. Last year, DB Cargo transported around 200,000 containers back and forth between Asia and Europe. By 2025, Deutsche Bahn was aiming to more than double the annual capacity to 500,000 containers. According to the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis), goods worth 213.2 billion euros (240 billion U.S. dollars) were traded between Germany and China in 2020. Including exports and imports, China remained Germany’s most important trading partner.
(Source: Freightweek)

Great-Britain
Newcastle : First phase of £70m Tyne and Wear Metro Depot rebuild complete – 29/11/2021 – After completing the rebuild of the Gosforth Metro depot, Stadler’s next steps will see demolition and construction work to create a modern home for Metro’s new fleet of trains. The first stage of the £70m project saw the demolition of part of the 100-year-old depot alongside the installation of brand new stabling roads and overhead lines. The next phase of the project will see Stadler start work on the new depot building with the demolition of further old facilities over the next few months. Stadler have appointed the building of the new depot to VolkerFitzpatrick. The Swiss train manufacturer is not only building the ultra-modern depot but will also supply the fleet of 46 brand new trains for Metro’s operators, Nexus, and are set to enter service during 2023 bringing improvements in quality and reliability for passengers. The new Gosforth depot project is expected to complete by autumn 2022 in time for the first of the new trains to arrive in the area. Nexus, the transport authority for the Tyne & Wear region around Newcastle, has awarded Swiss manufacturer Stadler a contract to supply 42 new generation trains for the Tyne & Wear Metro network. Stadler will also be responsible for maintaining the fleet for 35 years and building a new depot. For the Swiss manufacturer, this is the third success in the field of British « non-standard metros », after the Glasgow Subway and the Merseyrail in the Liverpool region. Stadler’s competitor in the Tyne & Wear Metro market was CAF.
(Source: Rail Advent)

Freight/USA
Port of Virginia advances rail capacity expansion project – 26/11/2021 – The Virginia Port Authority (VPA) Board of Commissioners on Nov. 16 approved Allan Myers Virginia Inc.’s $61.5 million construction bid. The contractor will begin expanding the port’s double-stack, on-dock rail operation in February 2022. The Board also approved an $18 million contract with Konecranes for up to three cantilever rail-mounted gantry cranes and associated support systems. When complete, NIT’s Central Rail Yard will be able to accommodate 610,000 annual container lifts; NIT’s current lift capacity is 350,000. The great importance of rail facilities for container traffic throughout the country must be stressed. It is a decisive element for the competitiveness of a seaport. Virginia Port has therefore made the right choice.
(Source: Railway Age)

Airlines
An association protests against the French law that prohibits short air links – 25/11/21 – In France, the ‘Syndicat des compagnies aériennes autonomes’ (Scara), a trade association whose mission is to promote and defend air transport, announced on 25 November that it had filed a complaint with the European Commission against the French law that prohibits air links when there is an alternative means of transport in less than 2.5 hours. « Like the UAF and ACI, SCARA is calling for the repeal of this law, » said the union, which claims to represent 50% of French airlines. According to SCARA, « the measure is discriminatory and causes distortions of competition between carriers ». It is also « excessively restrictive in relation to the problems it is supposed to solve », its duration is « not limited » and « no adequate justification for the measure has been submitted to the Commission and the other Member States ». SCARA reaffirms that it shares the objectives of the fight against climate change. However, it denounces the ineffectiveness of a law that discriminates against air transport.
(Source: SCARA pressroom)

London
Trial operations on the Elisabeth Line started – 25/11/21 – Trial operations on the Elisabeth Line started on November 20, marking the final step before passenger services can commence between Paddington and Abbey Wood in the first half of 2022. The trials involve operational exercises to ensure the safety and reliability of the railway for public use and to fully test the timetables. More than 150 scenarios will be carried out over the coming months to ensure the readiness of the railway for passenger service. These include exercises to make sure that all systems and procedures work effectively and staff can respond to any incidents, including customers being unwell or signal failures. The Crossrail project is an East-West railway line of 100 kilometres long, 42 of which are tunnelled under London, and which connects 41 stations. Approved in 2007, construction began in 2009 to open in 2018, but the project was continually delayed. It’s now planning to open the line in first half of 2022. An estimated 200 million annual passengers will use the Elizabeth Line.
(Source: Railway Pro)

