No.477issue(2014 06 06)

Test running starts on Urumqi – Shanshan HS line

TEST operation began on the first section of high-speed line in China's Xinjiang Uygar Autonomous Region on June 4 with the start of trials on the 300km Urumqi – Shanshan section of the Urumqi – Lanzhou high-speed line.


Initial tests have been carried out using a CRH2C train operating at speeds of between 160 and 277km/h. The line has a design speed of 250km/h.


The 1776km Urumqi – Lanzhou high-speed line is due to open at the end of this year and will reduce the journey time between the two cities from around 21 hours to eight hours.


The 31 station line crosses the Gobi desert and reaches a summit of 3607m above sea level in the Qilianshan No. 2 Tunnel, which was successfully bored through last month. To protect the line from high desert winds, 462km of screening has been installed along the route.






Government offers Taiwan High Speed rescue plan

TAIWAN's Ministry of Transportation and Communications has proposed a radical financial restructuring of Taiwan High Speed Railway Corporation (THSRC) which it says will help the company overcome its continuing struggle with debt and avoid bankruptcy.


Mr Yeh Kuang-shih, Taiwan's minister of transportation and communications, proposes first reducing THSRC's capital by at least 60% through a preferred stock redemption and after the capital reduction is completed requiring the company to raise $NT 30bn ($US 991.1m) in capital.


Yeh told a Transportation Committee meeting on May 29 that the company will be mired in debt for the next five years and could face bankruptcy if serious steps are not taken. He also proposes extending the operator's concession from 35 up to 75 years and says that a comprehensive financial restructuring plan will be presented by the end of next month.


"We have examined cases from around the world and have found that 35 years might be too short," Yeh says.


THSRC reported a gross profit of $NT 12.34bn in 2013 following record operating revenues of $NT 36.1bn, a 6.24% increased compared with $NT 33.98bn reported in 2012.


However, Yeh says even with factoring in expected 6.2% annual revenue growth, the company will not be able to sustain its operations under its current financial structure. He says that THSRC will have to generate annual revenues of $NT 40-75bn to cover the costs of amortisation, repay loans, and finance construction of new stations in Miaoli, Yunlin, Changwa, and Nangang.


THSRC is already coming under pressure from investors to redeem the cost of their stakes or meet interest payments. The company issued preferred shares valued at $NT 40.2bn during construction of the high-speed line, primarily to banks. But with two stakeholders already winning cases against THSRC to recover costs, the government fears other investors may follow suit


Yeh says following completion of the procedure THSRC's initial investors will be banned from investing further in the company but that the government would be open to investments from company's wholly or partially owned by the government. The government would also control the seats on THSRC's board.


THSRC chairman Mr Tony Fan says the company aims to raise $NT 50.5bn to buy back its preferred shares and pay dividends in order to settle its accounts with the banks.







Fokstrot LRVs enter service in Moscow

THE first of a fleet of 120 1524mm-gauge LRVs ordered by Moscow tram operator Mosgortrans from a joint venture of Pesa, Poland, and Uraltransmash, Russia, entered trial passenger operation in the Russian capital on June 1.


The 26m-long three-section Fokstrot accommodates up to 160 passengers, 60 of them seated, and is capable of operating in temperatures as low as -40°C.


The first two vehicles have been introduced on Line 6, one of the busiest tram lines in Moscow, which carries around 45,000 passengers per day.


"We are now embarking on the final stage of testing of the new trams," says Mosgortrans CEO Mr Yevgeny Mikhailov. "Testing has shown that the tram is safe and ready to operate in a real urban environment with passengers onboard."


Pesa has so far delivered four of the LRVs and Mosgortrans says it expects to receive 70 vehicles by the end of this year, with the remaining 50 units due for delivery next year.


The Fokstrots are being assembled by Pesa at its Bydgoszcz plant in Poland.






Chile and Argentina discuss Northern Transandine revival

THE Chilean embassy in Argentina and the government of the Argentinean province of Salta hosted a symposium for senior diplomats, politicians, and industrialists in Salta on May 29 with the aim of kickstarting the revival of the Northern Transandine railway.


The line between Salta and Antofagasta in Chile was completed in 1948 and with a summit at 4474m above sea level it was the highest international railway in the world. However traffic never reached expectations and since 2006 the only regular services have been domestic freight traffic on the Chilean section and the weekly Tren a las Nubes tourist train on the Argentinean side.


The line passes through terrain rich in mineral resources, such as lead, copper and lithium, which remain largely untapped, in part due to a lack of adequate transport links. A restored Northern Transandine would do much to fill this void, by carrying the products of existing and potential mines down to the Pacific coast ports of Antofagasta and Mejillones, for export to Asia.


The Chilean section of the line is privately owned by Antofagasta Railway (FCAB) and Ferronor, while the Argentine stretch is in the hands of state-owned Belgrano Cargas.


A bilateral agreement was signed on the reactivation of the route in October 2012, but the project has made little further progress.





