AUSTRALIA: March 9 saw the first test train on the 13 km Epping - Chatswood line in Sydney's northern suburbs.

Revenue services on the A$2bn under­ground route had been due to start in June, but RailCorp has postponed the launch until the end of the year because of trackwork problems. The resilient rail supports on a 'significant' part of the line are apparently coming away from the concrete slab; this will have to be rectified by the contractor - a joint venture of Thiess and Hochtief.

Meanwhile, as Amtrak starts replacing defective concrete sleepers on its Northeast Corridor, DB has revealed that it needs to change 700 000 concrete sleepers on the 290 km Berlin - Hamburg route. Rather than spreading the work over nights and weekends for 18 months, DB plans to close the line between March and June 2009, and divert ICE services via Stendal and Uelzen, adding 30 mins to the 90 min journey time.

  • CAPTION: Top and tailed by a pair of Class 48 diesel locos, three test cars formed the first train on Sydney's Epping - Chatswood line.