No.471issue(2014 04 25)

Tunnels completed on new Israeli line

BOTH bores of the 4.6km Gilon tunnel on the 23km Acre – Carmiel line under construction in northern Israel have been completed.


The first bore was holed through on April 12, followed by the second bore on April 23. The two bores are connected by 18 transverse tunnels. The line's project manager, Mr Itamar Galil, says construction of the tunnels has been completed on time and to budget: the tunnels were estimated to cost $US 800m.


"Hopefully, within three years, trains will cover the 145km between Tel Aviv and Carmiel in 110 minutes," says Israel's transport minister Mr Yisreal Katz.


The Acre – Carmiel line will be one of the first two lines in Israel to be electrified, the other being the A1 direct link from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.


According to Mr Shay Baras, general manager of Israel Roads, which is responsible for building new lines, plans are being drawn up for an extension from Carmiel to Kiryat-Shemona in Upper Galilee. The extension will have a maximum speed of 160km/h.






Tehran opens metro Line 3 extension

THE SECOND phase of Tehran Metro Line 3 was inaugurated on April 22, when the city's Mayor Mr Mohammad Qalibaf officially opened the 12km extension from Vali-e Asr to Azadegan.


The Rials 20 trillion ($US 804m) extension serves the city's southwestern suburbs and will have 10 stations, although only five are currently operational.


The initial 7km section of Line 3 between Shahid Beheshti and Vali-e Asr opened in December 2012, and construction is underway on the third phase, which will extend the line 18km northeast to Hossein Abad.


The completion of the second phase of Line 3 takes the total length of the Tehran metro network to 152km with 85 stations.







Route selected for Taipei – Toucheng direct line

TAIWAN's Railway Reconstruction Bureau (RRB) announced on April 22 that it has adopted a preferred route for a direct line between Taipei and the island's East Coast.


At present Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) services from Taipei to east coast cities run northeast from the capital through New Taipei City and Rueifang, before following the Pacific coast south towards Toucheng.


Under the RRB's preferred option, the new line would run inland from the Nangang district of Taipei, passing through New Taipei City before rejoining the existing line at Shuangxi. The 53km line will require the construction of two major tunnels, one of which will be 21.6km long, making it Taiwan's longest tunnel.


The RRB says it expects the NT 50bn ($US 1.65bn) project to be completed by 2026, reducing the fastest Taipei – Yilan journey times from 1h 5min to 47min.


The RRB had also considered a second more direct alignment between Pinglin in New Taipei City and Toucheng, but the 36.3km route would pass through the water table of the Feitsui reservoir, which provides drinking water to Taipei. It would also encounter six geological faults and abandoned mine workings.






Electrification starts on Addis Ababa LRT lines

CHINA Railway Engineering Corporation has started work to electrify the 34.3km two-line light rail network under construction in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.


The electrification works include the installation of 850 masts, 143km of overhead catenary, and 18 sub-stations.


The east-west line is 17.4km long and runs from Ayat to Torhailoch, while the 16.9km north-south links Minelik Square with Kality. The two lines share a 2.7km common section between Meskel Square and Lideta. Construction started in 2012 and is now 60% complete.


CNR, China, is supplying a fleet of 41 70% low-floor LRVs to Addis Ababa. The first vehicles are due to arrive by the end of the year to allow three months of test running to start in January 2015. The lines will have a capacity of 15,000 passengers/hour/direction.


Ethiopian Railways Corporation (ERC), which is responsible for implementing the $US 475m project, plans to appoint a private operator to run the network. "We will seek for an internationally-recognised company to hire as a management contractor when we begin operations," says ERC's director general, Dr Getachew Betru. "The safety and security of our customers is our biggest priority."





CNR unveils Dalian Line 2 metro trains

THE FIRST of 20 metro trains for Dalian metro Line 2 was unveiled at the CNR Dalian Locomotive & Rolling Stock plant on April 21.


The 120m-long six-car type-B trains will accommodate up to 1844 passengers and have a maximum speed of 80km/h. Each vehicle is equipped with LED lighting, LCD information screens, and computer-controlled air-conditioning.


The trains were ordered by MTR Corporation in October 2012 as part of a contract for 38 trains, which includes 18 trains for Line 1.


The initial phase of Line 2 from Zhoushuizi International Airport to Gangwanguangchang is due to open later this year.






Tenders launched for Mashhad – Golbahar suburban line

IRAN's New Towns Development Corporation (NTDC) has issued an international invitation to prequalify for a contract to finance, design, build, and commission a 40km suburban line running northeast from Mashhad to the new city of Golbahar.


According to the tender notice most of the line will run at grade with 12 bridges and a 3.4km underground section.


The winning bidder will secure 85% of the financing required for the project through foreign banks and financial institutions, with Iran's Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran providing any necessary approvals or guarantees. The tender specifies that at least 51% of the works must be carried out by Iranian subcontractors.