China-Europe
China-Europe rail freight rising, but border tension sparks new routes – 23/11/21 – According to China Railway, between January-October there were 12,605 train trips, carrying 1.22m teu, up respectively 26% and 33% year on year, beating 2020’s 1.14m teu. The railway operator noted there were proportionately more return trips in the first 10 months than last year, with inbound services rising to 81% of outbound. The number of new services also increased, accounting for 35% of overall trips, compared with 20% during the first half. While rail freight has enjoyed booming volumes amid the capacity and congestion problems in air and ocean, it has not been without its share of operational problems. For example, the higher frequency of trains has combined with disruptions from Covid policies, particularly in China, to create long delays at key border crossings and transhipment hubs in Kazakhstan. Combined with infrastructure bottlenecks in Europe, such as at regular hotspot Malaszewicze in Poland, and railway journeys were stretched out from 14-16 days to 30 days earlier this year. Diplomatic tensions also hung over rail freight, with China rumoured to have threatened to suspend trains through Lithuania due to a spat with the country over Taiwan, but also between Belarussia and the UE.
(Source: The loadstar)

Japan
Japan’s railway operator launches “office cars” – 22/11/21 – Japan’s East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) on Monday launched onboard “office cars” on certain Shinkansen bullet trains on lines connecting Tokyo and the country’s northern and central parts to meet the growing demand for telework amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Without additional charge, the new service allows passengers to talk on the phone and participate in online meetings from their seats — activities that are discouraged on the rest of the train, local media reported Monday. Media were granted access inside a running Hokuriku bullet train on Monday, and a JR East staff demonstrated how she works remotely using noise-canceling headphones. Passengers will also be able to borrow “smart glasses”, which can project the content of their laptop screens in front of their eyes. On bullet trains on the Tohoku line, they also can use free of charge small dividers to put around their seat tables. To avoid congestion, the workspaces will not be available on weekends and some public holidays. JR East hopes the new service will help people to combine working online with travel, while also stimulating demand for business trips, which has decreased due to the pandemic. Central Japan Railway Co. and West Japan Railway Co. have also been trialing the introduction of onboard workspaces since October on the trains that run through the major Japanese cities.
(Source: Macau Business.com)

Japan
JR West operates Shinkansen exclusively for vaccinated passengers – 20/11/21 – JR West, has been operating an exclusive Shinkansen high-speed train for passengers vaccinated against the new coronavirus and those with negative COVID-19 test results since Saturday. The train left Shin-Osaka station to join Hakata in the southwest of the country. This Shinkansen was intended for participants in an overnight tour jointly organised by JR West and Nippon Travel Agency Co. It is the first time that a chartered bullet train that limits passengers to those fully vaccinated against the virus or with negative test results has been operated. Some 200 passengers were required to submit a health check sheet. They disinfected their hands and took their temperatures before boarding the train. JR West and Nippon Travel capped the number of passengers at 300 when soliciting participants, in order to avoid the train being crowded. According to the companies, it has not been decided whether a similar chartered Shinkansen train will be operated in the future. However, JR West is considering offering some of its Shinkansen carriages for the exclusive use of fully vaccinated people or those with negative test results during the year-end and New Year period.
(Source: Japan Times)

Rail Baltica
Tender launched to construct Latvian Rail Baltica section – 19/11/2021 – The largest tender for the 870km Rail Baltica scheme linking Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania has been launched by Latvia’s Eiropas Dzelzceļa līnijas, the company delivering Rail Baltica in the country. The interested companies must apply for the tender by 28 January 2022. The international tender for the construction works will be carried out in two stages. It is expected that the winner will be chosen, and contract concluded at the end of 2022, ensuring that the construction of the new railway line can start in the first half of 2023. The contractor will be responsible for a 200 km-long mainline and infrastructure construction works in Latvia, outside the limits of Riga city. The winner of the tender will have to provide construction works of substructure and superstructure for the Rail Baltica railway line in the territory of Latvia, including preparation of the territory, construction of embankments, railway bridges, roads, overpasses and rails and shift of networks. Up to 85% of the project is financed from the Connecting Europe Facility with the remaining part being ensured by the Latvian state budget. In 2020, it was reported that Rail Baltica is due to be €2bn over budget and four years behind schedule.
(Source: Railway Pro)

