Thai Senate approves high-speed funding bill

THAILAND'S Senate voted on November 20 to approve a bill which will allow the government to borrow up to Baht 2.2 trillion ($US 69bn) over the next seven years to finance infrastructure projects, including the first phase of the country's high-speed network.


The bill, which was approved by 63 votes to 13, enables the Finance Ministry to borrow from domestic and international lenders, avoiding the need to seek funds through the annual government budget process. In total, 80% of the funding will be allocated to rail projects.


The first phase of Thailand's high-speed programme comprises a network of four lines radiating from Bangkok, running southwest to Hua Hin, southeast to Pattaya, northeast to Nakhon Ratchasima, and north to Phitsanulok.


In addition, the bill will fund the expansion of the Bangkok metro system and track-doubling on the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) metre-gauge network.






Transnet receives Chinese electric locomotives

THE FIRST two of 95 Class 20E dual-voltage electric locomotives being supplied to Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) by the CSR E-loco supply consortium was transferred from the port of Durban to the nearby depot at Umbilo on November 14 for commissioning.


The first 10 locomotives are being built by CSR Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive in China, while the remaining 85 units will be assembled in South Africa by Transnet Engineering. CSR is a 70% partner in CSR E-loco Supply, with local partner Matsetse Basadi holding the remaining 30%. The contract specifies a target of 60.5% for localised content.


The 3MW Class 20E is equipped for operation on 25kV ac and 3kV dc electrification systems and will be used by TFR's general freight business.


Transnet says the two locomotives have been delivered a month earlier than expected, and it expects a second consignment of four units to arrive in South Africa next month.







RZD presents $US 37.8bn three-year investment plan

THE Russian government was presented with a provisional three-year investment budget of Roubles 1.2 trillion ($US 37.78bn) for Russian Railways (RZD) during a cabinet meeting on November 14, which includes investments of Roubles 395.6bn in 2014, Roubles 415.2bn in 2015, and Roubles 438.4bn in 2016.


Capital projects worth Roubles 418bn are earmarked for the investment plan, including enhancements to the Trans-Siberian Railway and Baikal - Amur Mainline (BAM), improvements to railway infrastructure in and around Moscow, increasing capacity on the Mezhdurechensk – Taishet freight line, which is estimated to cost Roubles 9.9bn, and building a bypass around Krasnodar.


In addition, 9300km of lines, 660km of overhead catenary and 245km of automatic block signalling will be reconstructed, while 1529 new locomotives will be purchased, including 629 units in 2014 and 450 units in 2016.


RZD president Mr Vladimir Yakunin also reported the railway's provisional results for 2013 during the meeting. He said that changing macroeconomic conditions and a significant slowdown in industrial production resulted in a 3.1% fall in freight volumes compared with 2012, which contrasts with previously predicted growth. This trend is projected to continue in 2014, with freight volumes as a result only predicted to grow by 0.4%.


With such limited growth predicted, Yakunin said steps are being taken to ease the impact on RZD's financial performance in 2014.


"After the Russian government decided to freeze tariffs in 2014 to ensure the company broke even, the board was forced to take additional measures to further reduce costs by Roubles 84.9bn, and increase revenue receipts," Yakunin said.






New metro line opens in Gurgaon, India

SERVICES commenced on a new 6.1km, six-station metro line in Gurgaon, India, on November 14, which links Gurgaon Cyber City, which is located 30km south of central Delhi, with Delhi metro Line 2 at Sikandepur.


The line, which forms a loop north of Sikandepur serving businesses and facilities in Gurgaon Cyber City, is India's first public-private partnership (PPP) metro project. It was built at a cost of Rs 11bn ($US 178.6m) by a consortium of ITNL ENSO Rail Systems, IL&FS Transportation Networks and property developer DLF. Ticketing is integrated with Delhi's existing metro network and services are being operated by Rapid Metro Gurgaon. The line is expected to carry 30,000 passengers per day, operating between 06:05 and 00.20, with 2-minute headways at peak times.


Siemens was awarded a turnkey contract for the new metro line in April 2010. It subsequently supplied its Sicas ECC type interlocking, the LZB 700M automatic train control system which includes automatic train protection and automatic train operation, and its Vicos OC 501 automatic train supervision (ATS) system. It also supplied the 750V dc third rail electrification system. Siemens designed and supplied traction equipment for the seven three-car aluminium-body trains, which operate at a maximum speed of 80km/h, and were manufactured by CSR Zhuzhou.


Siemens also secured an additional turnkey contract to extend the line by 7km and six new stations to the south of Sikandepur. This work will be completed in 2015.





Newag plans partial flotation

POLISH rolling stock manufacturer Newag has announced plans to sell a 48.44% stake in the company through a flotation on the Warsaw Stock Exchange, which will begin on December 4.


