JR East selects Thales to design first Japanese CBTC

THALES has been chosen by JR East to design Japan's first communications-based train control system (CBTC), following a competition between Thales and Alstom.


Thales will design the CBTC system for installation on the Joban suburban line in Tokyo which links Ayase with Toride. The 30km line, which has 14 stations, is operated by a fleet of 70 trains. The line currently has a conventional automatic train control system.


The main objective is to improve reliability and reduce costs by eliminating track circuits and reducing the amount of cabling while enabling bi-directional operation. JR East said when it announced the competition in February 2013 that it wants to "drastically change and improve" its Tokyo suburban network through "innovations that incorporate a conceptual breakthrough and are completely free from conventional ways of thinking."






Shanghai opens two more metro lines

SHANGHAI added two more lines to its metro network on December 29, taking the system to more than 500km just 20 years after the opening of the first line.


Running entirely in the district of Pudong, Line 16 is a suburban metro line linking the Line 11 station at Luoshan Road with Dishui Lake with a journey time of 50 minutes. The 52.9km line has just 11 stations and with a minimum distance of 2.6km between stops trains reach speeds of up to 120km/h, making Line 16 the city's fastest metro line.


The second phase, which will extend the line north to an interchange with metro Lines 2 and 7 and the Shanghai Airport Maglev at Longyang Road is due to be completed by the end of this year.


The initial 19km section of Line 12 between Tiantong station in Zhabei and Jinjing Road in Pudong was also opened on December 29. The 15-station line is expected to carry around 90,000 passengers per day.


The opening of these lines takes the total length of the network to 538km with 329 stations. On December 31 the network carried a record 8.9 million passengers.







CNR completes delivery of locos to Uzbekistan

THE final four out of a total of 11 electric freight locomotives have been delivered to Uzbekistan Railways (UTY) by a consortium of CNR Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock together with China National Technical Import and Export Corporation (CNTIC).


The $US 44.4m contract was funded by a loan of $US 42.17m from China's Eximbank with UTY funding the balance. The loan is for 20 years with a five-year grace period. The locomotives form part of UTY's 2011-2015 plan to modernise its motive power and rolling stock fleet.






22-day strike over new Korail HS subsidiary ends

TRAIN services started to return to normal in Korea today following the end of a 22-day strike by railway workers over the government's decision to grant a licence to a new affiliate operator to be set up by Korail to run the new Suseo KTX service.


The railway union feared that the new Korail operator would be the first step towards privatisation and potential job losses for the 20,440 workforce. Suseo KTX services will be introduced in 2015-16 on a new 61km high-speed branch under construction from Suseo in southeastern Seoul via Dongtan to link with the existing Seoul-Busan high-speed line. Services will run from Suseo to both Busan and Mokpo.


The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport issued a licence for the new operator on December 27. "The era of competition in the railway business has begun," said transport minister Mr Suh Seoung-hwan, "but I assure you that the railway will remain in public hands."


The government says it wants the strikers to be disciplined and has threatened lawsuits to obtain compensation. Korail has set up a disciplinary committee which will start work on January 9 with a view to restructuring the workforce.





Work to start this month on Laos rail link

CONSTRUCTION is expected to begin this month of a 220km railway in southern Laos from Savannakhet on the Thai border to Lao Bao on the border with Vietnam following a groundbreaking ceremony on December 18.


The double-track electrified standard-gauge line will be built by Giant Consolidated, Malaysia, which is part of the Giant Group based in Malaysia but incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. The contract for the $US 5bn project was signed at a ceremony in the Lao capital Vientiane in November attended by the prime ministers of Laos and Malaysia.


The new railway is being funded by Rich Banco Berhad, Malaysia, owned by Rich Ban-Corp Holding based in Hong Kong. The funding agreement was signed in Vientiane on April 18 by Mr Gilbert Hung Ho Kuen, CEO of Rich Banco Berhad, and Mr Mohammad Fadzwi, president of Giant Consolidated.