NTDC says prequalification documents will be made available to prospective bidders between April 26 and May 3. The deadline for prequalification is June 21.





RegioJet to launch Slovakian open-access service


CZECH open-access passenger operator RegioJet has unveiled plans to launch its first long-distance domestic services in Slovakia, which will link the capital Bratislava with the eastern city of Košice.


Student Agency, the parent company of RegioJet said in a statement that it intends to begin operating on the route on December 14, with up to four trains a day running via Žilina.


Modern air-conditioned coaches and 160km/h locomotives equipped with ETCS will be used on the service. There will be a passenger attendant in each coach and RegioJet will offer free hot drinks, wireless internet access, and newspapers.


RegioJet says it expects to co-operate with incumbent operator Slovakian State Railways (ZSSK), and will sell through tickets for ZSSK services without charging commission.


RegioJet carried 475,562 passengers on its Prague – Ostrava – Žilina services in the first quarter of this year, a 37% increase compared with the same period in 2013, and it expects passenger numbers on the route to reach 2.1 million this year.


Lucknow Metro Rail Corporation gets deadline to issue tender for business consultant

After Metro man E Sreedharan's visit to Lucknow, the Metro rail project seems to have picked up steam. LMRC's principal advisor has set deadlines for completing different stages of the project.


Sreedharan has asked Lucknow Metro Rail Corporation to publish tenders for hiring business consultants for the project before May 20. The consultant would be responsible for preparing a business plan that makes maximum use of land available, designing metro stations according to the heritage monuments of the city and ensuring optimum utilization of land on both sides of the north-south corridor.


The business consultant is also required to prepare a transit-oriented development strategy, suggest feeder services and conduct techno-economic feasibility studies of development projects proposed along corridors.


Last month, LMRC had organized a pre-bid conference last month to attend the queries, suggestions and objections of the interested companies in preparing business plan of the project. It received encouraging response from major international companies like Ernst and Young LLP, Gurgaon, KPMG, Lucknow, Knight Frank (India) Private Ltd, Gurgaon, Jones Lang LaSalle Property Consultants (India) Private Ltd, Gurgaon, Darashaw and Company, Mumbai, Urban Mass Transit Company, New Delhi, CBRE South Asia Private Ltd, Gurgaon etc.


Though LMRC's board had approved the pre-bid document prepared by a committee headed by the chief town and country planner of the state, Sreedharan has asked for a revised document after incorporating changes suggested by companies that participated in the pre-bid conference.


LMRC managing director Rajeev Agarwal said, "We would soon release an advertisement in print. LMRC's board has to approve the final document. June 10 is the last date to receive bids from interested companies".


Agarwal added that LMRC was working on changes suggested by Sreedharan, who is also the principal advisor of corporation. Sreedharan has asked to build the first stretch of corridor from Transport Nagar to Charbagh which would give a good number of ridership.


The consultant would be selected after technical and financial evaluation of all the bids received. LMRC is also looking for new avenues of revenue generation around the project as ticket fares alone may not make the project commercially viable.







Laos, China vow to push railway project forward

Laos and China have confirmed they will push forward with the Lao-Chinese railway project while the two countries are still looking for an effective method of cooperation that serves their mutual interest.


Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang made the confirmation at the Lao-Chinese high-level bilateral meeting held on Tuesday in the Chinese city of Sanya, Hainan province.


Mr Thongsing and his delegation are on a visit to China and will attend an annual conference of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) this week.


The Lao and Chinese governments have come up with a plan to build the 421km railway, which would link Vientiane to the Laos-China border in the coming years.


Under the original plan, China was to fund 70 percent of the project, which was to kick off in 2011 and be finished by 2015. However, the project was delayed after a Chinese construction company reportedly pulled out.


At the meeting in Hainan, the two prime ministers pledged for the two sides to launch renewed negotiations on the project.


Prime Minister Li conveyed the importance of the railway project in terms of bilateral cooperation on major projects, saying that China will seek an early signing of the deal in order to lay the foundation for cooperation.


At the meeting, the two sides discussed methods of implementing the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries.


China is ranked first among investors in Laos with a total investment volume of US$6 billion, spreading across 749 projects in mining, electric power, agriculture, processing industries, and services. The trade volume between the two countries was estimated at US$2.7 billion last year.


T he Lao side also suggested that China should expand its investment in hydro and lignite power plants as well as provide loans for irrigation development in the central provinces in order to ensure food security in Laos.


They also announced they were willing to cooperate in the field of technology with the Lao side, proposing Chinese cooperation on Internet piracy regulation and in the E-government sector. They will also upgrade security measures along the Mekong River and fight against all forms of transnational crimes.


The Lao side proposed that China expand the provision of scholarships to students from Laos.


