Africa: Last month Ghana's Minister of Harbours & Railways Prof Christopher Ameyaw-Akumfi told the second meeting of the Joint Committee of Burkinabe & Ghanaian Railway Experts in Ouagadougou that the Canadian International Development Agency has provided funds to study the feasibility and impact of constructing a 795 km single track railway between the two countries.

On May 22 Botswana Railways and National Railways of Zimbabwe ran a cross-border passenger train from Bulawayo to Francistown, reviving a service suspended in 1999. Three weekly return trips were expected to be running by the end of June, with border formalities carried out onboard.

Australia: With effect from June 1 Genesee & Wyoming and its equal joint venture partner Wesfarmers completed the A$1·3bn sale of their Western Australia operations and assets of the Australian Railroad Group to QR and Babcock & Brown (RG 3.06 p111). GWI also bought Wesfarmer's 50% stake in ARG's South Australia operations for A$20m, renaming it G&W Australia Pty Ltd.

On May 24 Toll announced that it had acquired 91% of Patrick's issued shares, and would proceed with the compulsory acquisition of the remainder. Certain assets are to be sold to satisfy the competition authorities, including a 50% stake in Pacific National which was run as a 50:50 joint venture by the companies.

Bangladesh: A government contract to study the feasibility of double-tracking and electri-fying the 321 km Dhaka - Chittagong route has been awarded to Hyderabad-based consultancy Balaji Railroad Systems and Australian firm SMEC International.

Canada: On May 25 the 300 km of the Hudson Bay Railway between Sherritt Junction and Lynn Lake in Manitoba was formally handed over to the Keewatin Railway Co, owned by first nation groups which paid C$4·9m for the assets on April 1. VIA Rail services will continue to run.

Czech Republic: Transport Minister Milan Simonovsky attended a ceremony on May 23 to mark the breakthrough by contractor Metrostav of the 1365m southern bore of the tunnel beneath the Vitkov hill to increase capacity in Praha (RG 1.06 p42).

May 24 marked the formal launch of work by ZS Brno to upgrade the 30 km Plzen - Stríbro section of Corridor 3 to raise the line speed from 90 to 140 km/h. The EU cohesion fund is meeting 60% of the KC4·2bn cost.

Europe: On July 1 the new general contractual framework for the use of freight wagons comes into force. Created by UIC, the International Union of Private Wagons and ERFA, it sets out rights and obligations of wagon owners and operators which sign up to the framework, saving the need to negotiate individual bilateral contracts.

Euro Cargo Rail has received safety certification to operate in Germany, with Belgian approval expected to follow later this year. This month the EWS subsidiary begins hauling 400000 tonnes of cereal per annum from central France to two factories in Brittany on behalf of Le Gouessant, using Vossloh G1206 locos until its EMD Class 66 locos are approved for use in France.

On June 1 Sächsisch-Böhmischen Railway began running 13 weekday trains each way between Großsch?€?nau in Germany and Varnsdorf in the Czech Republic. The Land of Sachsen plans to increase the number of cross-border routes from 10 to 13, with Sebnitz - Dolni Poustenva to re-open in 2007.

India: The Hassan - Mangalore rail link was commissioned on May 5, and by May 28 had handled 100973 tonnes of freight to and from New Mangalore Port.

The Railway Board has approved plans by Indian Railway Catering & Tourism Corp to permit private companies to take over stations, catering and advertising sites on the metre-gauge Nilgiri Mountain Railway.

Japan: On June 20 Hankyu Holdings announced it had acquired a 63·7% stake in Hanshin Electric Railway Co for ´249·8bn. Hanshin will become a wholly-owned part of Hankyu on October 1, through a swap of 1·4 Hankyu shares for 1 Hanshin share.

Netherlands: Transport Minister Karla Peijis has announced that the national roll-out of the OV-chipkaart smart card will be delayed until January 2008, because of technical problems during trials in Rotterdam. The ministry's commitment is being increased from €76m to €129m, in part to reduce the cost of the card to users from €7 to €3·50. The Strippenkaart zonal paper ticket will be withdrawn from January 2009.

Portugal: On May 16 Arriva announced an agreement to acquire a 21·5% stake in Barraqueiro SGPS. The family-owned bus and rail operator runs Fertagus rail services in Lisboa and has a 34% share in the Metro Transportes do Sul concessionaire.

Spain: Passenger services resumed between Balaguer and La Pobla de Segur on June 4 following completion of a 10-month programme of track renewals and other work on the 62·5 km route. This has accounted for 34% of the €60m that FGC is investing in the Lleida - La Pobla de Segur route in 2005-09.

  • CAPTION: The first of 26 ETR600 Pendolino trainsets being built for Trenitalia and Cisalpino was rolled out at Alstom's Savigliano plant in June en route for dynamic testing at Velim. The set is scheduled to return to Italy in September for handover by the end of this year
  • CAPTION: Tongling Rolling Stock Works is producing open wagons to China's Ministry of Railways C70 specification, which takes advantage of the move towards 25 tonne axleloads to increase the capacity of the previous C64 design from 61 tonnes to 70 tonnes. Production of a high-axleload van has also begun Photo: BruceEvans
  • CAPTION: The first of 90 AVE S130 power cars under construction at the Bombardier plant in Kassel are nearing completion. The gauge-changing cars will be able to run on 25 kV 50 Hz and 3 kV DC. Following dynamic testing, the first completed vehicle is due to be delivered to Spain in September; after mating with the Talgo-built trailers the first trainsets are to be handed over to Renfe in March 2007
  • CAPTION: New UK Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander formally opened the new Siemens depot at Ardwick, near Manchester, on May 16. Built by Taylor Woodrow, NG Bailey and Atkins Rail at a cost of £30m, it will maintain the fleet of 51 three-car Class 185 'Pennine' DMUs that Siemens is supplying to HSBC Rail for use by TransPennine Express franchisee First/Keolis. Siemens will also run a smaller servicing depot in York which is costing £10m to complete
  • CAPTION: On May 19 NS Reizigers unveiled an interior mock-up at Bombardier's Aachen plant to show off the Grammer seats it has selected for the 35 Sprinter EMUs on order from Bombardier and Siemens; these will be derived from DB's ET424 design (RG 9.05 p541). The two suppliers have adjusted the split of work, so the welded aluminium bodyshells for the 18 four-car sets will be fabricated by Bombardier at Hennigsdorf and assembled at Aachen, whilst the 17 six-car sets will be built and assembled by Siemens in Uerdingen. All units will have bogies from Graz and Siemens traction equipment; Bombardier will supply the train control system and auxiliary inverters from Mannheim