Currently 82% of Newag's shares are held by Polish entrepreneur Mr Zbigniew Jakubas, while the remaing stock is owned by the company's management.


Newag said in a statement that the business is currently valued at around €203m, and achieved net profits of €13m in 2012 on a turnover of €156m.






China on journey to becoming major player in rail technology

In just five years, China has built the world’s longest and most heavily used high-speed railway network, with almost 10,000km (6,200 miles) of track. This is expected to rise to 15,000km (9,320 miles) in the next two years.


The Beijing-Guangzhou line, at 2,298km (1,425 miles), is the world’s longest high-speed rail line, cutting a journey that used to take 22 hours to just over eight.


China is also stepping up efforts to sell high-speed rail overseas. In October, Chinese premier Li Keqiang was pushing Chinese rail technology in Thailand.


China has worked on high-speed rail networks in Turkey and Venezuela, and has been in discussions with California about a project there.


The Wenzhou bullet train crash in 2011 was a major setback, although it appears to have been as a result of bad management rather than technology failure.


However, the government tried to defuse some of the hubris surrounding the project, and took a more cautious approach. Confidence in the service is definitely back, and tickets can be hard to get at times.


“Switzerland is known for exporting fine watches, while the most sophisticated machinery is believed to be found in Germany, but when it comes to a pleasant trip on a safe, comfortable high- speed train, the world is turning its eyes to China,” ran a commentary on the Xinhua state news agency this month.


“As the Chinese high-speed railway network grows, it is high time that China exported its technology and expertise, probably starting with neighbouring countries, where its advantages are suited to developing nations and will speed up progress,” it said.





Metro China 2013 Takes off in Beijing


Audiences marvel at the innovations of wireless communication systems presented at METRO CHINA 2013 in Beijing on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013. The exhibition lasts for four days, from the 19th to the 22nd of this month.


Impatient Beijing subway commuters get the better of German fare machines

European-made equipment which collects fares on the Beijing subway may be advanced, but is proving seemingly incapable of coping with Chinese passengers in a hurry.


Several times a year, engineers have had to fly in from Germany to deal with various operational glitches, in particular the jamming up of the system, according to a manager with the company.


"Our technical experts were puzzled why the machines, which have worked perfectly in Europe for years, failed in China all the time," he said, declining to be named due to business sensitivities. "They were shocked by what they found."


In Europe, passengers keep a certain distance from each other and feed their tickets into the machine only after the person in front has passed through.


But in China, impatient passengers follow closely behind each other and often insert their ticket before the gate opens for the person in front.


"Our German engineers assumed there would be two to three seconds between two tickets, but in China even half a second seems too long," he said.


The problem has proved tough to fix. Engineers not only needed to rewrite software code, but also redesign parts. So far the foreign technicians have not come up with an effective solution to counter the impatience of mainland passengers.


As a result, in Beijing and many other Chinese cities, fare-collection equipment is often manned by subway employees who constantly remind passengers to back off or, when the machines fail, collect fares by hand.


Public transport is one of the many sectors in China where foreign technology has stumbled. At the same time, pressure on multinationals competing in China has increased as local companies have sensed an opportunity to find products with a better fit for the local market.


Zhang Yi, general sales manager with the Cheng Li Special Automobile Company, one of the largest Chinese producers of city maintenance vehicles, said that until recently mainland officials preferred buying overseas technology and brands.


"Foreign companies have been making these vehicles for decades. There is no denying that their technology is more advanced in some areas," Zhang said. "And some officials felt that a fancy-looking street sweeper from a developed country would improve the city's image."


But in the past five or six years, most Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, have given up on foreign maintenance equipment.


"Chinese streets are often littered with garbage that is much greater in size and quantity than in Europe or America," Zhang said. "This significantly shortens the lifespan of foreign sweepers, that is if they don't choke to death right away."


Domestically produced machines may not have fancy technology or sleek looks "but they get the job done", he added.


Another disadvantage of foreign products is price. Domestic vehicles often come at half or one-third of the cost of overseas competitors, and local replacement parts are cheaper and more readily available.


"We have invested tens of millions of yuan a year on research and development to provide a speedy response to the requirements of customers. I don't think foreign companies can outdo us on this."


Zhang said his company's vehicles had not only won battles in the domestic market, but were exported in rising numbers to Africa, Russia and Southeast Asia.


"We are still kept out of Europe and America because our pollutant emissions exceed their environmental standards," he said.


"But the problem can be solved. We will eventually enter these markets with our well-tested technology and down-to-earth prices."


Professor Wang Xifu, director of the System Engineering and Control Research Institute at Beijing Jiaotong University's School of Traffic and Transportation, said China had relied on foreign technology and equipment for two decades since the 1980s for the sake of rapid economic development.


"Back then, our priority was speed and we wanted to buy anything that could be used immediately," he said. "Our interest has gradually moved on to quality and the various issues of foreign technology have been exposed."


