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1. 30 November 2006. Dubai. Metro project running to schedule

Construction of the largest proposed light rapid transit system in the world is running to schedule. The first phase of the Dh15.5-billion Dubai Metro will be completed by September 2009, contrary to some predictions that the deadline is too optimistic, according to Abdul Majid Al Khaja, the RTA's chief executive officer overseeing the rail project. Al Khaja said the RTA has a huge fast-tracking advantage over other planning organisations because "the system is different here, we don't have bureaucrats here."
Source: Gulf News

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2. 29 December 2006. UK. Regulator calls for lease companies probe

The rail regulator said it is likely to call for a detailed competition investigation into the UK's train leasing companies. The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) said in a statement that it was "minded to refer the passenger rolling stock leasing market to the Competition Commission (CC) for further investigation." ORR launched an initial study of the £1 billion-a-year market in July following a request by the Department for Transport (DfT). The DfT said it believed lack of competition was leading to excessive profits for the UK's three main train leasing firms. The ORR said in a statement about the findings of its study that it did not feel it could give the markets "a clean bill of health".
Source: AFX


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3. 29 November 2006. Taiwan. Conditional approval for high-speed railway

Based on the conclusions of a special inspection review committee meeting, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications said it will give conditional approval for the high-speed rail to begin operations. The inspection review committee listed six conditions that must be met before the bullet train service could be launched. The committee strongly advised that before Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp. could obtain permission from the MOTC to begin operations, the THSRC should to conduct more test runs and fulfil a "no accidents in a month" requirement. The committee also advised the MOTC to examine the traffic signal system of the high-speed rail. Only after all these conditions are met, will the committee give approval for the service to be launched and vouch for its safety.
Source: Taiwan Headlines


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4. 29 November 2006. Romania. Business Class introduced on trains

The Romanian Railway Company (CFR) are introducing next month a Business Class for trains that travel long distances. Seats will be equipped with a 51 cm screen, wireless access to the Internet and refrigerated minibar. According to company officials, the cost for renovating the old carriages was €500,000 for each. There will be two categories of business tickets: Standard and Exclusive, with several advantages for the Exclusive Class, including leather seats, complimentary soft drinks, sandwiches and coffee. Business Class will be available on trains running between Cluj Napoca, Brasov, Oradea, Arad, Suceava, Iasi and Constanta.
Source: Hotnews

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5. 29 November 2006. Taiwan. Tilt trains to commence operation in February

The first tilting trains purchased by the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) are expected to arrive from Japan in December. According to the administration, the trains will begin operating during the Lunar New Year, which starts in February. They will mainly be used on the line running from Shulin in Taipei County to Hualian County. With the introduction of the trains, travel time between the two locations can be reduced from three hours to two hours. Before the trains start operating, the TRA will conduct multiple test runs near its station in Shulin. Based on a public on a public opinion poll, the tilting trains are to be named "Taroko" after the national park.
Source: Taiwan Headlines

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6. 28 November 2006. UK. Network Rail posts first profit

Network Rail has posted a profit for the first time. The company announced pre-tax profits of £747m for the six months to 30 September, compared with a loss of £108m a year earlier. It was the first surplus since Network Rail was created in 2002 following the bankruptcy of its predecessor Railtrack. Its figures showed that during the six-month period 89.5 per cent of trains were on time - the highest level for seven years. Iain Coucher, the organisation's deputy chief executive, said the firm was aiming for 90 per cent punctuality in 2007-2008 and 93 to 94 per cent within the next few years. But he indicated that the proportion would not go much higher without major investment. Profits are used to either reduce debt or re-invest in the railway.
Source: The Independent

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7. 28 November 2006. China. Trans-Asia Rail Link will be completed by 2015

The Trans-Asia Rail Link is on track to be completed by 2015. Also known as Singapore-Kunming Rail Link (SKRL), the rail link will start from Singapore and run through Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos before ending at Kunming in China. Construction of one of the "missing links", between Poipet and Sisophon in Cambodia, will start early next year. For the 225-kilometre missing link between Phnom Penh and Loc Ninh, a border town between Cambodia and Vietnam, a feasibility study has been completed and work is expected to start next year with the completion by 2010.
Source: Xinhua


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8. 28 November 2006. UK. Increased fares for rail passengers

Train companies have announced that passengers can expect above-inflation price hikes for rail tickets. Fares regulated by the government will be raised by most train companies by 4.3% next year - 1% above inflation. Unregulated fares, which train companies are free to decide themselves, will be increased by between 3.2% and 6.6%. The Association of Train Operating Companies said the money was needed to pay for ongoing service improvements. Regulated fares, which include season tickets and saver tickets, are determined by the Department for Transport and account for 40% of tickets sold.
Source: BBC

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9. 27 November 2006. UK. Eurotunnel debt plan approved

Eurotunnel's creditors have narrowly voted in favour of its latest debt restructuring plan. The Channel Tunnel operator said that creditors representing 72% of its debt had backed the deal. The Anglo-French firm owes £4.2bn (6.2bn euros) to 54 creditors. The new firm, Groupe Eurotunnel, will be bolstered by a long-term loan of £2.84 billion from a consortium of banks including Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and Citigroup. Under the new deal, existing shareholders will have a minimum 13% stake in a new company that will make an offer for Eurotunnel's shares early in 2007.
Source: BBC

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10. 27 November 2006. Thailand. Many injured in rail collision

