Africa: Botswana Railways CEO Andrew Lunga has announced that negotiations are underway with National Railways of Zimbabwe to reinstate the passenger service between Francistown and Bulawayo suspended in 1999. Three return trips would operate each week, with border formalities carried out on the trains.

Argentina: The government has transferred ownership of the 244 km route between Chamaicó and Colonia Alvear Oeste to a consortium of local authorities from the provinces of La Pampa, San Luis and Mendoza. They hope to see passenger and freight services resume once work to reopen the line has been completed.

Belgium: SNCB has announced that its Mechelen and Cuesmes workshops are to refurbish 44 four-car AM75 EMUs, 130 three-car AM80 EMUs and 130 M5 double-deck coaches in 2006-14.

172 million domestic passengers were carried by SNCB in 2005, up 4·2% on 2004 and around 30% up on a decade ago. The growth was helped by subsidised travel for employees of companies which have agreed arrangements with SNCB (RG 2.05 p70).

Chile: EFE has completed a US$6·5m programme to improve security and facilities at 17 stations between Pedro Aguirre Cerda and San Fernando on the Metrotren commuter network in Santiago. Access is controlled by turnstiles which will be commissioned in the first quarter of 2006.

Cuba: Beijing February 7th Rolling Stock Works of China has delivered 12 DF7G-C diesel locos ordered at a cost of US$15m (RG 3.05 p125) to Cuban Railways. The operator has repaired 60 locos and 1800 wagons since freight traffic resumed at the start of 2005.

Czech Republic: A consortium of Tchas Ostrava and Firesta Brno has begun preparatory works for 3 kV electrification of the 7 km link between Ostrava Hlavní Nadr? zí and Kuncice. The EU is meeting 65% of the costs of the KC924m plan, which includes construction of a new station at Ostrava-Centrum. Completion is expected by November 2007.

CD has completed a KC2·1bn modernisation of Bohumín station. Tchas Ostrava and ZS Brno upgraded 2·85route-km for 160 km/h operation, and modernised platforms, subways and electrification. AZD Praha installed a SZZ ESA11 electronic interlocking.

Estonia: An 81% increase in coal traffic pushed up the total tonnage of rail freight by 3·3% to 44·2 million tonnes in 2005.

France: RFF is to spend €45m on track renewals on the Douai - Valenciennes - Blanc-Misseron route from 2008, with complete renewal of 11 km and replacement of ballast and sleepers on a further 40 km.

Work is expected to begin this spring on a €93m project to provide a third track on two sections of the Strasbourg - Sélestat route around Erstein, totalling 16·6 km. The project is funded by Alsace region (54%), central government (32%) and RFF (14%).

Transport Minister Dominique Perben has announced the selection of the most westerly option for the northern section of a rail by-pass around Lyon. RFF and the préfet of the Rh?€?ne département have been asked to begin further consultation on options for the southern section.

International: Train ferries from Kavkaz in Russia to Poti in Georgia are to begin calling temporarily at Samsun. After trials in April, two vessels will be dedicated to the Kavkaz - Samsun route under a protocol signed by TCDD and Russia's Maritime Agency.

Latvia: LD carried 54·8 million tonnes of freight in 2005, up 7·4% on 2004. The company expects this to fall to 51 million tonnes in 2006 because of increasing competition for transit traffic.

Lithuania: LGcarried 49·3 million tonnes of freight in 2005, up 8% year on year. Passenger numbers were down 3%.

Montenegro: ZCG has signed a €50m contract with ZS Brno, AZD Praha, Remont Priga and Minel Beograd for the modernisation, re-signalling and 25 kV 50Hz electrification of the 64 km line from Podgorica to Niksic by 2009.

Spain: The Ministry of Development has selected the alignment of the high speed route between Albacete and Xàtiva, following approval by the Ministry of the Environment of the route option passing to the south of Almansa. Construction will involve conversion of the existing 1668mm gauge route between Albacete and Xàtiva.

Sri Lanka: The Transport Ministry announced in December that Indian financial assistance has been obtained for modernisation of the 160 km Colombo - Matara route, including reductions in journey times and double tracking south of Kalutara North.

United Kingdom: The Department for Transport has shortlisted Arriva, FirstGroup, National Express, Stagecoach and a joint venture of GNER Holdings and MTR Corp for the South Western franchise. Invitations to tender will be issued at the end of March and the seven-year franchise extendable by three years will begin on February 4 2007.

USA: In December RailAmerica sold its 246 km San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad in Colorado to Permian Basin Railways for $6·5m. It also received $0·5m cash from the sale of surplus SLRG real estate.

  • CAPTION: On December 15 AFE restored regular Montevideo - Victor Sudriers passenger services, following an inaugural trip by the AFE board and Canelones province Governor Dr Marcos Carambula the previous day. The 44 km route has 14 stops and four daily trains each way, worked by a railcar and a two-coach loco-hauled set
  • CAPTION: The first of four Class 441 electric locos being refurbished by Koncar for Bosnian operator ZFBiH was delivered on December 23; the locos are designed to run at a maximum speed of 120 km/h. ZFBiH recorded a 191% increase in traffic on its Mostar - Capljina line in 2005 compared with 2004 Photo:Toma Bacic
  • CAPTION: Union Pacific has put into service a track inspection vehicle built by Plasser & Theurer at a cost of $8·5m. The EC-5 is fitted with GPS location equipment and 11 computer systems to inspect track geometry, rail wear and tunnel clearances. It is designed to operate at up to 110 km/h, with a crew of three
  • CAPTION: The first of 20 Citadis 302 low-floor trams for Tenerife has been completed at Alstom's Barcelona plant, and was shipped from Cadiz towards the end of last year. The 32m long BoBoBo trams have six 120 kW motors, and each can carry 56 seated and 144 standing passengers