Trial operation starts on Ningbo metro

NINGBO became the 20th Chinese city to operate a metro network on May 30, when trial operation began on the initial 20.9km phase of Line 1 from Gaoqiao West to Donghuan South Road.


Construction began in 2009 on the 20-station line, and the 23.3km second phase, which will extend the line to Xiapu in Beilun district, is scheduled to open next year.


CSR Zhuzhou, China, has supplied a fleet of 22 type B metro trains for the first phase of Line 1, and an additional 18 trains will be delivered in time for the opening of phase 2.


Construction is also nearing completion on the 28.5km section of Line 2 between Zhenhai and Ningbo International Airport. The 21-station line is due to be commissioned at the end of next year.


Ningbo's urban rapid transit plan envisages the completion of a five-line network totalling 221km by 2020 and in the longer-term two further lines are proposed.






Chinese group to take over Valdunes

CHINESE industrial group MA Steel's bid for French wheelset manufacturer Valdunes has been selected by the Commercial Court of Valenciennes, paving the way for a complete takeover of the group's activities, and the creation of a new company, MG-Valdunes.


MA Steel's offer includes the takeover of Valdunes' assets, including its production sites at Trith-Saint-Léger in Valenciennes, and Leffrinckoucke in Dunkirk. The new company will retain Valdunes' 487 existing employees, and MG-Valdunes says it will provide the necessary investment required to modernise the company's industrial assets and to offer long-term sustainability for both its activities and sites.


MA Steel has also expressed its intention to create a worldwide rail products research and development centre within MG-Valdunes.


Valdunes was placed into receivership on April 3 in an effort to invite bids for the company by June, and CEO Mr Jérôme Duchange, describes the solution as an "excellent opportunity."


"Not only will it maintain Valdunes' activity and employment, it will also create conditions for its recovery and future development," he says.





Brazil to tender open-access railway concession


BRAZIL's minister of transport Mr Cesar Borges has announced that tender documents will be issued in August for the PPP concession to build and maintain the 901km line from Lucas do Rio Verde, in Mato Grosso state to Campinorte in Goiás, which will be operated on an open-access basis.


The government says Brazil's federal railway engineering and construction company Valec will be responsible for allocating capacity on the Reais 4.6bn ($US 2.1bn) railway.


Earlier this month Mr Luciano Coutinho, president of Brazil's National Development Bank (BNDES) travelled to China in a bid to attract Chinese financial institutions to invest in Brazilian railway concessions. However, prospective investors in Brazil are calling on the government to clarify the structure of the proposed concessions.


China Hefei and Hangzhou order metro trains

Hefei Urban Rail Transit Co has awarded rolling stock supplier Nanjing SR Puzhen Rail Transport Co a 0·9bn yuan contract to deliver trainsets for Phases 1 and 2 of its Line 1 project in 2015-16.


Hangzhou Metro Group has awarded NPRT a 1·1bn yuan contract to supply trainsets for Line 4 Phase 1 in 2014-17.


‘The latest orders bring the total value of contracts announced by NPRT so far this year to over 4·5bn yuan’, said Patrick Chew, CEO of Midas Holdings which owns a 32·5% stake in NPRT. ‘Having achieved such a strong head start, we are optimistic that NPRT will continue to capture new opportunities and contribute further to our profitability going forward.’







Chinese firm MA Steel acquires Valdunes

The Commercial Court in Valenciennes has approved a bid by Chinese steel and railway wheel supplier MA Steel to take over the activities of wheelset manufacturer Valdunes, which had entered receivership in April.


The deal includes the Valdunes plant in Dunkerque, which has the only dedicated wheel forge in France, and the Valenciennes wheelset finishing facility. The takeover will enable the retention of 487 employees.


A new company has been formed, MG Valdunes, which is to implement an investment and modernisation plan and established a global rail products research and development centre. MA Steel has with an 80% share of the Chinese wheel market and said the deal would enable MG Valdunes to access the Chinese repair and high speed rolling stock wheel market, and offer a wider range of wheels for the metro and tram sectors. MG Valdunes will take over MA Steel’s current exports to Europe, which amount to around 10 000 wheels/year.


The MS Steel group has 41 220 employees, with subsidiaries in Hong Kong, Australia and Germany and revenue of €9bn in 2012.







Evraz ships its first 100 m rails

Rail manufacturer Evraz ZSMK announced on June 2 that it had dispatched its first batch of 100 m long head-hardened rails for Russian Railways.


This follows the completion of an 18bn rouble modernisation of its rail and beam mill which began in 2009. The upgrade has increased the plant’s output capacity to 950 000 tonnes of rail per year, including 450 000 tonnes of long rails. The company received its certification to supply head-hardened rail in November 2013.


The first batch of 100 m long head-hardened R65 DT-350 rails has been supplied to RZD for use on the October Railway main line between Moscow and St Petersburg. RZD specifies long rails for speeds above 160 km/h, but had to use imported rails when upgrading this route for 250 km/h Sapsan services. Evraz says that it is the only manufacturer in Russia and the CIS, and only the third in the world, which can supply long lengths of head-hardened rail.


