SWEDISH heavy-haul iron ore operator MTAB held ceremonies on March 7 to mark the start of regular operations with 30 tonne axleloads on the Luleå - Kiruna - Narvik corridor. The opening celebrations also marked the entry into revenue service of MTAB's first new trainset, funded by iron ore mining group LKAB, which is the majority partner in MTAB.

Formed of an Adtranz Octeon Co-Co+Co-Co electric loco rated at 10800 kW and a rake of 68 high-capacity wagons built by Transwerk of South Africa, the new train is operating on the southern section of the route, between Malmberget and Luleå. A second trainset will be put into service by 2004, when the upgrading of the remainder is due to be completed.

Since the creation of the MTAB venture five years ago, LKAB has been working with Banverket to make the Malmbanan one of the world's most efficient railways. Introduction of new rolling stock with a 30-tonne axleload is expected to bring substantial cost savings and efficiency improvements, strengthening LKAB's position in the competitive iron ore market (RG 9.98 p585).