Go-ahead for Israeli electrification programme

ISRAELI transport minister Mr Yisrael Katz announced on August 13 that the National Infrastructure Committee has approved the initial phase of Israel Railways' (IR) national electrification programme.


The Ministry of Transport expects to invite tenders in the first quarter of next year for the electrification of 420 route-km at 25kV 50Hz ac. An invitation to prequalify was issued last October and seven proposals have been submitted in the prequalification phase, which is due to be completed next month.


The National Roads Company will be responsible for implementing electrification on the new railways it is constructing, including Tel Aviv – Kfar Sava (30km) and Acre – Carmiel (23km), while IR will oversee the electrification of the existing network.


According to Katz the first lines to be electrified will be the new direct line to Jerusalem and the Acre – Carmiel line.


The total cost of the first phase is expected to be Shekels 11.2bn ($US 3.1bn) including rolling stock.






Riyadh metro project management contract awarded

ARRIYADH Development Authority (ADA) has appointed a joint venture of Parsons, Egis Rail, and Systra to supervise construction of the metro network in Riyadh.


The €425m contract covers project management and construction supervision on lines 1, 2, and 3, and accounts for nearly half of the engineering services on the six-line network. Around 1000 staff will be based in Riyadh to carry out the work.


The joint venture will validate studies, oversee and coordinate construction work, accept engineering structures, and approve pre-commissioning tests.


ADA announced the winning bidders on July 28 for the contracts to design and build six lines totalling 176.7km. The first sections of the network are due to open by 2018.







Algiers metro extension to be equipped with CBTC

ALGIERS Metro Enterprise (EMA) has awarded a contract worth about €20m to Siemens to install communications-based train control (CBTC) on a 4km underground extension to Line 1 of the Algiers metro.


Siemens will supply its Trainguard MT CBTC automatic train control system as well as Airlink, a track-to-train continuous-data radio transmission system, and Digiloc train location. The CBTC on Line 1 uses moving block with an absolute stopping distance and incorporates automatic train operation (ATO). The contract also includes staff training.


Commissioning of the four-station southern extension from Hai El Badr to El Harrach-Centre is scheduled for mid-2015.


Siemens won the original turnkey contract to construct the initial phase of Line 1 in 2006, and the line opened in 2011.





Tokyo to build new Waterfront metro line?

CONSTRUCTION of a new 5.2km metro line to serve the waterfront area of Tokyo's Koto Ward is a step closer after The Koto Ward Office revealed a plan that would make the project eligible for central government subsidies.


According to The Nikkei, The Koto Ward Office estimates that the line would be profitable in 29 years if its fare is Yen 70 ($US 0.71) higher than that currently charged by Tokyo Metro. The central government requires a rail project to achieve profitability in 30 years to be eligible for subsidies, and the ward office now plans to develop an implementation plan by the end of this year with a view to starting the project in 2015 and beginning operations in 2025.


The new line, which will be operated by Tokyo Metro, will connect with Toyosu station on the Yurakucho Line and Sumiyoshi station, which is served by the Hanzomon Line and the Toei metro network. The line will add two new stations and also connect with Toyocho station on the Tozai Line.


The project is estimated to cost Yen 126bn to complete with the Koto Ward Office and Toyko Metropolitan government providing a third of this cost, with state subsidies set to cover another third and the remainder coming from loans provided to a semipublic entity which will handle construction.


The new line is intended to ease overcrowding on existing services and improve access to the waterfront area which is currently experiencing a major redevelopment.





China to invest Yuan 600bn in railway infrastructure in 2013

CHINA Railway Corporation (CRC), the state-owned body that has assumed responsibility for the former Ministry of Railways commercial activities, has announced a plan to raise fixed-asset investment to Yuan 660bn ($US 97.88bn) this year to boost railway construction.


The new investment total is Yuan 10bn more than the investment target announced earlier this year and follows a Yuan 261.7bn investment in fixed railway assets in the first seven months of the year, a 16% increase year-on-year.


CRC says around 5500km of new railway lines will be placed into operation by the end of 2013 bringing the size of the conventional network to approximately 103,500km, while the high-speed network will exceed 10,000km.


CRC has also announced that bids in excess of Yuan 50bn have been received for locomotives, high-speed trains and freight wagons since it was founded in March.






Turkey tests undersea rail tunnel linking Asia with Europe

Turkey has successfully completed a trial run of a rail tunnel under the Bosphorus connecting Istanbul's European and Asian sides, the first of several planned mega projects in the country's largest city to see the light of day.


