Australia: Perth-based South Spur group has taken over the operations of Silverton Rail. RTS now runs Silverton's Broken Hill and Parkes depots, and financier Alco has taken on the NSW operator's other assets.

Belgium: On March 14 the board of Infrabel approved plans to electrify the 8 km route from Montzen to the German border by December 2008 at a cost of €3m.

Chile: Fepasa has restored freight service to the Santiago - Talagante route following a level crossing upgrade programme undertaken by EFE. This involved a total of 12 vehicle crossings, seven of which have been equipped with automatic warning systems.

Europe: On March 13 rail4chem launched a thrice-weekly container train between Ceres Paragon terminal in the Port of Amsterdam and Duisburg. Operated for Japanese shipping line NYK, the trains are hauled by Vossloh G2000 diesel locos and do not require a stop at the German frontier.

On March 9 the partners in the European Rail Research Advisory Council presented a document entitled Rail 21: Sustainable Rail Systems for a Connected Europe to EU Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik. The document sets five broad research targets for the Seventh Framework Programme which will run from 2007 to 2013.

Steer Davies Gleave, Uniconsult and ProgTrans are to collaborate on the European Commission's Servrail study, which will assess current and likely future conditions for providing maintenance, traction, shunting and terminal services in the EU countries plus Norway, Switzerland, Bulgarian and Romania.

On March 14 German Chancellor Merkel and French President Chirac attended the signing of an agreement to replace the single-track bridge over the Rhine between Strasbourg and Kehl with a new double-track structure. Work on the bridge is to start in 2007 for completion in 2010.

France: RFF is undertaking a €21·5m renewal of track on the Moirans - Grenoble and Gières - Brignoud sections of the Lyon - Chambéry line, to finish in September.

Germany: DB opened a €35m S-Bahn maintenance depot at the former post office terminal in Frankfurt on March 2. The 20000m2 site will be responsible for seats, doors, wheelsets and electrical equipment on 172 trainsets.

Italy: From March 1 to June 28 Trenitalia is offering 'Happy Train Europe' fares from €10 for travel to destinations including Budapest, Nice, Genève and Wien. Made available on the company's website on Wednesdays, the bargain fares are for travel between Tuesday and Thursday of the following week.

Italy: With effect from February 19, FNM's route S4 from Milano Bovisa was extended from Seveso to the Trenitalia station at Camnago-Lentate on the Milano - Chiasso route. The project cost a total of €1·2m.

Japan: The 140 km Hokkaido Chihoku Highland Railway which links Ikeda and Kitami is to close on April 20.

This month Nankai Electric Railway's Kishigawa Line is to be transferred to the new Wakayama Electric Railway.

Mexico: On March 13 Kansas City Southern announced it had paid US$35m in cash and issued shares valued at US$35m to Grupo TMM, after the final resolution of a VAT dispute which had arisen from KCS's acquisition of the government's remaining stake in TFM.

Netherlands: NS has decided not to bid to operate the Roermond - Nijmegen and Maastricht - Kerkrade lines, which are to become multi-modal local transport franchises in December. It may consider a partnership with a firm with bus experience.

Connex Rail Cargo ran its first train into the Netherlands on February 15, when a Class 66 leased by Mitsui RCE to Connex subsidiary Regiobahn Bitterfeld-Berlin hauled a fuel train from Germany to Rotterdam.

Spain: Renfe is investing €5·24m to improve passenger information on Madrid suburban trains and stations. This will include €3·1m to replace GSM with GPRS for wireless communications between the information control centre and on-train displays.

The Ministry of Development has approved the route of the Camarillas cut-off on the Madrid - Cartagena line. With 3·5 km in tunnel, the 26·8 km route starting at Agramón is expected to cost €102m to build.

Sri Lanka: Construction of the Matara - Kataragama line began in February with the start of work on a bridge over the Nilwala Ganga. China is providing financial assistance to cover 90% of the cost of the Rs9·2bn project.

USA: To gain access to proven reserves where it has mineral rights, National Coal Corp's wholly-owned subsidiary NC Railroad has purchased the 67 km line between Oneida and Devonia, Tennessee, from Norfolk Southern for $1·96m.

  • CAPTION: The Utrechtboog viaduct providing a direct route between Utrecht and Schiphol Airport was formally opened in a ceremony held on March 11. Two days later NSReizigers began operating a half-hourly service, cutting the journey between the city and the country's main airport by 10min and removing the need to change at Duivendrecht
  • CAPTION: The first of 60 high speed EMUs being built for Chinese Railways' 200 km/h regional passenger services by a Japanese consortium led by Kawasaki Heavy Industries has arrived at the port of Qingdao
  • CAPTION: Seven Bombardier-built double-deck coaches with facilities for the disabled arrived at Ashdod on February 23. The first cars were expected to enter service with Israel Railways in March, following fitting out work by Ramta in Be'er Sheva. Under the same contract a further 22 vehicles are expected to follow by OctoberCAPTION: Italian open access freight operator Del Fungo Giera has leased two former SBBCargo Re474 four-system electric locomotives from Siemens Dispolok
  • CAPTION: Opening in 2007, the 7·2 km Sendai Airport Line will cut the time taken to reach the airport from JR East's Sendai station from 40 min by bus to 17 min by express train or 23 min by local train. Services will be worked by Series E721 two-car EMUs, which have one motor and one trailer car with stainless-steel bodyshells
  • CAPTION: Croatian tramway operator GPP of Osijek returned to service in February the first of five tramcars sent to the Czech Republic last September to be refurbished by CKD. Onboard electrical equipment has been renewed, the cab and some body parts replaced and air-conditioning installed