The new 120km/h line is expected to take four years to construct and will be designed to withstand earthquakes. It will have 11 stations, four of which will become the centre for the commercial and property development including markets, hospitals, schools and hotels.


The line will be isolated from the metre-gauge Thai and Vietnam networks until new links are constructed, in particular to the Vietnamese port of Danang.






Brazil's VLI orders more Amsted Maxion wagons

VLI, the railfreight subsidiary of Brazilian mining giant Vale, is to acquire an additional 306 wagons from Amsted Maxion for use on Brazil's North-South Railway.


The order comprises 208 grain hopper wagons and 98 tank wagons for chemical and fuel traffic.


In 2012 VLI acquired 179 hopper wagons and 30 tank wagons, and its fleet currently stands at 877 units.


The hopper wagons ordered by VLI will have a payload of 98 tonnes, a significant increase over the 90-tonne capacity of the previous generation of hopper wagons.


The tank wagons are already in commercial operation, carrying fuel between the port of Itaqui, São Luis, and cities such as Palmas in Tocantins state. On the return journey, the wagons carry ethanol for export.





Alstom to supply traction systems for Chinese metro trains


ALSTOM and its Chinese joint venture Shanghai Alstom Transport Electrical Equipment (Satee) have been awarded two contracts worth a total of €75m to supply traction systems for more than 550 metro cars for the cities of Chengdu and Xi'an.


The €42m order for Chengdu covers traction systems for 306 vehicles, which will be used on lines 3 and 4. The order for Xi'an is worth €33m and covers 246 vehicles for Line 3.


Alstom will supply its Optonix modular traction package, which has been developed specifically for the Chinese market.


The traction system, which includes motors and auxiliary converters, will be manufactured locally by Satee with support from Alstom's design unit in Charleroi, Belgium.


Egis Rail wins Salvador metro contract

CCR, the build-and-operate concessionaire constructing the second phase of the metro network in the Brazilian city of Salvador, has awarded Egis Rail a contract to provide systems engineering services for the project.


CCR was awarded a Reais 4bn ($US 1.85bn) PPP contract last October by the Bahia state government to build the 24.2km east-west Line 2, which will link Lauro de Freitas Avenue and Deputado Luis Eduardo Magalhães airport with Bonocô in the city centre, as well as the 5.6km eastern section of Line 1 between Acesso Norte and Pirajá. Both lines are due to be completed by spring 2017 and CCR will operate the network for 30 years.


Egis Rail's contract is worth around Reais 39m and covers systems management and integration services, as well as interface management between subsystems and engineering. Around 20 Egis staff will be based in Salvador for a period of 40 months and Egis will work alongside MCA, a Brazilian contractor specialising in project management.







India seeks foreign investment for rail network

NEW DELHI — India will soon invite foreign businesses to help expand its once mighty but now outdated railways, government sources said, in a move that would mark the opening up of one of the country’s last great state-controlled industries.


Foreign investors will be allowed to fully own new services in suburban areas, high-speed tracks, and connections to ports, mines and power installations, said two senior officials involved in the deliberations. Existing passenger and freight network operations will not be open to foreign investors under the initiative, which seeks to ease bottlenecks that slow down travel on the world’s fourth-largest rail system.


"The plan is to allow 100% foreign direct investment in suburban corridors, high-speed train systems and freight line projects implemented through public-private partnership," said an official at India’s department of industrial policy and promotion. The government officials said the move could attract up to $10bn of foreign investment over the next five years.


Previous targets to attract private investment to build India’s infrastructure have been missed by a wide margin, but there were positive initial responses from potential investors such as General Electric and Bombardier.


Established under British colonial rule, India’s vast train network has been overtaken by China’s rapid rail expansion over the past two decades. Indian train travel is very cheap and transports about 25-million passengers daily.


But years of underinvestment means the service is slow and plagued by frequent accidents — a fire killed nine people this week.


Freight charges are set at high levels so as to subsidise the passenger services, driving much cargo transport onto clogged roads.


In the 66 years since independence, India has added 13,000km of new railway lines, bringing the total length to about 64,000km. Only 1,750km of new lines were added by India in 2006-11, compared with 14,000km by China, according to a report by EY.