The two prime ministers also witnessed the signing of exchange notes on Chinese assistance in implementing the project on automatic banking payment systems.







General Electric “in talks” to purchase Alstom

GENERAL Electric (GE) is reportedly in negotiations with Alstom over a $US 13bn takeover of the French company, and is said to have the support of Alstom's majority shareholder Bouygues, which holds a 29% stake.


According to Bloomberg, which cites unnamed sources close the deal, GE and Alstom have already held talks with the French government about the proposed takeover to preemptively discuss potential political concerns. The sources state that an agreement could be announced as early as next week.


Alstom responded to the rumours, which have been widely reported since the story broke on Wednesday night, by issuing a statement on its website declaring that it has "not [been] informed of any potential public tender offer for the shares of the company." It added that it plans to communicate its annual results on May 7 "as planned" and that it will "use this opportunity to give an update on the prospects of its activities."


GE has refused to comment publically on the reports.


Shares in Alstom jumped by as much as 18% in Paris trading on Thursday, the company's single biggest increase since 2004, before falling back slightly.


Alstom's value has fallen by about 30% during the year up to March over concerns about its cashflow, while in its nine-month results in January the company said its profits had fallen by 12% following a drop in demand for power plants. In November the company said it would sell a stake in its Transport division as well as other assets worth up to €3bn by the end of 2014 and shed 1300 jobs.


GE's railway business would benefit from access to Alstom's passenger train and railway signalling technology. It could potentially tap into $US 57bn in cash reserves held outside of the United States to finance the deal, with a potential $US 13bn offer around 25% above Alstom's current market value.






Shanghai set to increase security in metro system

Shanghai will ramp up security and tighten safety checks in the city's metro system, and anyone who refuses to undergo a security check or creates a public disturbance may face criminal detention.


Shanghai public security authorities recently made it clear that refusing security checks at the city's metro network or disturbing public order is a crime, and violators will be punished according to the public management law.


In the past, only those who carried forbidden objects on the subway were punished.


"We will have stricter security checks at the metro stations, and this is very important and necessary for ensuring the safety and the stable operation of metro transportation," said Song Youguo, deputy head of the Shanghai metro police.


In the first four months of the year, Shanghai's metro police have found 165,000 firecrackers, 350 liters of paint, 1,900 use-controlled knives and 88 replica guns during routine security checks at metro stations.


In order to ensure public security, all large bags and luggage must go through an electronic security scanner, while smaller bags will be checked based on the subway staff's judgment, Shanghai public security authorities said.


"Metro security staff will make the judgment and decide which bags should go through the checks. People who refuse to comply with the security checks or behave violently against staff will face punishment, including criminal detention," Song said.


Shanghai authorities also released a more-detailed list of forbidden objects, with flammable items such as phosphorus now included.


Police said the number of crimes on the subway — including obstructing public order, assaulting metro staff and carrying forbidden objects — continues to rise. This year, 10 people have been charged with such offenses, and one of them was detained.


On March 19, a 46-year-old man surnamed Tang was detained after trying to ride the subway with two kitchen knives in his backpack. During the police investigation, the man admitted that he had planned to kill his ex-girlfriend.


In addition to the security checks before entering the underground network, metro police have also carried out security checks and checked the identities of passengers at some key stations during peak times. Official said such checks will become common.


Police also said they will have security checks in the subway carriages.


Shanghai has 14 metro lines with 538 km of track and 329 metro stations. The daily number of passengers is 7,500,000, and on April 4 even reached 9,110,000.


"Security checks do work when it comes to ensuring public safety, though it may cost passengers some time," said a man surnamed Liu.


"I hope the security checks are beneficial. Sometimes, I see some passengers carrying obviously restricted items on the train, so I think the metro staff failed to do their job."


Shanghai metro police said they will help metro staff improve their work and will keep a close eye on them. Employees who fail to do their duties will face dismissal.


This year, 17 subway employees have been dismissed for neglecting their duties, officials said.









Vietnam metro rail project under scanner over $339mn cost overrun

A metro rail project in Hanoi has come under scrutiny after its Chinese contractor reported last year that construction would probably cost over 61 percent higher than initially estimated.


The Cat Linh – Ha Dong rapid transit railway project was originally expected to require an investment of US$552 million, according to its management board. China would contribute $419 million of the sum via ODA loans, while Vietnam would cover the remaining $133 million.


The Vietnam Railway Authority is the project’s investor while China Railway 6th Bureau Group Co Ltd has been assigned to be its EPC contractor.


Under an EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) contract, the contractor designs the installation, procures the necessary materials, and develops the project, either directly or by subcontracting part of the work.


The subcontractors of the project are Vietnamese firms that were selected by the Chinese contractor and approved by the investor Vietnam Railway Authority, the project management board said.


On December 23, China Railway 6th Bureau Group Co Ltd submitted a document to the Vietnamese Ministry of Transport, asking to adjust the investment estimates for the project.


