No.465issue(2014 03 14)

Nigeria funds Abuja commuter rail project

THE Nigerian government has allocated $US 60m to the $US 823m project currently underway to build the first phase of the Abuja Rail Mass Transit Project, a 45km standard-gauge commuter rail line being built by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).


Federal Capital Territory minister Mr Bala Mohammed says the funds will come from this year's fuel subsidy savings kitty known as the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (Sure-P). Nigeria is providing $US 323m counterpart funding for phase one, after China's Exim Bank advanced a $US 500m loan.


CCECC was initially scheduled to complete phase one in 36 months and have it commissioned by 2015, but the project is estimated to be only 25% complete because of funding delays and the deadline is likely to be missed.


Further phases are planned to extend the commuter rail network and when fully complete the Abuja Rail Mass Transit system is expected to carry around 2 million commuters per day.






Škoda wins Suzhou metro train traction contract

ŠKODA Kingway Electric, a joint venture of Škoda and Jiangsu Kingway Transportation, China, has secured a contract to supply drives and motors for 40 six-car metro trains being supplied by CSR Nanjing Puzhen to the Chinese city of Suzhou.


The trains will be used on the 41.5km north-south Line 4 which is due to partially open next year, with complete delivery of the 40 vehicles set to take place by 2016. The contract for traction equipment is worth more than $US 55.8m, with the equipment set to be supplied from the companies' factory in Suzhou which opened in 2010.


Line 4 will be Suzhou's third metro line following the 25.7km east-west Line 1, which opened in April 2012, and the 26.5km north-south Line 2, which opened on December 28 2013.


CSR Sifang Quingdao recently launched the prototype 15T For City LRV which it is building under a 10-year license from Škoda to sell in the domestic Chinese market.







Indian government approves Kolar coach factory

IN one of its final major decisions before the country's general elections, which are scheduled for next month, India's cabinet last week approved plans for a Rs 14.6bn ($US 240.7m) coach factory at Kolar in the southern state of Karnataka.


The plant – a 50:50 joint venture project between Indian Railways (IR) and the state of Karnataka – will have capacity to build 500 coaches per year.


The decision to set up the facility at Kolar comes just a few months after the announcement of plans to set up another coach factory at Palaghat in the state of Kerala, and is part of IR's plans to modernise its coach by the end of the current five-year planning period in 2016-17.


IR has a fleet of around 52,000 coaches and aims to manufacture an additional 43,968 vehicles by 2020.


The so-called Linke-Hoffman Busch (LHB) coaches favoured by IR are mainly manufactured at the Kapurthala-based Rail Coach Factory (RCF), but other production units including the Integrated Coach Factory (ICF) at Chennai have started to migrate to LHB technology.


The ICF manufactured 50 LHB coaches in 2012-13, but has set for itself a target to manufacture 300 LHB coaches in 2014-15 and 1000 coaches in 2016-17.


LHB production capacity at RCF is expected to increase from 750 vehicles per year to 1200 in 2014-15 and 1500 in 2016-17. Overall, 4000 LHB coaches will be manufactured annually by the railway production units.


IR acquired the LHB technology through two separate agreements with Alstom LHB in 1995 – one for the supply of 24 EOG coaches; the other for the transfer of technology for their production at RCF.


Other EOG variants of the LHB design coaches have since been developed.






FCC consortium to build section of Doha metro

QATAR Railways, which is responsible for the construction of Doha's 354km four-line metro, has awarded a €506m contract to a consortium led by FCC, Spain, to build a section of the Red Line.


The FCC consortium, whose members comprise Archirodon, Greece, Yüksel, Turkey, and Petroserv, Qatar, will build a 7km elevated section with three stations at the southern end of the line. Construction is expected to take 31 months.


A group led by Impregilo, Italy, won a contract last year to construct a 13km underground section of the Red Line.





China to build Sri Lankan railway extension

THE government of Sri Lanka has selected a Chinese contractor to build the 88km extension of the Colombo – Matara – Beliatta line to Kataragama in the south of country.


According to a report in national newspaper The Sunday Times on March 9, which quotes transport minister Mr Kumara Welgama, the Rs 7.7bn ($US 590m) contract will be awarded to China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation (CNMIEC), and the project will be financed through a loan from China's Export-Import Bank.


CNMIEC is already building the initial 26.8km section of the line between Matara and Beliatta, which is also being financed by China.


Another section of Sri Lanka's war-ravaged northern railway was reopened on March 4. The 27.5km Kilinochi – Pallai line has been reconstructed with financial aid from the Indian government.