Consequently, road transport as a share of freight traffic has gone up about 60% in India compared with about 44% in the US and 22% in China, government and industry data shows.


The reform, which does not need parliamentary approval, has been agreed by the railways, industry and finance ministries and has been submitted for consideration by the cabinet, which could sign off on it as soon as next week, said an official.


The plan is one of a series of moves the ruling Congress Party hopes will help to spur India’s economy out of a deep slump ahead of a general election due by May. It is expected to struggle to hold off the challenge of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.


Railway ministry officials expect interest from China’s CSR Corporation, Germany’s Siemens, as well as Japanese manufacturers that already work in India as contractors and suppliers to the railways.


The proposal was greeted enthusiastically by Canada’s Bombardier, which in 2008 set up a €33m factory in Gujarat state to build trains for Delhi Metro and plans exports to other Asian markets. "Bombardier is bullish about the demand and the future prospects of the Indian rail transportation industry," said Bombardier Transportation chief country representative Harsh Dhingra.


"Multinational companies from North America, Europe, the US and Japan have shown a long-term commitment to set up a base and invest in India to cater to the future demand in the sector."


India has opened up industries including retail, civil aviation, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications and defence to foreign investors in recent years, with the goal of improving the nation’s finances and driving economic growth.







French AFD team to arrive Kochi Metro

A two-member team from Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD), the French development agency, will arrive in Kochi on Thursday, Jan 9, 2014, to discuss the modalities for signing the loan agreement for Kochi Metro.


In November 2013, the board of directors of AFD had approved 180 million Euros (Rs 1,521crore as per the current exchange rate) as loan for the Metro project. The French loan comes with an interest of 2%. The Kochi Metro Rail Ltd (KMRL) will have a repayment period of 20 years and a moratorium of five years. The agency had, initially, made an offer to provide 150 million Euros. Later, the amount was raised to 180 million Euros.







Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has rolled out a new advanced Traffic Signalisation System (TSS) to improve traffic condition and safety.


The system will be complemented by a new surveillance network of 25 fiber-optic high definition pan-tilt-zoom CCTV cameras. These cameras add to the existing 100 CCTV cameras installed last year at strategic spots in Metro Manila, the most populous and densest region in The Philippines with 11.8 million.


MMDA has set up a its first Command and Control Centre in Makati City, from which staff can monitor real-time traffic video feeds from the CCTV network and remotely control traffic lights around Metro Manila.


In the first phase, MMDA’s staff will use the software system to manage 85 key road intersections and 25 traffic control and video surveillance areas.


This number will grow to 500 intersections in future, with planned enhancement to automate and optimise traffic management, said MMDA’s Chairman Francis Tolentino.


A traffic management system better coordinates lights to enhance road users’ experience, reduce travel time, improve safety and reduce traffic congestions.


The system consolidates and analyses real-time traffic data to allow MMDA make more informed decisions with speed.









New bullet train with 'Chinese standards' planned

China will boost the development of key technologies in high-speed railways and design a new bullet train with "Chinese standards", according to the State-owned railway operator.


"In the high-speed railway field, we must accelerate the research of crucial technologies. We will strive to complete the design of the Chinese-standard bullet train and its major parts within this year," Sheng Guangzu, general manager of China Railway Corp, said on Thursday in Beijing.


Sheng, who made the remarks at the company's first work conference, pledged to show the public a new bullet train that uses the nation's own technological standards before the end of 2015.


Currently, most of the advanced parts used on bullet trains running on Chinese tracks such as traction, brakes and control software are dominated by foreign companies, including Alstom, Siemens and Kawasaki Heavy Industries, according to sources close to China Railway Corp.


The situation has left Chinese train manufacturers no choice but to assemble or directly import such parts. Meanwhile, the comparatively backward industrial capability has also led to problems in producing some cutting-edge components, they said.


Zhao Jian, a professor at Beijing Jiaotong University who specializes in China's railway system, said though Chinese factories can produce almost all bullet train parts, the key technologies are still bought from their foreign counterparts.


