Spanish infrastructure authority GIF awarded contracts totalling Pts 3.3bn in December for civil works on 148 km of the Madrid - Barcelona AVE line between Chiloeches and Calatayud.

Membership of the International Union of Railways has increased with the admission of European infrastructure authorities Jerbaneverket, Banestyrelsen, RFF, Refer and GIF. Amtrak, JR-Freight, JR-Central, JR-West and JR-Kyshu have joined as associate members, as have Pakistan Railways, Georgian Railways and west African operating concessionaire Sitarail.

Railtrack awarded a full RSAB acceptance certificate to Forward Trust Rail on December 5 for use of Class 365/5 Networker Express EMUs on 750V DC routes in Kent. This follows an evaluation of 50Hz track circuit compatibility by Transportation Consultants International, which also worked on Railtrack’s recent approval of fleet operation with Class 92 locos at full power.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe is to break up its northern and southern field units from January 1 1998, with the creation of four operating divisions and eight ’service regions’ to decentralise management and improve customer service.

JR West’s Series 500 trainsets began running over the Tokaido Shinkansen on November 29, cutting the fastest Nozomi timings for the 1069 km to 4h 49min at an end-to-end average of 221.9 km/h. The 300 km/h sets had been operating Sanyo services between Hakata and Shin Osaka from March 22.

Eurotunnel announced on November 26 that every member of its banking syndicate had endorsed the debt restructuring plan approved by shareholders in July. Ratification of and signing of the agreement is expected soon, followed by an increase in the share capital by March 31. No terms have been announced by the two governments for extension of Eurotunnel’s concession ’at least to 99 years’, as promised on July 1.

Danish State Railway will lose its monopoly of rail freight operations on January 1 1999 and on passenger services a year later, according to transport minister Bj