The Chinese contractor said the development would need $891 million, or a $339 million overrun from the already approved estimates, according to the transport ministry.


Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai ordered in a directive released last week that the transport ministry and the Hanoi People’s Committee look into the case and determine the organizations and individuals that should be held responsible for the 61.4 percent cost overrun.


Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyen Hong Truong told Tuoi Tre on Monday that the proposed extra cost will be funded by additional ODA loans from the Chinese side.


As for the request to name those responsible for the cost overrun, Truong said the transport ministry is reviewing the case and will release an official answer once the situation is settled.


Troubled site clearance task The Cat Linh – Ha Dong project aims at building 13km of elevated railways that enable trains to travel at speeds ranging from 35km per hour to 80km per hour. The whole journey from Cat Linh to Ha Dong stations is expected to take 24 minutes.


There will be 12 overhead stations and a fleet of 13 trains, each having four cars collectively capable of carrying 1,200 passengers a time. The trains will be designed to come every two minutes and be able to transport 1.02 million passengers a day.


The project was scheduled to get started in November 2008 and reach completion five years later, but it only broke ground in the capital city in October 2011.


It was then due for completion in June next year, but only if the site clearance task was finished last year, a condition that was eventually not fulfilled.


Site clearance has not been completed since the ground-breaking ceremony two years ago, according to the project management board.


The area where 2.8km of the elevated railways will be erected is still not cleared as the contractor faces difficulty in relocating houses, power lines, water pipes and even a cemetery, the board said.


This is estimated to cost the investor an expense overrun of $25.06 million.


In its document to the Vietnamese Ministry of Transport, the Chinese contractor attributed the largest overrun to the construction expense. While the initial cost of this category was approved at $223.67 million, China Railway 6th Bureau Group Co Ltd wanted to increase it to $444.44 million, or a massive $220.77 million disparity.


It suggested hiking the costs to buy equipment and machinery, and pay taxes and fees by $21.24 million and $46.56 million, respectively. The remaining $26.66 million includes train purchases, provision expenses, and other expenditures.


The Chinese firm also proposed lowering the fees for project management and consultancy to $37.27 million from $38.48 million.




China-Europe railway relaunches

A freight train on Wednesday began a journey from central China's key city of Wuhan to Poland's Lodz, restarting the Wuhan-Xijiang-Europe rail route after it was suspended for technical reasons.


Its 15-day journey will pass along the Silk Road economic belt through major cities in central and northwest China, Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus before arriving in the destination.


The rail trip is about one month quicker than the maritime alternative, and costs a fifth as much as air freight, according to the Wuhan Transport Committee.


"It will greatly improve the competitiveness of exports made in Wuhan and nearby regions," said Yu Shiping, director of the committee. He predicted that it will contribute to the realization of the Silk Road economic belt, the regional trade infrastructure proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping.


The train is loaded with 41 40-foot containers holding goods valued at more than 12 million U.S. dollars.


Most of them are products made by Hon Hai/Foxconn, the world's largest electronics contract manufacturer, which assembles products for Apple, Sony and Nokia in its plant in Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province.


Although railway transport is costly compared to maritime transport, it is a superior option bearing in mind how wildly electronic products prices fluctuate. They are more sensitive to the time-cost in transportation, according to the Foxconn plant in Wuhan.


In a month, the export value of one consignment of electronic products might devalue by about two percent, about several tens of thousands of dollars.


"The rail channel serves as a new logistic channel for Foxconn and other export-oriented enterprises. It also enhances the attractiveness of Wuhan to international companies and logistics giants," said Yu.


Wuhan is the largest city in central China and among the top 10 megacities nationwide. It has long been an economic, industrial and transportation hub for both the region and the country.


Wuhan and Hubei Province have both witnessed surging trade with Central Asian and European countries.


It will be much easier to bring in from Europe high-value-added products such as the mechanical and electronic equipment, entire vehicles and parts, as well as medical facilities, said Yu.


The Wuhan-Xijiang-Europe railway opened in October 2012, but it was later suspended due to problems with customs clearance and costs. In Oct. 2013, Wuhan set up a railway port with customs clearance functions.


"The complicated clearance procedures were finally resolved. Export enterprises can declare their goods in the railway port. It greatly reduces their logistics costs and risks," said Xia Huanyun, deputy director with the Wuhan Transport Committee.


As the starting point of the rail route, Wuhan has the irreplaceable advantages of being a shipping center on the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, one of the country's four railway terminals and a regional aviation hub.


"The international railway is expected to promote the industrial upgrade and strengthen the regional division of labor, as well as boost economic exchange along the way," said Song Ze, researcher with the Finance and Trade Economy Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.


More wisdom and cooperation is called for to create a unified market and strengthen the economic and trade links alongside the operation of the new international railway, said Song.






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