‘This is another high technology product added to our portfolio that complies with advanced quality standards. Not only will it help us reinforce our home market position, but it will enable us to find new export opportunities’, said Ilya Shirokobrod, Evraz Vice-President and Head of the Railway Products Division.


He added that Evraz expects to achieve certification by the end of this year for its DT350CC rails, which have been developed for use on high speed lines with speeds up to 350 or 400 km/h. ‘To this end, the rails have successfully passed the laboratory tests, and a pilot delivery of these rails has already been made’ to the All-Russian Railway Research Institute’s test centre at Shcherbinka for in-track trials.






DB International to open Indian office

DB International is to open an office in Bangalore following its appointment as quality and safety consultant for the Kochi metro.


‘This initiative has strategic significance in light of the continuing process of globalisation and the rising prominence of the Indian market’, said DB International Chairman Niko Warbanoff, adding ‘we are confident that we can lend our support to India with our expertise in all areas of rail transport’.


Kochi is building a 25 km elevated metro line with 22 stations, which will be electrified using a 750 V DC third-rail power supply. The Rs51·7bn cost will partly be met through a €180m long-term loan agreement signed with Agence Française de Développement in February.


According to DB International, India is expected to invest up to €200bn over the next decade to expand and upgrade its rail infrastructure, including conventional, high speed and urban rail projects.









Singapore orders driverless trains for combined line

Land Transport Authority has ordered 91 four-car driverless trainsets from a consortium of Kawasaki Heavy Industries and CSR Qingdao Sifang for S$749m. The trainsets are to be used on the Thomson and Eastern Region lines, which will be operated as one line when both have been completed.


Kawasaki Heavy Industries is responsible for the overall train design, while CSR Qingdao Sifang is to produce the carbodies and undertake final assembly. The trains will be powered using a 750 V DC third-rail power supply and will have ‘improved current regeneration capability’, according to LTA. Each car will have five sets of doors for rapid boarding and alighting at stations.


The 21 km, 12-station Eastern Region Line from Changi to Marina Bay is to be completed in 2020. When the 30 km underground Thomson Line is completed a year later, the two lines will be linked to form one route from Changi to Woodlands North serving 33 stations.




Driver error "only cause" of Santiago accident, says report

SPAIN's Transport Ministry yesterday published the final investigation report into the Santiago de Compostela accident on July 24 2013, when a train derailed while travelling at 180km/h on an 80km/h curve killing 79 people.


The 266-page document points to the human factor as the sole cause of the derailment, as "driving staff failed to follow the regulations contained in the train timetable and the route plan," two printed documents stating maximum permitted speeds for each section between distance markers carried by every driver while on duty.


The driver's lack of attention, caused by a telephone call answered seconds before the derailment, has been defined by the technical investigation as the only contributing cause of the accident.


Despite failing to identify any other direct or contributing causes besides human factors, CIAF, the body responsible for the investigation of railway accidents in Spain, has issued a total of 9 recommendations affecting the entire public rail sector.


Two of these recommendations have been handed down to Adif, inviting the country's rail infrastructure manager to install conventional fixed signals indicating the maximum permitted speed, and balises to control speeds using Asfa, the national ATP system, at locations similar to the sharp curve where the accident occurred, and which were both absent.


Renfe receives two recommendations, one asking the operator to evaluate the possibility of installing video recorders in cabs (a proposal already made by the Spanish government, and the other calling for better coordination of its internal communications procedures.


This latter recommendation is connected with an alert raised by a train driver two weeks before the official opening of the Santiago – Ourense high-speed line in December 2011 The driver expressed concerns were about the lack of conventional speed markers before the curve where the accident occurred.


"There is only a speed reduction signal at km 84.230 (200m before the derailment point) but it is useless because if (when passing the fixed signal) the train has not already decelerated nothing could be done," he said in his report. According to Adif, this communication failed to reach the bodies responsible for infrastructure safety and thus no actions were taken.


The remaining five recommendations are directed to the Transport Ministry to ensure that the orders given to Adif and Renfe are enforced, and that reinforced risk assessment processes are carried out before a new high-speed line is opened.


The report does not mention the lack of working onboard ETCS equipment as a contributory cause. Had it not been disconnected in June 2012 due to compatibility problems, the onboard ECTS equipment would have triggered an alert when the train was passing the final ETCS balise on the high-speed line, located 4km from the crash site, obliging the driver to acknowledge the train position, and triggering an emergency brake application if he had failed to do so.


The Spanish rail investigation body depends entirely on the Transport Ministry. Its president and its five board members are directly appointed and removed by the minister. It has no permanent inspectors and is assisted in its investigations by Ineco (a company entirely owned by the Transport Ministry). When an accident occurs an ad hoc investigation team is formed, and it is always composed by a member of the Ciaf secretariat and two safety executives from both Adif and Renfe.


The Ciaf report is independent of the judiciary investigation still underway and which has summoned not only the train driver, but also a dozen Adif board members which were in office when the Ourense – Santiago line opened (including the former president Mr Antonio Gonzalez) to give evidence.






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