WiFi rolls out on the Moscow Metro

THE first three lines of the 12-line Moscow Metro are now equipped with free-to-use WiFi, and the entire 325.5km 194 station network should be fully fitted by September.


Maxima Telecom, Russia, was awarded a contract last year to deploy and operate the WiFi system with Radwin, Israel, providing its Fiber-in-Motion track-to-train wireless broadband communications system. So far, more than 80 trains have been fitted, and work on a fourth line is underway.


Mr Nir Hayzler, Radwin's vice-president, marketing, explained that Radwin's system has base stations up to 1km apart underground which often means they can be installed in stations rather than tunnels, which makes installation much simpler. Coverage on the surface is much greater, being in the 3-5km range.


Hayzler also says that Radwin is able to guarantee throughput to trains of up to 90Mbps which makes it possible to run multiple applications such as high-speed internet access, CCTV transmission in real time, passenger information, and communications-based train control (CBTC). The system will also be able to provide paid advertising content to passengers thereby generating a source of income.





Congo DR to get Chinese locomotives


CONGO National Railways (SNCC) has awarded a contract to China CNR Corportation for the supply of 18 diesel-electric locomotives.


The Bank of Congo and a Chinese export consortium were also signatories to the contract which forms part of a World Bank-backed multi-modal transport project launched in 2010 to restore SNCC's financial and operational viability following the ravages of the country's civil war. SNCC operates the 3516km 1067mm-gauge network in the southeast of the Congo Democratic Republic which is part of Southern Africa's Cape-gauge network.


In the meantime, RRL Grindrod, South Africa, has leased a mixture of former Australian and South African diesel and electric refurbished locomotives to SNCC.


D&S Rail wins Dubai Airport passenger project worth AED35m

Drake & Scull Rail, an internationally recognized subsidiary of Drake & Scull International PJSC (DSI), a regional market leader in the integrated design, engineering and construction disciplines of general contracting, mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP), water and power, rail and oil and gas, has announced that it has won a contract worth AED 35 million for a new airport passenger movement system at the Dubai International Airport ; the first rail project for Drake & Scull Rail in the Middle East.


The Dubai Civil Aviation Authority has commissioned the construction of Concourse 4 at the Dubai International Airport which will be connected to Terminal 1 via an automated passenger mover system (APM). Drake & Scull Rail will provide complete MEP works and Railway services within the areas associated with the APM locations. The scope of work includes the production and submission of shop/fabrication drawings, supply and installation of MEP services throughout the APM-associated locations, and provision of railway-specific services such as signals, traction power, maintenance of area power, compressed air and communication systems as well as minor construction works. ALEC (Al Jaber LEGT Engineering & Contracting), is the main contractor for development of the Concourse 4 at the Dubai International Airport while Bombardier Transportation Holdings USA Inc, is the prime entity responsible for rolling stock and rail technologies at the airport. Bombardier will also develop the monorail system that will transport passengers between the newly constructed Concourse 4 and Terminal 1.


Darko Macura, Operations Director, Drake & Scull Rail, said: "We are delighted to secure our first Rail project in the Middle East, and are excited and proud to be a part of the prestigious Dubai International Airport project that combines airport and railway infrastructure. Our state-of-the-art solutions, resources and vast experience with prior rail projects will help us to successfully implement this project. We are happy to continue the rich history of DSI's Rail projects from Europe and Asia in the Middle East and we hope to pick up more work in the region. Our work on important projects like the Jubilee Line Extension, St Pancras Station Redevelopment, Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) line and the Hong Kong Metro speaks for itself, and we offer the same capabilities and resources to the MENA region."


"We are very optimistic about the outlook for the Rail industry as we've seen tremendous activity in this sector in the last two years. In the last year, more than $30 billion worth of rail construction contracts have been awarded, from metro projects in Saudi Arabia to tram systems in Algeria.We are partnering with the world's leading railways experts and we would like to offer our integrated end to end engineering services to major projects including metro rails in Riyadh, Jeddah, Mecca, Medina, Dammam and Doha and Etihad Rail (UAE). Kuwait and Oman are other promising prospects for Drake & Scull Rail, and of course, India remains one of the biggest Rail markets in Asia and we are actively pursuing opportunities over there," Darko noted.


Drake & Scull Rail offers complete EPC solutions for all systems and services for stations, depots and tunnels, catering to industry, governmental and railroad clients in MENA and South Asia.







SMRT ranked among better rail operators in international standards

Transport operator SMRT is ranked consistently among the better operators in the world in terms of international benchmarking of standards.