The 13.6 km (8.5 mile) tunnel, including a 1.4 km immersed tube tunnel - the deepest of its kind in the world at 56 metres - passes under Turkey's Bosphorus Strait, the busy shipping channel linking the Marmara Sea to the Black Sea.


Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who on Sunday boarded the first train to pass through the tunnel, said the project had been 150 years in the making, and by connecting "London to Beijing", served not only those in Istanbul and Turkey.


The tunnel is part of a larger $5 billion "Marmaray" project which also includes an upgrade of existing suburban rail lines to create a 76 km line that according to the government will carry 1.5 million people a day across the city's two sides.


Construction on the tunnel began in 2004 by a Japanese-Turkish consortium, with funding coming from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and the European Investment Bank (EIB).


The Marmaray, which has been beset by long delays, is now slated to open to the public on October 29, the anniversary of modern Turkey's founding, making it the first of Istanbul's planned mega projects to be completed.


Erdogan has proposed several major construction projects for Istanbul, some of them facing stiff public opposition, including a canal parallel to the Bosphorus to ease shipping traffic, one of the world's largest airports, a third bridge spanning the Bosphorus and a large mosque overlooking the city.


The most controversial project put forward by the Turkish leader was the redevelopment of a central Istanbul park, which included the construction of an Ottoman-era military barracks and a mosque.


The plans sparked weeks of countrywide demonstrations when diggers moved in to uproot the park's trees. The protests mushroomed into a wider opposition to Erdogan and what protesters said was his increasingly authoritarian rule.




China plans to invest at least 4 trillion yuan by 2020 in urban rail construction


Chinese governments have ramped up investments in urban rail network constructions with local economic planning agencies fast tracking approvals of plans to boost growth in the world's second-largest economy.


Local bureaus of the National Development and Reform Commission in over 10 cities have granted approvals to build or extend local urban rail networks in recent months.


That, combined with previous plans by 2020, totaled some 4 trillion yuan in urban rail investment with the network extending to nearly 6,000 kilometers, the 21st Century Business Herald reported, citing Hua Maokun, former chief engineer of the defunct railway ministry.


Local NDRC agency in the megacity of Chongqing in central China announced over the weekend a plan to start construction of a new urban rail before the end of this year.


The project, with an estimated investment of 31.4 billion yuan, was the first organized by Chongqing following July's decentralization. Previously only the central government has the right to approve local rail network construction plans.


The city is also planning to extend an existing subway line, starting within the year and is expected to attract roughly 4.1 billion in investment.


A municipal tramcar line will be built in the southern city of Zhuhai with an estimated investment of 850 million yuan. In the western province of Gansu, some 18.9 billion yuan will be invested to build a subway line in its capital city of Lanzhou. Similar projects are being considered or approved in other cities including Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province, Huainan (Jinagsu), Wuhan (Hubei) and Changsha (Hunan), according to the newspaper.


China's State Council, the cabinet, said in late July that it planned to boost infrastructure construction in cities, with rail network one of the major areas.


The State Council meeting, chaired by Premier Li Keqiang, also vowed policy support to expand financing channels by attracting private investments.


Nearly all the cites, meeting the central government's requirements for railway network, are planning or building subway lines, said Wang Mengshu, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. Wang was reportedly shuttling from one city to another, almost non-stop, offering advice to local governments.


A total of 36 local cities have approved plans to build subway lines, said Hua Maoun, estimating that by 2020 the country will have a rail network of nearly 6,000 kilometers in total.


That is in line with NDRC's expectation. An official with the NDRC told media the country will expand city rail network to 3,000 by 2015 and 6,000 by 2020, with combined investment at 3-4 trillion yuan.


In 2013 only, investment in rail network will expand 40 billion from last year to 220 billion yuan, according to calculations by the NDRC.


High-Speed Rail: the future of freight

The first cargo train from Zhengzhou to Hamburg highlights the need to develop HSR networks to unite Eurasian trade


The solar panel trade dispute between Brussels and Beijing finally came to an end at the end of July and with it both powers have managed to steer clear of a potential trade war over a plethora of other goods ranging from Chinese steel to French wine. The positive news continues with the first freight train from the eastern city of Zhengzdou arriving in Hamburg-Billwerder – the European bloc’s third largest trading hub – after traversing over 10,000km across Eurasia, passing through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland.


