Moroccan Railways to invest $US 970m this year

THE BOARD of Moroccan National Railways (ONCF) has approved a draft investment budget of Dirhams 8bn ( $US 970m) for this year, which will fund construction of the 183km Tangiers – Kénitra high-speed line, enhancements on conventional lines, and the modernisation of the train fleet.


The budget allocates Dirhams 5 billion to the high-speed project, while the remaining Dirhams 3 billion will be invested in the existing network, including the construction of a third track on the Casablanca – Rabat – Kenitra line and track-doubling between Settat and Marrakech, as well as safety improvements, and the refurbishment of rolling stock.


ONCF is expected to place an order soon for 50 new locomotive-hauled coaches, including 30 second-class vehicles, 10 first-class coaches, five sleeping cars and five restaurant cars.






15 consortia vie for Mecca metro contracts

PREQUALIFICATION is underway for contracts to build two new metro lines totalling 44km in the Saudi Arabian holy city of Mecca.


On January 20 the Riyadh-based Arab Daily newspaper quoted the Mayor of Mecca and chair of the executive committee of the city's public transport company Dr Osama Al-Barr as saying that 15 national and international consortia had submitted documents to qualify for contracts on the Riyals 25.5bn ($US 6.8bn) project.


The first line will be 11km long with seven stations and will be mostly underground. It will run from the Jamrat region in Mina west via the northern side of the Grand Mosque, King Abdul Aziz Road, and the Haramain high-speed station in Rusaifa to the Mecca-Jeddah Expressway.


The second line will be partially underground and will be 33km long with 15 stations. It will start in Madinah Road north of Taneem Mosque, then run south along the western side of the Grand Mosque, and via King Abdulaziz Towers, Azizia Street and Taif-Karr Road to Umm Al-Qura University.


Mr Saad Al-Qadi, CEO of Mecca Trains Company, said that civil works will be divided into two packages covering underground and elevated sections.


Construction is expected to begin in the middle of this year and will take around three years to complete. The two lines are part of a longer-term plan to construct four lines totalling 114km with 62 stations.


Mecca's first line, the 18km Al-Mashaaer Al-Mugadassah metro, opened in 2010 and links the pilgrimage sites of Mina, Muzdalifa and Arafat.







Funding agreed for Belo Horizonte metro projects

BRAZILIAN president Mrs Dilma Rousseff announced on January 17 that the federal government has reached an agreement with the state of Minas Gerais and the municipality of Belo Horizonte to invest Reais 2bn ($US 853m) in the expansion of the city's metro network.


The funds will be used to modernise and extend Line 1, including the construction of new stations in Contagem, and Calafate II and improvements to accessibility at existing stations.


The agreement will also support the construction of two new lines: The 10km Line 2 will run from Barreiro do Calafete II with five stations, while the initial 4.5km five-station phase of Line 3 will link Savassi with Lagoinha.


These projects will take the total length of the network to 44.5km.






African rolling stock leasing company established

GRINDROD, South Africa, announced on January 20 that its Grindrod Freight Services (GFS) subsidiary has formed a joint venture with the Pemgrani Remgro Infrastructure Fund (PRIF) to provide rolling stock leasing services to railways in Africa.


The new company, which is named GPR Leasing Africa, will be based in Mauritius and will be 55% owned by GFS and 45% by PRIF.


Grindrod says GPR Leasing will specialise in leasing equipment for freight operations, including main line locomotives, shunting locomotives, and wagons. GPR Leasing has already secured orders for 31 locomotives, all of which will be new-build or refurbished units supplied by Grindrod's Pretoria-based locomotives subsidiary.


South Africa's Rand Merchant Bank has been appointed as lead arranger and funder for GPR Leasing's debt package.





Brazil's ALL and Rumo Logistics to merge

BRAZIL's largest railfreight operator Latin American Logistics (ALL) and Rumo Logistics, a subsidiary of Cosan Group which specialises in the transport of ethanol and sugar, have announced plans to merge.


ALL already has a contract to provide transport services to Rumo, but the two companies have been embroiled in a legal dispute over contracts since the end of last year. Rumo argues that ALL has failed to invest in the additional capacity required on its network to accommodate the increasing volumes of sugar Cosan is dispatching to Brazil's ports.


The two companies have not disclosed what their new trading name will be.


The contract includes a commitment to complete track-doubling on the line between Itirapina and the port of Santos in São Paulo state, the construction of new terminal facilities, and the acquisition of 50 locomotives and 929 wagons.


ALL plans to invest Reais 20bn ($US 8.6bn) in its network by 2020, and nearly Reais 11bn of this will be spent over the next four years. Key projects will include the elimination of bottlenecks on the lines from Campinas to Estrela D'Oeste and Santos.