Wang said 10 years ago China's research effort was still small, but now there were many researchers in almost every important field working to come up with technology that was globally competitive.


"To overseas companies this is bad news," Wang said.


Many foreign technologies did not work in China, due to a variety of reasons.


Pig waste fermentation technology widely used in Europe and Japan did not work because Chinese pigs were fed so many antibiotics that their waste killed helpful bacteria, according to a report last year by the Guangdong agricultural authorities.


German carmaker Volkswagen reportedly discontinued the use of a particular gearbox because Chinese traffic jams caused it to have frequent system failures.


Waste-processing plants built with technology from developed countries were frequently overwhelmed by the huge amount of pollutants in Chinese rivers and urban drainage systems, according to mainland media reports.


But Professor Cao Qixin, a robotics expert at Shanghai Jiaotong University, said China still relied on overseas technology in sensitive areas such as space projects.


"Our researchers can come up with good ideas and superb designs, but turning them into products is another story," he said.







Kapsch consortium wins Polish GSM-R contract

POLAND's infrastructure manger PKP PLK has awarded a €41.5m contract to Kapsch CarrierCom and Torpol, Poland to install GSM-R radio communications on the main line linking Kunowice on the German border with Poznan, Warsaw and Terespol on the Belarus border.


Kapsch will install 114 base transceiver stations at 57 locations, and will supply base station controllers, transcoder units, and packet control unit support nodes. Kapsch will be responsible for installing the equipment, which will take 26 months, and provide technical support, while Torpol will manage the infrastructure and optic-fibre network.







First Citadis Compact LRV unveiled

ALSTOM unveiled today at its plant in La Rochelle, France, the first Citadis Compact LRV for launch customer Pays d'Aubagne et de l'Etoile region.


The region ordered eight vehicles with options for between five and 10 additional LRVs for its new two-line network which is being constructed in three phases. The 22m-long three-section Citadis Compact can accommodate 125 passengers. The vehicle is mounted on two Ixège bogies fitted with dual suspension and permanent magnet traction motors, with all axles powered. The air-conditioned LRV has four sets of double doors and wide gangways between sections.


The first section from Le Charrel - Aubagne station is expected to open next year. Line 1 is due for completion in 2016 followed by Line 2 in 2019. The total cost of the project is €166m including vehicles.






Lithuanian locomotive venture planned

LITHUANIAN Railways (LG) CEO Mr Stasys Dailydka has signed a memorandum of understanding with Transmashholding (TMH) president Mr Andrei Bokarev as a first step towards establishing a joint venture to assemble locomotives in Lithuania for the Baltic States and other European markets.


TMH says the joint venture will also collaborate on research and development initiatives.


LG has also announced plans to acquire 5000 new freight wagons between 2015 and 2030 to replace life-expired vehicles and expand the fleet from around 10,000 to 12,500 wagons.









Founder of Floyd sets up Fox Rail

THE founder of Hungary's first open-access railfreight operator Floyd, Mr András Bogdán, has set up a new railway company called Fox Rail after selling his shares in Floyd earlier this year.


The new company has purchased four second-hand diesel locomotives from Romania comprising two type 060-DA Sulzer six-axle and two type LDH-125 four-axle diesel locomotives. The first three are already in Hungary and the last one will arrive before the end of the year. Fox Rail is initially using its locomotives to provide traction services not just to final customers but also to other train operators. Fox Rail also hopes to win regular traffic flows and therefore plans to purchase second-hand electric locomotives.




Madrid mothballs 11-year-old suburban line

THE autonomous region of Madrid is to mothball a suburban line opened just eleven years ago, which connects the capital with the Warner Bros amusement park and the town of San Martin de la Vega, which has a population of 19,000.


Electrification, signalling and safety systems are being removed by debt-ridden infrastructure manager Adif, which will reuse most of the equipment elsewhere on the conventional network. Rails and ballast are expected to remain in place for the time being, but the line will be unusable for passenger trains, as stations are also being dismantled.


The 15km double-track branch off the Madrid-Valencia main line opened in April 2002 after an investment of more than €112 million (adjusted for inflation), just in time for the inauguration of the adjoining theme park, in which the regional government eventually held a 46% share.


It was constructed and owned by the autonomous region of Madrid, managed by Adif and operated by Renfe.


Due to low demand, the line was operated by a single emu shuttling each hour between the park and Pinto, where passengers had to transfer to mainline suburban trains. A single direct service also ran on Saturday, the only train to use the specially-constructed flyover over the main line.


In January 2012, the regional government decreed its partial closure and announced that services would operate only during the theme park season. Four months later, however, services were withdrawn after ridership had dwindled to a mere 190 passengers per day.


The withdrawal of passenger services and mothballing of the line is expected to generate savings of €3.3m per year.






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