n On January 29 the Panama congress formally approved the award of a 25-year concession to rehabilitate and operate the country’s railway, in exchange for 5% of gross revenue. A consortium led by Kansas City Southern plans to invest US$70m over the next two years to develop a trans-isthmus container shuttle service handling 70000 boxes in its first year of operation.

n Russian President Boris Yeltsin has approved a new Statute for the Railways of the Russian Federation, setting out the operational and legal relationships between RZD and its passenger and freight customers. The Ministry of Railways and the national monopolies commission will draw up revised conditions of carriage to reflect the new statute.

n Chinese Vice-Minister of Railways Fu Zhuhuan announced in January that CR would put over 800 km of new railway into service during 1998 at a cost of US$4·2bn. Much of the focus this year will be on the southwest, including completion of the Daxian - Deyang line and electrification from Chengdu to Kunming.

n Railtrack has called tenders by June from 10 prequalified bidders for infrastructure maintenance work in the Scotland, East Anglia, Midlands and Great Western zones. The contracts are to be awarded in October, and will take effect from April 1999.

n Turkish State Railways has reached a preliminary agreement with industrial engineering and contracting group Yildiz to operate privately-managed executive saloons on selected passenger services; Yildiz is currently looking to lease appropriate vehicles.

n The railways of Austria, Hungary, and Ukraine signed a declaration of intent at the end of January to upgrade the Wien - Budapest - Zahony - Lviv corridor and boost freight traffic; a working party has been asked to prepare a joint development plan by May.

n The government of Peru was due to announce last month the terms for sale of Enafer’s three rail networks later this year. Several US firms have already expressed interest in bidding for the Centro, Sur and Sur-Oriente operations.

n President Imomali Rakhmonov of Tadzhikistan has formally inaugurated a new bridge to carry the Kyrgantepe - Kulyab line across the Vakhsk river near Kalininabad.

n The government of Pakistan has invited expressions of interest by February 28 for a private-sector concession to operate fuel oil trains from Karachi over the PR network.

n French National Railways is to start test running this month with a prototype tilting TGV converted from a Sud-Est trainset at its Bischheim works. The Fr170m cost was shared between GEC Alsthom (Fr84m), SNCF (Fr55m) and the national technology development programme (Fr31m). The train is intended to run at up to 320 km/h on TGV lines and 220 km/h on conventional routes (p187).

n Yugoslav Railways (JZ) has taken over the presidency of the Southeast European Railways Group for two years with effect from the 12th meeting of Directors-General in Thessaloniki on February 5-6. The former UIC’s Balkan Railways Group, SERG also elected Macedonian Railways (RFYRM) to full membership alongside HSH, BDZ, OSE, CFR and TCDD.