Germany
Around 70 cities on the FlixTrain network by next summer – 18/11/2021 – With its new winter timetable, FlixTrain is adding 10 new stops to its network from 12 December and almost 20 more destinations will be added to the network next spring. This means that by summer 2022, around 70 German cities will be part of the FlixTrain service. From December, the new FlixTrain timetable with 10 new stops and a total of around 100 departures per week will apply. New additions to the network include Bonn, Koblenz and Mainz. In spring, almost 20 more destinations will be added, including Dresden, Kassel, Karlsruhe and Freiburg. Since May, FlixTrain have a completely redesigned interior with new seats, power sockets at the seat, modernised toilets and Wi-Fi technology including free entertainment services. Furthermore, FlixTrain guarantees every passenger a seat – at no extra charge. The company is looking for new ways to offer gastronomic services on board the trains and is launching its first global Call for Innovation. FlixBus, where it all started, is increasing its network in Europe by a further 25 per cent for the holidays, in addition of its winter services to 170 German stops. International travel is also possible with more than 270 cities in 22 countries from Germany.
(Source: Railtech.com)

Spain
« The train Avlo is perfectly adapted to the leisure traveller » – 17/11/2021 – During the 2nd Symposium of the Mobility Observatory organised by El ESPAÑOL-Invertia, Sonia Araujo, General Manager of Renfe Viajeros, explained: « the train Avlo is perfectly adapted to the leisure traveller ». The railway company places the train as the absolute joker of the future. The liberalisation of rail transport has undoubtedly been one of the most important events of this year in Spain. She wanted to point out the differences between the new protagonist in the railway sector, Avlo, and the AVE. The former offers basic services such as seat selection, while the latter offers « higher frequencies and greater benefits and services, such as cafeteria services up to the maximum number of seats, including VIP lounges », she explained. « In our restructuring plan, we counted on the liberalisation of the railways, » said Sonia Araujo. She also recalled that not only the liberalisation has been one of the challenges of this year but also adapting to the pandemic and « that is what we have done from Renfe, which paid back more than 100 million euros and 2.5 million tickets ». Sonia Araujo stressed that Renfe is « reorganising for the new mobility that companies are going to need », which is why « we are holding meetings with companies and travel agencies in order to adapt an offer to suit them ». Looking to a future where digitalisation is paramount, « we have opened five dedicated centres to improve customer service and communication with our customers and to improve the company’s efficiency, » he said. With the aim of « creating an experience where Renfe accompanies you throughout your journey, from planning to arrival at your destination ».
(Source: El Español)

London
TfL asks customers to help shape the future of step-free access – 16/11/2021 – Transport for London (TfL) has launched a public consultation to shape future step-free access priorities and improvements on the London Underground network, the first of its kind in 15 years. The consultation, which runs until 10 February 2022, has been designed to help TfL identify which aspects of making London Underground stations more accessible it should prioritise. TfL welcomes the views of everyone across London who would benefit from a more accessible public transport network, including older people, disabled people, parents, carers, and people with long or short term medical conditions, as well as those travelling with bulky luggage or equipment for work. Respondents will be asked whether they would prefer future funding to focus on upgrading a single, complex central London station, or be divided between smaller or medium sized stations located outside central London. They will also be asked whether they would prefer for future funding to be used to improve clusters of accessible stations to create a close group of accessible stations or upgrade areas with limited accessibility, or a combination of both. Borough councils will also be asked for their feedback during the consultation process.
(Source: Intelligenttransport.com)

Spain
New gastronomic menu on the Renfe’s at-seat Premium service – 14/11/2021 – The new gastronomic offer on Renfe trains, which combines the flavours of traditional cuisine, the quality of the products and healthy preparation, will be available from Monday for premium tickets on Ave and Euromed trains, as reported by the company. Renfe stresses that, in its efforts to incorporate services that increase quality and so attractivity for modal shift, it has concluded that the ‘haute-cuisine’ is « one of the essential attributes to enjoy the journey ». For this new menu, the company has been advised by one of the greats of Spanish cuisine, the Catalan chef Ramón Freixa, awarded two Michelin Stars and three Repsol Suns, which endorse his extensive career. Different menu options have been prepared, separated into appetizers, breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinners, accompanied by desserts and adapted menus for children. This service also offers special menus for intolerances, allergies or other reasons. The Premium ticket, which has been available for purchase since 1 November, offers a journey with all the extras included, such as the comfort seat for more space and comfort, the restaurant service and the best change and cancellation policy. From Monday, the Club lounges will also be open again, so that customers with Premium tickets, among others, can take advantage of the benefits of these spaces at the stations of origin of their journeys before the departure of their train.
(Source: 20minutos.es)