Warsaw Tramways orders Pesa Jazz LRVs

WARSAW Tramways signed a Zlotys 167.9m ($US 54.8m) contract with Pesa, Poland on January 15 for 30 type 134N Jazz low-floor LRVs, which will be used on lower-density routes in the city.


The 19.3m-long three-section vehicles will accommodate up to 132 passengers, seating 27. Warsaw Tramways says the fleet will be fully equipped to meet the needs of passengers with disabilities.


The LRVs will also be fitted with an onboard energy storage system and two units will be specially adapted for driver training.


The trams are due to be delivered in 2015 and will take the proportion of low-floor vehicles in the Warsaw Tramways fleet to 60%.


Since 2007 Warsaw Tramways has acquired 321 new LRVs, including 186 Swing vehicles from Pesa, the last of which was delivered recently.





Spain plans single-track high-speed lines to cut costs


SPAIN is planning to install only single track on most new sections of high-speed line in a bid to reconcile ambitious plans to extend the reach of the standard-gauge network with the budgetary restraints imposed by the economic crisis.


The Ministry of Public Works and Transport and the newly-created high-speed infrastructure manager Adif-AV have decided that several high-speed lines currently under construction will have single track installed despite having been designed and built for double track, including tunnels and bridges. Passing loops will ensure that the infrastructure can be used at capacity, if needed.


The plans will affect the Olmedo – Zamora section of the Madrid – Galicia high-speed line, which is expected to open in 2015. Single track will be installed on 70km of the 95km route, with only the Olmedo – Medina and Coreses – Zamora sections being double-track.


Furthermore, the new strategy will affect the lines connecting Valladolid with Leon and Burgos, which are currently under construction. Double track will be installed from Valladolid to Venta de Baños and Palencia, but roughly half of the 110km stretch from Palencia to Leon will be single track. The 75km-long Venta de Baños – Burgos section, which is expected to connect in the future with the Basque Y and France, will be almost entirely single-track (67km).


Adif-AV, whose debt is expected to reach €15.2bn in 2014, has also considered completing the Antequera – Granada branch off the Madrid – Malaga line and the Murcia – Lorca section on the Mediterranean Corridor as single-track lines.


In addition, consideration is being given to the possibility of opening two more lines not only single-track but with broad gauge instead of standard-gauge track, due to the slower-than-expected development of other parts of the high-speed network. This concerns the Pajares Base Tunnel between Leon and Asturias, and an isolated section of line between central Extremadura and the Portuguese border, which would not be even electrified.


New trains ready for Mozambique's Sena Line

BRITISH mining company Beacon Hill Resources announced on January 16 that two South African suppliers have completed production of locomotives and wagons for its coal operations on Mozambique's Sena Line.


Leasing Company Thelo Rolling Stock has ordered five RL30SCC diesel locomotives from Pretoria-based RRL Gridrod and 90 open bogie wagons from Transnet Rail Engineering on behalf of Beacon Hill. The locomotives are currently being inspected and certified by Mozambique Railways (CFM) in South Africa, and will be transported to Mozambique by rail. The wagons will be shipped from Port Elizabeth to the port of Beira in Mozambique. Beacon Hill says the vehicles will be ready for use in Mozambique by the end of February.


CFM has granted Beacon Hill a 7.7% capacity allocation on the Sena Line, which will allow it to transport 500,000 tonnes of coking and thermal coal per year from the Moatize Basin in Tete province to Beira, a distance of 580km. The interim rail access agreement will automatically renew each year until Beacon Hill and CFM enter into a long-term agreement.


The locomotives have a tractive effort of 290kN at 20km/h and are equipped with EMD 16-645 E38 engines, which have been remanufactured to EMD specifications by National Railway Equipment Company, United States.


The wagons are equipped with Scheffel self-steering bogies, and Association of American Railroads (AAR) compliant couplings, drawgear, and direct-release air brakes.







Japan offers to lend US half the cost of 'Super Maglev' train between Washington and Baltimore

The Japanese government has promised to lend the United States half of the cost of building the first "Super-Maglev" train, reducing travel time between Baltimore and Washington DC to just 15 minutes.


Tokyo is so keen to show off its technology that it will provide loans for half the estimated $8 billion (£5bn) cost of installing the tracks, Japan's Asahi newspaper said on Tuesday.


The American federal government is keen on the project, according to Central Japan Railway Co., and state authorities are especially enthusiastic.


"The national government has shown interest,” a source at the company said. “But a number of the states in the north-east corridor — such as Maryland — are particularly keen for faster rail links and more advanced technology.”