About 130 passengers including a number of foreign tourists were injured, 20 seriously, when a State Railway of Thailand sprinter train crashed into another SRT train carrying passengers to the Royal Flora Ratchaphruek in the northern province of Chiang Mai. According to the initial investigation, the special service train bound for the Royal Flora Ratchaphruek 2006 stopped, waiting for permission to park at a station. It was then hit by a Bangkok-Chiang Mai sprinter train. Three cars of the special service train derailed. The cause of the accident is under investigation
Source: TNA

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11. 27 November 2006. Australia. Rail flyover opened

Federal Transport Minister Mark Vaile has opened the A$80 million Sandgate Rail Flyover in New South Wales (NSW), promising it would lift the coal capacity of the Hunter Valley rail network to 115 million tonnes per year. The flyover replaces a crossing between the dedicated coal rail lines accessing the Port of Newcastle and the main line between Sydney and Brisbane. It removes a bottleneck that required coal trains to wait for up to an hour to cross the main line tracks to get to the Kooragang Island coal handling facility. The flyover is the first major project the Australian Rail Track Corporation initiated under its 60-year lease of the Hunter Valley and NSW interstate rail systems, which began in 2004.
Source: Transportation News

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12. 26 November 2006. Portugal. Agreement with Spain on bullet train link

The Prime Ministers of Spain and Portugal have signed a contract to further promote the construction of bullet train rail links between the two countries, and agreed to improve cross-border cooperation. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates signed contracts on jointly building two high-speed rail links between Spain and Portugal, and to set up a research and development centre to work in the area of nanotechnology. They also agreed to strengthen cross-border security in order to prevent illegal immigration into Europe.
Source: AFP

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13. 26 November 2006. Syria. Syria to revive historic Hijaz railway link

Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are in the first stages of reviving the old Hijaz railway line after the signature of an agreement between a Syrian-based company, Balkees Real Estate, Industrial and Commercial Investment Company, and the Hijaz Railways Company (HRC), which is in charge of managing the Syrian portion of the historic track. The terms of the contract signed between HRC and Balkees involve a 50-year concession awarded to Balkees over the Syrian portion of the track, which runs from Damascus through the southern city of Daraa and onto the Jordanian border, but also over the three other tracks managed by HRC: Damascus-Sarghaya-Lebanese border; Damascus-Qatana and Damascus-Damascus International Airport. The deal also involves the building and operation of train stations, tourism, commercial and services facilities.
Source: AME Info

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14. 25 November 2006. Security guards to protect rail staff

Private security guards are to travel on trains in the north of England to crack down on the abuse of rail staff. The action follows more than 300 incidents of abuse and assault on Northern Rail staff so far this year. Rail union RMT says some of its members have been kicked in the head punched in the face and so badly assaulted that they have taken weeks off work. Northern Rail says it takes the problem extremely seriously and is employing security staff for problematic routes. According to the RMT, the incidents of assaults and abuse across the rail network doubled from 2001 to 2005. So far this year there have been more than 5,000 reported incidents.
Source: BBC

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15. 25 November 2006. UK. Government to consider re-nationalisation of rail

The Labour Government is considering re-nationalising Scotland's rail services, the party has revealed. Ministers will look into taking Scotland's trains out of private ownership if they win next year's Holyrood election. The move was revealed in a policy document. The wide-ranging document says: "We will work to ensure value for money and greater public accountability for the delivery of the ScotRail franchise. "The case for running the Scottish franchise on a not-for-profit basis needs to be fully examined as part of preparing for the next franchise." The move would enjoy widespread support among unions and party members. The Executive spend £5million per week on subsidies to rail operators.
Source: Daily Record

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16. 25 November 2006. Australia. Union question China rail deal

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) has questioned the commitment of the New South Wales Government to local industry, after it emerged hundreds of recently commissioned rail carriages will be largely built by a Chinese company. The A$3.6 billion contract was awarded two weeks ago to a consortium headed by Downer EDI. However the union says EDI will only be responsible for the design and the final fit-out of the carriages. The union's Paul Bastion says he is bewildered that the government contract only required that 20 per cent of the carriages be built locally. Transport Minister John Watkins says the carriages could not be built locally. "We always do our railway carriages in partnership with overseas suppliers. Under this PPP contract it's exactly the same," he said.
Source: ABC

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17. 24 November 2006. Canada. Bombardier wins €467 million SNCF order

Bombardier Transportation has announced that it received an additional order for 112 high-capacity trains AGC type (Autorail Grande Capacité) from the French National Railways (SNCF), valued at about €467 million. Deliveries of the trains are scheduled to begin in October 2007. Bombardier will manufacture these AGC trains at its Crespin plant, in the Valenciennes region. The AGC is available in various versions. The trains can run on either diesel fuel, electricity or a combination of the two, and also on a dual mode/dual voltage (diesel fuel and electricity 1.5 kV and 25 kV). The new order from SNCF includes dual mode/dual voltage trains.
Source: Bombardier Transportation

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18. 24 November 2006. Canada. Vancouver Sky Train contract for Bombardier

Bombardier Transportation has been awarded a contract by the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority (TransLink) to supply 34 Advanced Rapid Transit (ART) MKII vehicles for the region's SkyTrain rail transportation system. The contract, valued at US$99 million, includes options for an additional 38 vehicles. SkyTrain currently operates 60 ART MKII vehicles and 150 ART MK I vehicles on the system. Manufacturing and final assembly of the vehicles will take place at Bombardier Transportation production facilities in Sahagun, Mexico and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Delivery of the cars is scheduled for the first half of 2009.
Source: Bombardier Transportation

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