Germany
Political agitation around unbundling railway infra from DB group – 12/11/2021 – With the formation of the future German government, the subject of the separation of the Infrastructure subsidiary – DB Netz – from the DB AG group, continues to agitate the German railway world. Within the framework of the coalition negotiations between the SPD, the Greens and the FDP, the two small partners have spoken out in favour of a separation of network and operations and thus a splitting up of the DB Group. They are calling for an independent railway infrastructure that only serves the common good and that should managed independently of the DB AG group. This is welcomed by the competitors’ association Mofair. Association President Tobias Heinemann: « In almost all network industries – gas, electricity, postal services, telephony, internet, air transport – we have long had a separation between the network as a natural monopoly and the services on the network, which are provided by different operators. » However, some argue that you can’t compare railways with energy or telecoms networks. The Verkehrsclub Deutschland (VCD) sees things differently. Kerstin Haarmann, national chairwoman: « The central question must be: What contributes to achieving the climate targets better and faster? In other countries in Europe we find examples of successful integrated railway companies with a clear, political mandate as well as successful competitive systems. State railways like Austria’s ÖBB mainly benefit disadvantaged regions with poorer connections and people with lower incomes. » The majority union EVG is also totally opposed to a separation. But one can guess that this is a position to keep a strong power to cope with DBAG’s management. The climate reason is totally absent from the union’s arguments. On its part, the German Monopolies Commission demands more commitment to competition from the future German government – and advocates breaking up Deutsche Bahn. « The new federal government should tackle the vertical separation of Deutsche Bahn AG, that is, a separation of the infrastructure from the actual railway operations, » Jürgen Kühling, chairman of the Monopolies Commission, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung last month. « We have a major transport turnaround ahead of us, so this would be enormously important, » he added.
(Source: Zughalt.de)

Sweden
Sweden: operator SJ reintroduces refurbished X2000s – 11/11/2021 – Swedish national passenger operator SJ has announced that it will reintroduce its first refurbished X2000 tilting trains on the Stockholm – Gothenburg route on 16 November. The X2000 is a tilting train designed by the swedish industry in the late 1980s. Although originally designed to increase speed by 15% compared to conventional trains, the increase in track cant allowed in 2017 has reduced the gain to 9%. The five-car trains have been phased in between Stockholm and Gothenburg, Malmö, Copenhagen, Oslo – the most lucrative routes. In 2014, SJ awarded ABB a €172 million contract to replace the technical equipment and passenger information and entertainment equipment and in 2016, SJ signed a contract to refurbish the interior of 36 X2000 trains still in service. The cars have been equipped with modern lighting, more functional toilets and wheelchair spaces. The information systems, seat numbers and areas such as toilets, vestibules, wheelchair spaces and bistros have also been designed in cooperation with representatives from various disability organisations. Not all the trains were removed at once. About 75 SJ employees work on the X2000 upgrade, with each refurbishment taking between six and nine months. In mid-November, the first refurbished X2000 train returned to service. The entire refurbished fleet is expected to be in service by 2027.
(Source: International Railway Journal)

Great-Britain
HydroFLEX train shows up at COP26 – but without hydrogen – 10/11/2021 – A tri-mode HydroFLEX train, which can run on hydrogen, electricity and battery power, has making an appearance at the UN climate conference in Glasgow. Developed by leasing firm Porterbrook and the University of Birmingham, the HydroFLEX train is a 30-year old train where a hydrogen fuel system has been installed within 10 months. In the HydroChamber, there are 36 high-pressure tanks which can store up to 277 kilograms of hydrogen, enough for over 300 miles of green powered operation. The HydroFLEX can of course run on hydrogen, but during COP26, it runs on electricity. The reason for that is that Porterbrook wants to let visitors take a look inside the train’s hydrogen chamber, which would not be allowed due to safety rules when there was hydrogen stored on board. Ms Grant said the creation of HydroFLEX can help prove hydrogen-powered trains could be a part of a “greener future for trains”, which could complement other technologies such as electric and battery power. Ms Simpson said one of the challenges around running HydroFLEX trains on the UK rail network is that they run on green hydrogen (hydrogen generated by renewable energy) – which is unfortunaly not widely produced across the UK. The promoters of the hydrogen train are counting heavily on government subsidies for the « green hydrogen » sector.
(Source: i news UK)