This is according to the 2012 data of global metros by CoMET Nova Benchmarking Group that comprises leading metro operators from about 30 cities in Asia, Europe and America.


SMRT ranked 10 out of 29 in terms of incidents causing more-than-five-minute delays per million car km travelled.


But SMRT conceded that it can certainly improve to be among the best.


SMRT said over the past two years, efforts to enhance its capacity and renew its systems are showing encouraging results.


There was a steady decline in the number of incidents causing delays of more than five minutes since January 2012, measured in terms of absolute numbers and the number of incidents per 100,000km.


In 2011 and 2012, there was an average of about four incidents every five days.


In 2013, the figure dropped to an average of about three incidents every five days.


For more serious delays lasting more than 30 minutes, there were seven incidents in 2011, three in 2012, and four in 2013.


SMRT said the number of trains withdrawn from service on the North-South-East-West Line (NSEWL) during operation hours as a result of technical faults has also decreased.


In 2012, there was an average of 1.62 withdrawals a day.


In 2013, the average dropped to 1.09 withdrawals a day.


Train withdrawals rates decreased by 32 per cent in 2013 from 3.32 per 100,000km in 2012 to 2.24 per 100,000km in 2013.


SMRT said its target is to reduce the withdrawal rate in 2014 to 1.8 per 100,000km through a range of preventive maintenance measures.


For example, SMRT has upgraded the train propulsion software to reduce power faults, replaced power supply units for the train propulsion system, and installed electronic noise filters to improve the reliability of the signalling system.


SMRT is now in the process of refurbishing a number of components in propulsion, brakes, pneumatic and aircon systems.


It also plans to conduct a mid-life upgrade on its fleet of Siemens trains.


SMRT has intensified works to replace 188,000 timber sleepers to concrete ones across the NSEWL by 2016 instead of 2019.


SMRT added that it will soon start works to replace the third-rail system that provides the power to the train system.


SMRT added it is strengthening its rail engineering capability.


It is enhancing the way it manages critical rail infrastructure, assets and equipment that affect the safety and reliability of train services.


SMRT will put in place systems and processes that will allow it to predict systemic failure in a more accurate and timely way.


SMRT said it has begun using new sensor technology to collect data on track and train systems with some success.


For example, the use of Linear Variable Differential Transformer sensors on the collector shoes has enabled SMRT to detect and rectify some third-rail problems.


SMRT will also be hiring more engineers and technicians over the next few years to support the 2030 Land Transport Master Plan.







Court Derails China's Plans to Help Build Railroad in Thailand

An agreement that would have seen Chinese companies build high-speed railroads in Thailand is in trouble after a Thai court dealt a blow to a government plan to fund infrastructure projects.


Thailand's Constitutional Court ruled on March 12 that the US$ 62 billion plan proposed by the government of embattled Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra violated the constitution. The planned projects included high-speed railroads, highways and mass-transit projects in the Thai capital, Bangkok.


Yingluck, the sister of ousted PM Thaksin Shinawatra, has faced street protests since November that have at times been violent.


The court's ruling dims the outlook for the "railroad for rice" partnership between China and the Southeast Asian country. In October, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding in which China said it would seek to participate in a high-speed railroad project linking the northeastern Thai city of Nong Khai to Phachi, a district of Ayutthaya Province, which just north of Bangkok.


Some of Thailand's payments for the projects would have come in the form of agricultural products like rice.


An executive at China CNR Corp., one of the country's major makers of high-speed trains, told Caixin that it will be difficult for the cooperation to move forward.


CSR Corp. Ltd. declined to comment, but a source at the firm said CSR would continue to push the partnership forward. The company has been working to set up a center in Thailand to engage in research and development, testing and training. It will open soon, the source said.


Hopes for Sino-Thai cooperation on a high-speed railroad soared after Premier Li Keqiang visited Thailand and pledged closer cooperation on October 12.


Three days later, Thailand's transport minister, Chadchat Sittipunt, said the countries had signed a MOU on high-speed railroad construction in exchange for agricultural products. The details of the partnership were subject to further discussion, he said.


Southeast Asia is the main market for China's exports of rail equipment, but deals have also been signed with partners in Central Asia, South America, Australia and Africa. Exports include locomotives, cargo and passenger cars and parts. However, none of China's train makers has exported an entire high-speed train to another country.






Longest rail tunnel in China’s Xinjiang region completed

The longest railway tunnel in China’s northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has been completed.