"A German company monopolizes the brake system, while other Western companies control the traction parts," Zhao said. "Actually, I think China Railway Corp should allocate more resources in building not-so-fast lines rather than investing a huge amount of money in high-speed lines."


In December, China Railway Corp announced that the total length of Chinese rail lines has exceeded 100,000 km, with more than 10,000 km being high-speed lines.


According to the national railway network plan, high-speed rails will reach 19,000 km by 2015.


"High-speed lines cost a lot and create colossal debts for the railway industry. The ticket price of a high-speed train often exceeds the level many blue-collar or migrant workers can afford. In addition, the new lines are not compatible with trains running at slower speeds," Zhao said. "They can save the money and use it to increase the speed of old lines or build more ordinary lines."


In contrast, another researcher from the university who wished to remain anonymous said he endorses the move to develop China's own bullet train technology.


"Once the new train is developed and manufactured, it has a big potential in intercity links and the overseas high-speed rail market," said the researcher, who is playing a leading role in China's high-speed railway innovation project.


"However, I don't think China Railway Corp should hype up the so-called Chinese standards because using a single set of standards in design will stifle innovation."


He added that Chinese manufacturers have made remarkable strides in developing key technologies used on bullet trains and ended the era of foreign companies' domination in this field.




China offers to finance and build rail links to HS2

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China has offered to invest in Britain’s railways for the first time by financing and building links to a new Birmingham station on the high-speed HS2 network, highlighting Beijing’s growing interest in investing in UK infrastructure.


The approach by China Railway Group came within weeks of David Cameron’s trip to China, when Li Keqiang, the Chinese premier, offered to invest directly in the government’s £50bn high-speed rail line.


Premier Li’s offer took Downing Street by surprise and British officials insisted that the main rail line will be funded entirely by the taxpayer. But officials held open the prospect of Chinese companies bidding for the concession to run the line once it was built and said they would welcome direct investment in stations and other ancillary projects around HS2.


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Ministers are promoting HS2 as a project that can establish the UK as a world-leader in high-speed rail engineering and so are sensitive to the fact that Beijing’s offers to finance infrastructure in other countries have often been contingent on awarding building contracts to Chinese companies.


In a letter to the leader of Birmingham city council last month, China Railway Group offered to build connections from the proposed HS2 interchange on Birmingham’s eastern outskirts to the airport and cities such as Coventry and Peterborough.


China Railway Group is a Hong Kong-listed subsidiary of the state-owned China Railway Engineering Corporation and has been instrumental in leading the modernisation of the country’s domestic rail network.


An official in China Railway Group’s international department confirmed the company’s interest in the project, which has been valued at £240m by its other backers.


Mr Cameron has welcomed Chinese investment into UK infrastructure, including Heathrow airport, a nuclear power station in western England and Manchester airport. Britain has jumped from 21st in the list of China’s inward investment destinations in 2010 to fourth.


The rail project that has attracted Chinese interest is a proposal put forward six months ago by two local Midlands’ businessmen that would involve reopening a railway line closed in the 1930s and building a direct rail shuttle link to the airport.


The link between the Birmingham Interchange station and the airport is designed to allow passengers to check in at the rail station and travel direct to their boarding gate. The current HS2 proposal would link the airport via the National Exhibition Centre with no pre-check-in facilities.


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“This proposal would give you better access to Birmingham airport and to HS2 to towns to the north and east of the city,” said Alan Marshall, editorial director of Railnews, a trade publication, and one of the backers of the project.


Paul Kehoe, chief executive of Birmingham airport, confirmed that he had also been approached by China Railway. “Large infrastructure projects, like HS2, put a large dent in the public purse, so I’m sure the government would welcome such an investment”, he said.


A leading UK transport think-tank said last year HS2 would work as a catalyst to regional development only if it was accompanied by smaller schemes to boost local transport links.


The Department for Transport said it had held initial talks with the backers of the Birmingham scheme but had not been approached directly by the Chinese.






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