Great-Britain
ORR issues recommendations for opening up railway-signaling market – 09/11/2021 – The U.K.’s Office of Rail and Road said Tuesday that it has found that the current railway signaling market isn’t competitive enough, and that it is publishing recommendations aimed at more opening up this market. The ORR expects the signalling sector to expand “significantly” thanks to digitisation. But lack of competition also means high prices, which is a bad thing for the Treasury. It has raised concerns that the two main signalling suppliers, Siemens and Alstom, enjoy significant power in the market, and alternative companies struggle to compete with them on a level playing field. As a result there are lack of incentives for new suppliers to make the investment necessary to be competitive in Great Britain. The ORR is concerned that these entrenched advantages and competition problems will be carried through to the fast roll-out of alternative signalling technologies. ORR is challenging the industry to tackle the barriers that it has identified so that new suppliers have a fair opportunity to compete and are incentivised to invest and bid for signalling projects. The Office has therefore made a series of recommendations that would enable Network Rail to “boost competition between suppliers on cost, quality and innovation.” He believe solutions will need to recognise the need for Network Rail to maintain an effective and safe signalling system, whilst also harnessing the benefits of increased competition. It also says the recommendations would promote efficiency and performance on the network. The recommendations come as the market for signalling in Great Britain reaches £800-900million a year. Network Rail has been given three months to form a strategy and plan saying how it intends to implement the ORR’s findings and recommendations.
(Source: Rail Business Daily )

Great-Britain
Hitachi Rail strike deal with ScottishPower over renewable supply – 08/11/2021 – Hitachi has recently underlined its commitment to address climate change by strengthening its own climate target to contribute to a Net Zero society by achieving carbon neutrality through its entire value chain including production, procurement and the use of products and services by FY2050. This bolsters the existing commitment of reaching carbon neutrality at all its factories and offices globally by FY2030. It is in this context that Hitachi Rail has announced a three-year deal with ScottishPower who will supply its operations with 100% renewable electricity. An estimated 21GW of wind, solar and hydro-electric energy will be supplied per year to power Hitachi Rail’s manufacturing and maintenance facilities in the UK. As two of COP26’s Principal Partners Hitachi Rail and ScottishPower have come together to agree the new renewable energy deal. ScottishPower was the first UK integrated energy company that removed fossil fuels from its energy generation. This partnership with ScottishPower is a major step on Hitachi Rail’s journey to decarbonising our sites by 2030. Hitachi Rail maintains more than 200 trains at various depots in England, Wales and Scotland. It manufactures and maintains regional, intercity and high-speed trains that operate in the country. In 2020–21 Hitachi Rail alreday reduced its carbon emissions by 30.5 percent.
(Source: Rail Technology Magazine.com)

USA
The US launches the largest infrastructure plan in 65 years – 07/11/2021 – On Friday 5th November, the American Congress finally adopted part of the vast reforms undertaken by Joe Biden when he came to power, the fruit of a long battle lasting several months. The Congress thus has cleared a multibillion-dollar infrastructure package that could improve Americans’ commutes and quality of life, already voted in August by the Senate, and providing for nearly 1,200 billion dollars of investments. Democrats needed 218 votes to pass the plan to upgrade roads, bridges and broadband Internet, considered one of the most ambitious in modern American history. The bill, H.R. 3684 is historic but it falls far short of Biden’s original vision, which promised to dramatically reduce the climate impacts of transportation, the single largest source of pollution. The $1.2 trillion will be spread out over eight years, and it contains $550 billion in new spending. Rail services are expected to receive $66 billion while port infrastructure will receive $17 billion. Transit will receive $39 billion, which is the largest investment in history according to the White House. On the down side, it will generate $256 billion in projected deficit over 10 years according to the Congressional Budget Office. However, passenger rail experts said the historical investment would not do enough for the rail system. A large portion of the money will be used for basic maintenance needs like track upgrades, and not for new projects.
(Source: Politico.com)

