China: Work is due to begin this month on the construction of a privately-funded 29 km freight railway between Pengzhou and Bailu in Sichuan province. Sichuan Dezhong Investment Construction Co has a 30-year Build-Operate-Transfer agreement for the 420m yuan line which will serve customers including a cement works, ethylene plant and refinery.

Europe: Last month RZD President Vladimir Yakunin and President of Finmeccanica Pier Francesco Guarguaglini signed an agreement to co-operate in the development of satellite-based signalling and train control.

Bids for a concession to operate Kystbanen services between Helsingør, København, Malmö and Göteborg for eight years from December 2008 have been submitted by DSB/FirstGroup, SJ/MTR Corp, DB Regio, Arriva and Veolia.

DB is to launch ICE services from Hamburg to København and Århus from December 9. This follows signature in March of an agreement with DSB to replace the current IC3 trainsets with some of DB's 19 four-car diesel-powered ICE-TD trainsets one train a day will be extended to and from Berlin.

France: Work began last month to extend the intermodal terminal at Perpignan Saint-Charles after a funding agreement was concluded. The €39·4m project will nearly double the terminal's capacity so that it can handle 110 000 wagons a year.

Contracts were signed in February to develop the Coeur d'Europe freight and logistics terminal at Somain between Douai and Valenciennes. A branch from the adjacent Somain marshalling yard will ensure rail access, and work is due to start early in 2008.

Germany: In October Vodafone and DB are to begin testing Touch&Travel, allowing passengers to use mobile telephone ticketing on Berlin S-Bahn services, urban transport in Potsdam and ICE trains between Berlin and Hannover.

Following a successful pilot programme with ICE trains on the Dortmund - Köln route, T-Mobile and DB have extended on-train wireless broadband availability to Köln - Frankfurt Airport services. Trains from Frankfurt to Hamburg and München will follow later in the year.

A DB Fernverkehr driver was given German Railways' first driving licence by board member for Human Resources Margret Suckale and Transnet union Chairman Norbert Hansen at a ceremony in Fulda on March 13. A European Union-wide scheme is due to begin rolling out this year, aiming to simplify the approval of crews for cross-border services.

Ghana: Using US$2m provided by OPEC, Ghana Railway Corp has completed work on the first 10 of 20 coaches which are being rehabilitated in readiness for the reopening of the Accra - Tema line this year. Acting Managing Director Rufus Quayen said an agreement has been signed for the acquisition of two DMUs.

Recently-appointed Deputy Minister for Ports, Harbours & Railways Sophia Honer Sam said in February that two investment groups had expressed interest in taking over the 1 067 mm gauge Sekondi - Kumasi line.

Guatemala: On March 13 Railroad Development Corp and its Guatemalan affiliate Ferrovias Guatemala gave notice they were seeking international arbitration for a claim against the government under Chapter 10 of the Cafta free trade agreement. RDC Chairman Henry Posner III accused the government of 'indirect expropriation' of assets and interference with the 50-year usufruct concession agreed in 1997 (RG 11.06 p697).

Hungary: On February 28 local passenger railway licences were granted to Északerdö Erdögazdasági and Mecseki Erdészeti, entitling the two operators of 760?mm gauge forest railways to agree public service contracts with local authorities and so receive local subsidies.

Italy: Railion ran its first train to a new logistics centre at Lonato near Brescia on March 13. 13 700 m2 of the 20 000 m2 site is roofed over, and there are two gantry cranes.

Malaysia: As part of a plan to widen its multi-modal activities to encompass full logistics services, KTMB's road haulage subsidiary is to double the size of its Padang Besar container terminal to 8·9 ha at a cost of 10m ringgit.

New Zealand: The government is to contribute NZ$120m to a scheme to rebuild the railway through the suburb of New Lynn in the city of Waitakere in a 1 km trench to eliminate level crossings. The city will provide NZ$55m, with of the sale of air rights above the 8 m deep trench providing further funds for the double-tracking project which Ontrack expects to be completed in mid-2009.

South Africa: In addition to the current R7bn refurbishment project, Sarcc has asked the government to approve a R36bn commuter rolling stock acquisition programme under which 540 new vehicles would be acquired annually.

Transnet announced in March the go-ahead for expansion of the Saldanha iron ore export terminal to handle 45 million tonnes a year, as part of its R5·8bn programme to upgrade Spoornet's 861 km Sishen - Saldanha heavy haul line over five years.

Spoornet has begun trials with its prototype Class 39 diesel-electric loco, heavily rebuilt from an EMD Class 34. Being used to haul chrome ore on the Steelport line north from Belfast, it has a 26% higher tractive effort, Knorr-Bremse electronic braking and a new cab design, with a mobile phone charger, fridge, microwave oven, hotplate and toilet.

Metrorail will launch a 530-seat all first class service from Soweto to Johannesburg this month, targeting the growing middle class market by offering secure parking, refreshments and newspapers.

Spain: ADIF has signed an agreement with Eliop to participate in the Eolo project to develop equipment to measure and predict wind speeds and feed the data into ERTMS equipment on high speed lines.

Tenders are to be called for construction of a 7·4 km section of the Madrid - Valencia high speed line between Ontígola and Ocaña. The work is budgeted at €32·2m.

ADIF is to call tenders for construction of the 7·2 km Pontós - Borrassà section of the high speed line being built between Barcelona and the French frontier. This section near Figueres includes six viaducts.

Sweden: A second tunnel boring machine has begun work on the Malmö Citytunneln project. Malmö C station is being extended underground and 6 route-km of tunnels bored as part of the 17 km link between Malmö and the Øresund bridge.

Switzerland: BLS has returned to service the first of 13 Nina EMUs to be lengthened to four cars through the addition of a 14 m intermediate car supplied by a consortium of Bombardier and Alstom.

USA: Work on the first phase of the north-south commuter rail line in Orlando is set to begin following Federal Transit Administration approval. The FTA is also providing $250m in funding for the project, almost half the anticipated total cost. The 98·2 km route will serve Volusia, Seminole, Orange and Osceole counties.

Zimbabwe: NRZ has reintroduced thrice-weekly passenger services from Harare to Chinhoyi and Bindura.