The trip was supervised by the Zhengzhou International Land Port Development and Construction Company, while the logistics for the European leg of the journey were handled by German rail operator Deutsche Bahn Schenker. “The growing Chinese goods traffic, together with the ongoing shift from production-intensive industries to the Chinese hinterland, offers a lot of potential,” said Deutsche Bahn CEO Rüdiger Grube. “DB Schenker in Asia is in an excellent starting position.” The crossing was completed in just 15 days, which completely eclipses the 30 – 40 day wait for goods required by container vessels to cover the same distance. “It is not only the type of goods that are changing but also the means of transport,” Grube told Bloomberg reporters at the arrival ceremony in Hamburg. “If you look at the €66bn worth of goods exported to China from Germany per year and the €77bn imported from China and compare it to the zero-point something of market share Bahn has, you can see what kind of potential there is.”


There is considerable demand throughout Europe for governments to spend money developing high-speed rail (HSR) to alleviate congestion in busy city centres and improve trade links between the 28 member states. China on the other hand continues to outspend the rest of the world with a $300bn (€224bn) investment to lay 17,000 miles of new HSR, which it claims will be fully operational by 2020. With all the obvious benefits for both trade and passenger transport, rail looks to be the solution to bridging the gap across Eurasia and reviving the historic Silk Road trading routes of the past. But if this dream is ever going to become a reality it will require Russia to show willing and be prepared to strengthen ties with China. In a recent article for Voice of Russia Dmitry Mikheyev, a former senior fellow at the Hudson Institute expressed the need for his country to take the lead in the development of a trans-continental HSR network. The Trans-Siberian Railway (TSR) is already quite a beneficial cargo transportation route today, but the journey takes time. The route is capable of transporting around 100m tonnes each year, but without further investment to develop the network greater capacity is impossible. China has already expressed its willingness to foot the bill for the expansion in exchange for the natural resources which the country is in desperate need of if it wants to continue growing at its current rate. “Russians sit on an immense treasure trove of natural resources that they cannot properly use,” explains Mikheyev. “Europe moreover has excess industrial capacities and some 25 million skilled workers currently unemployed and craving for real jobs.” With the recession in Europe continuing to worsen, for Italy, the next member state creeping ever closer to going the way of Greece, a long term investment in a such a project could provide the stimulus the region needs. Russia on the other hand depends too heavily on Europe and the economic climate there is having a knock-on effect on the country.


Mikheyev’s colleague at the Hudson Institute Jun Isomura argues that “Eurasia is a dream.” In his opinion there are too many obstacles facing the project, which was originally drafted by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific back in 1999. Problems like the standardisation of the loading gauge, which varies from region to region. Russia currently uses a 1.52mm gauge, while Europe and China both use a 1.435mm. Neither is likely to want to make the switch, especially Russia, which still holds huge influence in Central Asia and standardisation could lead to Russia being by-passed. The real problem is not a lack of means, but a lack of motivation. For the project to be realised it will require cooperation, something which is in short supply.







Rail route upsets remote Afghan province

KABUL - Residents of a remote northeastern Afghan region are adamant that they won't let go of the chance of their province becoming an economic hub linked to the country's Central Asian neighbors. For the past week dozens of officials and tribal leaders of the northeastern Konduz province have been in the Afghan capital, Kabul.


They have one plea for the central government: not to modify the planned route of a long-awaited railroad meant to link northern Afghan provinces with Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. Construction on the railway was inaugurated in June by the presidents of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.


At the time, the 400-kilometer Afghan portion of the route envisioned the railroad heading east through the city of Mazar-e Sharif toward Konduz Province. There, it would bend gently northeast, joining Tajikistan via the Afghan river port of Shir Khan Bandar.


But a new, shorter route, given tentative approval in July by the Afghan Ministry of Public Works, would bypass Konduz by linking the neighboring Afghan province of Balkh to Tajikistan at a point further west along the two countries' common border.


Konduz governor Muhammad Anwar Jagdalak told RFE/RL that the bypass will undermine the status of his province's Amu Darya River port, Shir Khan Bandar, as a hub for linking Tajikistan and Afghanistan and, beyond that, China and South Asia.


"This new proposed link will prove disastrous for Shir Khan Bandar," he said. "We are petitioning our president to plead that the move violates the principle of balanced regional development [across the country]."