China
China’s first fully automated and driverless elevated monorail – 06/11/2021 – The first of its kind in China, Wuhu’s new monorail is elevated and equipped with automatic train operation (ATO) grade of operation 4 (GoA4), the most-advanced and highest level of automatic train operation that enables the train to operate both driverless and fully unattended. A fleet of 28 six-car Innovia monorail trains entered commercial service and operates at a speed of 80 kilometres per hour. The 168 cars was provided by Alstom’s Chinese joint venture CRRC Puzhen Bombardier Transportation Systems Limited (PBTS). The related Cityflo 650 signalling system that enables the automatic train operation was provided by Bombardier NUG Signalling Solutions Company Limited (BNS), Alstom’s Signalling joint venture in China. Another Alstom’s joint venture in China provided the Mitrac propulsion equipment for the monorail trains. Designed to integrate into the urban environment, Alstom’s fully automated and driverless Innovia monorail systems provide, according the french company, an mobility solution for growing or dense cities. The modern looking and quiet vehicles run on elevated guideways that are built off-site to permit fast assembly with minimal disruption. Alstom offers 30 years of expertise in successful monorail design, build, operations and maintenance, with industry leading availability and safety standards.
(Source: Webwire.com)

Italy
Hupac expands in Lombardy and will manage Novara – 05/11/2021 – Combiconnect, a subsidiary of the Swiss giant Hupac, has taken an 80% stake in the intermodal site in Novara, west of Milan. In the future, Hupac wants to extend the tracks to 740 metres as well as install new tracks for the entry and exit of trains with new gantries with OCR reading, which will automatically read the information of the wagons and loading units. « Our aim is to further develop this strategic terminal for the transfer of transalpine traffic », explains Piero Solcà, Director of Terminal and Infrastructure of the Hupac Group. Sixty pairs of trains are handled every week at the Novara terminal, which covers 150,000 square metres and has 7 loading and unloading lanes. In addition to this, there is no shortage of new development projects in Lombardy for Hupac, some of which are already underway and others which are planned for the longer term. For example, an application will soon be available to enable drivers to interact with the terminal, with the advantage of optimising collection and delivery times. In the medium term, more demanding modernisation work is planned for the Hupac Group’s Italian terminal fleet. North of Milan, the giant Busto Arsizio-Gallarate terminal will be optimised to accommodate up to 33 pairs of trains per day!
(Source: Trasporto Europa)

Norway
German couchettes cars for a Norwegian night train – 03/11/2021 – Vy Tog, the former Norwegian state operator NSB, had never used couchettes cars on domestic night train services in Norway, but used only sleeping and seating cars. This lacked an intermediate level of comfort, as on the Austrian Nightjets. This will change. Due to the lack of new cars for sale, Vy Tog picked up two vehicles of German origin in Oslo and bought six more in Crailsheim, Germany. Delivered to the Deutsche Bundesbahn (DB) in the 1960s and 1970s, these cars were rebuilt several times to be designated BDcmz 874.1. All 8 cars were then transferred to Finland to the Oulu depot, where the enterprise VR FleetCare is located and was responsible for the extensive modernisation and commercial upgrading of the 8 couchettes cars. They have been adapted to the harsh Norwegian winter climate and upgraded inside with space for luggage and bikes. The new designation is BFWL. The cars also went to the Pieksämäki workshop, where they were to be surface treated and repainted in the Vy livery. The transfer to Finland meant changing the bogies at the Swedish border in Tornio. Therefore, the photo gallery below shows a first convoy of three cars with the UIC bogies on Finnish flat wagons. This week, the eight fully refurbished and repainted cars set off for Norway, after a journey in Sweden carried out by Hector Rail. The cars will be put into service on the Bergensbanan (Oslo-Bergen) at the end of the year. Each car has a capacity of 36 berths and 11 bicycle spaces.
(Source: Jarnvagar.nu)
See photo gallery: Forum Postvagnen.com

By Frédéric de Kemmeter, Railway policy observer – Freelance railway contributing writer – Suscribe my blogBack to latest news