The 37-mile journey between Washington DC and Baltimore presently takes one hour by conventional rail link, and the Japanese government and Central Japan Railway Co. hope to use the project to showcase what it believes will be the transportation technology of the future.







Singapore Transport Minister asks SMRT for update on rail incidents, conveys concern

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew has asked rail operator SMRT to provide by next week an update on its investigations into a recent spate of incidents on its rail network.


Mr Lui met SMRT chief executive Desmond Kuek and senior management on Thursday to convey his concern and disappointment over the delays - the most recent of which was an hour-long disruption on the East-West Line on Wednesday evening. The incident was caused by a train driver who bypassed a signal point on the track without authorisation.


"I share the frustrations of train commuters affected by these incidents, and I empathise with them on the anxiety and uncertainty that they may experience," said Mr Lui. "I am also very concerned about SMRT's service recovery efforts, particularly in reaching out to affected commuters promptly and keeping them updated during these incidents."


Mr Lui was briefed on the status of ongoing investigations by SMRT and its preliminary findings at the meeting. He has urged SMRT to "quickly identify the root causes of the occurrences, and to determine whether these incidents arose from engineering or procedural shortcomings".






High-speed Rail to Connect Southern China to Singapore

According to Britain’s Daily Telegraph, Laotian political leaders recently met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and indicated that they would soon become signatories to a formal agreement for the project, which they described as a “priority.”


The high-speed rail will begin in the Yunnan province capital of Kunming in China’s southwest, and extend through Laos, Thailand and Malaysia before concluding in the regional trade hub of Singapore. The system will serve to radically improve intra-regional transportation, with trains on the network running at cruising speeds in excess of 190 kilometres an hour.


The network will also eventually extend into all of the nations of mainland Southeast Asia, including Burma, Cambodia and Vietnam, and promises to bring huge economic and trade opportunities to the region by expediting the flow of both goods and passengers.


Laos in particular will be transformed by the introduction of a high-speed rail network. The land-locked nation remains a economic laggard following decades of Communist party rule and continues to suffer from a severe lack of both industry and functioning infrastructure. At present, the country is host to less than three kilometres of operating rail lines.


Bringing the project to fruition will represent a massive engineering feat. The completion of the Laos section of the line alone, from Boten on the Chinese border to the national capital of Vientiane, will entail the construction of 76 tunnels, 154 bridges and 31 train stations.


China plans to send 20,000 of its own nationals to work on the Laotian section of the line, which it hopes to see it up and running by the end of the decade.


The construction of a rail line connecting southern China to the rest of Southeast Asia has long been the dream of political leaders in the region, with British and French colonists first proposing the idea at the outset of the 20th century.


While warfare, revolution and the end of colonialism put paid to such ambitions, hopes for the project were revived last decade in October 2006, when the Kunming-Singapore Railway was included in the Trans-Asian Railway Network Agreement signed by 17 nations in Eastern and Central Asia.









Saft completes battery order for Beijing Metro

French company Saft has supplied the batteries that will provide backup power to trains on Beijing Metro’s new Line 6.


The onboard battery systems have been installed on trains built by Chinese manufacturer CNR Changchun Railway Vehicles which recently began revenue service on the new line.


Saft described the ‘multi-million euro’ order as the company’s “largest single order to date for the Asian metro sector”.


Each trainset has been equipped with two battery nickel-based batteries which will provide Line 6 trains with up to 45 minutes of backup power if disconnected from the mains supply.


Chenhui Yang, vice general engineer of CNR CRC, said: “Beijing subway Line 6, with its greater space for passengers and faster speed, is designed to ensure smoother passenger flow during rush hours.


“Reliability is absolutely crucial for every element, from the signal system to the elevators. That’s why we have specified Saft battery systems which have a proven track record for reliability and long life on China’s railways.”




Alstom wins metro contracts in Chengdu and Xi’an

Alstom and its local joint venture Shanghai Alstom Transport Electrical Equipment Co Ltd have been awarded two contracts to supply Optonix traction equipment for metro cars that are scheduled to enter service in Chengdu and Xi’an from 2015.


A €33m order placed in November will see Optonix supplied for 246 CNR Dalian cars for Xi’an metro Line 3.


A €42m order placed the following month covers 306 cars for Chengdu metro lines 3 and 4. CNR Changchun is supplying 51 six-car trainsets with stainless steel bodies, capacity for 1 460 passengers and a maximum speed of 80 km/h, at a cost of 1·36bn yuan.


Alstom says that these are the first contracts that it has won in central and western China. Optonix is designed specifically designed for the Chinese market, and includes motors and auxiliary converters. These will be manufactured locally by SATEE and supported by Alstom’s design unit in Charleroi.






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