Spanning 22.449 km, the left part of the Zhongtianshan Tunnel was finished on Friday morning, making the tunnel the longest of its kind in Xinjiang and the third-longest in China, according to the Urumqi Railway Bureau (URB).


Undertaken by the URB and the China Railway 18 Bureau Group Co. Ltd, the tunnel took about seven years to build. Its right section, 22.467 km in length, was finished in September 2013.


The tunnel is part of Nanjiang Railway’s second trunk that links Turpan with Korla in southern Xinjiang. The 333.864 km-long line, expected to begin operation at the end of the year, will slash train journeys by 122 km, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.









China’s rail network nears Indian border

China is extending the world's highest Qinghai-Tibet railway line to Panchen Lama hometown of Xigaze as well as taking it closer to the Indian border.


Observers said Chinese authorities are trying to kill two birds with one stone to meet both political and military goals with the move. It is expected to bring more tourists to the China-backed Panchen Lama's hometown in Tibet and enhance his world image.


China has desperately been preparing for 24-year to counter the Dalai Lama, whom Chinese officials describe as "wolf in lamb's clothing".




Kyrgyz president plays risky game with rail bargains

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev recently radically changed his viewpoint on the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway construction project. At a recent press conference, he said that this project doesn't meet the national interests of Kyrgyzstan.


For many observers, the Kyrgyz president's statement was a surprise. But Atambayev, by using the strategically important railroad, is striving to achieve several objectives in his foreign and domestic policy.


Atambayev's recent foreign policy maneuvers show that he is gradually returning to the model that was used by former Kyrgyz presidents Askar Akayev and Kurmanbek Bakiyev. The essence of this is to use geopolitical competition around Kyrgyzstan among the leading external forces to maximize its economic, financial and political dividends.


Previously, one bargaining chip was a US military base in Manas airport, which was considered by Moscow a threat to its geopolitical influence in Central Asia. In turn, the US wanted to keep this base, which was a key element of its strategy in the internal regions of Eurasia, including Afghanistan.


Seeing Russia's fears and US geopolitical ambitions, Bishkek played poker, constantly raising the stakes.


It is quite likely that Atambayev intends to create a few more long-term objects for bargaining and the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway project is one of them. He barely hides this.


At the press conference, he said that he had suggested Chinese President Xi Jinping a new version of the railway. In particular, he offered to change its route to connect to the northern and southern parts of Kyrgyzstan. No doubt this will significantly increase the cost of the project, especially for China, because Kyrgyzstan cannot fund such expensive projects itself.


At the same time Atambayev is trying to utilize the fears of Moscow, which doesn't want to see the further expansion of Chinese influence in the Central Asian transport sector. According to the Russian news portal Regnum, Atambayev has said that on the issue of the new railway Kyrgyzstan will have to choose between Russia and China.


The Kyrgyz president has also hinted at favoring the Russia-Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan railroad project. Atambayev offered this project himself at the summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, held in Bishkek in May 2013. Moscow supported his idea.


However, now the Kyrgyz president is trying to use this project to exert pressure on Russia, and his actions theoretically may provoke geopolitical tension between Beijing and Moscow.


By pressing on Russia, Atambayev may want to get concessions on joining the Customs Union - the economic integration project under the aegis of Moscow.


Earlier Bishkek rejected the roadmap for joining the Customs Union that was offered by Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. The members of the Customs Union insist on stopping re-export flows through the territory of Kyrgyzstan.


However, Kyrgyz officials fear that these measures could trigger social instability. According to Kyrgyz estimates, almost 80 percent of local businesses resell goods produced in third countries. The average re-export volume reaches $10 billion per annum.


Thus, attempting to provoke a geopolitical competition in a railway sector for deriving economic benefits involves the president in a very complicated game. Similar strategies from former leaders Askar Akayev and Kurmanbek Bakiyev led to their political collapse.


Having changed his position on the railroad project, Atambayev also seeks to ease pressure from the domestic opposition, which accuses authorities of intention to sell the national resources in exchange for foreign loans.


Now Atambayev wants to demonstrate that he has taken into account the critique of his opponents and is considering the national future of the country.


Nevertheless, this step may have a short-term effect. If Atambayev doesn't improve fundamentally the internal economic situation in the foreseeable future, he will face a new wave of instability.


If Atambayev really wants to restore the national economy, he will have to attract multi-billion dollar investments from other countries to revitalize the Kyrgyz economy, but doing this on a foundation of risky geopolitical games is hardly possible. The big money likes stability and predictability, not chaos and change.






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