Konduz's demands are backed by officials and notables from the neighboring northeastern Afghan provinces of Badakhshan, Takhar, and Baghlan.


'A temporary solution'


Senior Afghan officials in Kabul, however, say the government is not planning to fundamentally alter the proposed project. Minister of Public Works Najibullah Ojan maintains that the cost and time needed for completing the momentous project have forced authorities to consider building a temporary rail link along the shorter route. He told RFE/RL that this temporary link will be dismantled once the longer section via Konduz is completed in around four years' time.


"Overall, the government's policy and plans have not changed," he said. "Our ultimate aim is to link with Tajikistan through Shir Khan Bandar. But in the meanwhile we want to generate some revenues and link with Tajikistan through a shorter railroad [from Balkh Province]. You need to understand that this proposed new link is only 50 or 60 kilometers long and the permanent railroad is longer than 300 kilometers."


That view is supported in Tajikistan. Juma Khan Zuhurov, the first deputy minister for transportation, says that a direct link between Balkh and the Tajik rail network will cut the distance by hundreds of kilometers. But he told RFE/RL's Tajik Service that Kabul has the power to pursue one of any number of options.


"It is their soil and ultimately they can decide what they want to do," he said.


The entire railway is meant first to connect Atamyrat with Ymamnazar in Turkmenistan, before heading east to Akina-Andkhoy in the northern Afghan province of Faryab and onward to Mazar-e Sharif. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has indicated its willingness to fund the Afghan portion of the track, with construction set to begin this summer.


The project is considered a revolutionary leap for Afghanistan, which has seen little railway development since a seven-kilometer track was built in the 1920s and later dismantled.


The ADB has already provided US$160 million for a 75-kilometer railway line connecting the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif to Uzbekistan. That project was completed in 2011.







Peshawar considers building metro

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is considering a modern overhead metro train service in Peshawar, officials said August 7.


"The track for the metro train project would start from Chamkani village and end at Hayatabad, covering almost the entire Grand Trunk Road or University Road that bisects the city," Provincial Transport Authority official Muhammad Aslam said.


Before the project can move forward, engineers and international investors need to consider the project's feasibility and the option of underground versus overhead, he said, adding that the project is vital because "the residents of Peshawar need a serious break from suffocating traffic jams."






Iran to take Chinese subway cars for oil

A senior Iranian official says the country has ordered 315 subway cars from China in place of payment for oil that can't be transferred due to sanctions.


Amir Jafarpour, who is deputy head of the Transportation and Fuel Management Committee, says officials were forced to order the coaches because billions of dollars of payments from crude oil exports to China have not been transferred to Iran because of sanctions.


Jafarpour is quoted by the conservative news website on Monday.


The U.S. and its allies have imposed oil and banking sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear program. Iran has frequently turned to barter arrangements because of sanctions-related difficulties with money transfers.


China is Iran's top crude oil importer.









Bad brakes lead to Shanghai Line 1 delays

Shanghai Metro Line 1 suffered serious delays Sunday morning due to a problem with the line's brake system.


The slowdown began around 10:20 am as trains broke down on the track, according to a microblog post by Shanghai Shentong Metro Group, the city's subway operator.


The breakdowns affected southbound trains running from People's Square to Shanghai South Railway Station.


Subway service returned to normal on the line at 11:50 am, said Lan Tian, a press officer with Shanghai Shentong Metro Group.


"We are still looking into what caused the brake system to fail," Lan told the Global Times.


The operator initially estimated that the breakdowns would cause delays of more than 20 minutes, the post said.


However, some passengers at Xinzhuang Station ended up waiting more than an hour for the next train to arrive, reported.


During the delay, Shanghai Shentong advised passengers to use other forms of transportation to reach their destinations, the post said. It issued information about nearby bus lines that passengers could use to reach other stations along the line.


The operator said that passengers who were affected by the delays could get a refund over the next seven work days.








Masters to design Qingdao metro station

Qingdao subway Line 2 and Line 3 are still under construction. With its main body structure almost finished, the subway will leave its decoration to the professionals.


The Committee of Experts on Qingdao Metro Design, composed of professional designers from the public design field as well as experts on Qingdao history, was specially set up to finish the decorations.


The Qingdao Metro believes in the values of "one line, one theme" and "one station, one story". It will combine its culture, history and customs with geographical features through artistic design. By incorporating these cultural elements into its decoration, the Qingdao subway will exemplify the city's cultural development.






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