Belgium: UK private equity company 3i announced on August 3 that it had completed the acquisition of ABX Logistics Worldwide from SNCB Holding. The latter has retained the local road distribution business in Belgium.

SNCB transported 173 million passengers in 2005. The 2006 figure is expected to be 180 million, and a further 25% increase is predicted between 2006 and 2012.

Infrabel has announced plans to invest €13·6m in 2006-07 to raise platform heights at seven stations in Flanders from 280mm to 550mm above rail and seven in Wallonia to 750mm. By 2012 Infrabel expects to raise the platforms at 45 stations on the Brussels RER network to 750mm.

Cambodia: Last month Sokhom Pheakavanmony, Director-General of Royal Cambodian Railways, said that negotiations were underway with the Asian Development Bank for a US$42m loan towards the US$67m cost of upgrading the Siahnoukville - Phnom Penh - Sisophon route and reinstating the 48 km link from Sisophon to Poipet on the Thai border. Work could be completed by 2009, with speeds raised to 50 km/h from less than 20 km/h at present.

Czech Republic: The CD Executive Committee has approved plans to hive off its freight business and rolling stock maintenance into separate subsidiaries CD-Cargo and DPOV. Since 2004 CD has separated out non-core activities including track machine maintenance, travel agencies, telecommunications, real estate, training, advertising and its research institute.

Ethiopia: CDE has returned to service a further four locomotives to bring its operational fleet to nine. CIM Logerail and Wartsila supplied spares and technical training from Europe, funded by a €1m EU grant.

Europe: The EU has approved a €32·4m plan to reopen the 7 km cross-border line between Lanaken in Belgium and Maastricht in the Netherlands for freight traffic by the end of 2007. The majority of the expected 400000 tonnes/year will be traffic for the Sappi paper mill.

France: RFF is due to complete a €28·5m programme of track renewals between Culmont-Chalindrey and Neufchâteau on the Dijon - Metz route this month.

Ghana: During a visit to the USA by President John Kufuor last month, Minister for Harbours & Railways Prof Ameyaw Akumfi signed a memorandum of understanding giving Canadian firm SNC Lavalin rights to begin a study for rehabiliting rail lines to support bauxite mining.

Hungary: This month MÁV will call tenders for construction of a rail link between Terminal 1 of Budapest Ferihegy airport and Szemeretelep station, and rehabilitation of the existing line between Vecsés and the city centre. Loans totalling €12·8m have been obtained from Raiffeisen Bank, and a service to the airport could be launched in December.

Netherlands: On July 28 the Dutch government presented the Infraspeed consortium with a Certificate of Availability for the southern section of HSL-Zuid, from Rotterdam to the Belgian border.

Pakistan: PR has announced plans to rebuild the out-of-use 762mm gauge railway between Bostan and Zhob as a 1676mm gauge line. The 295 km route which was last used around 20 years ago would be extended by 150 km from Zhob to Dera Ismail Khan, improving links between Baluchistan and North West Frontier Province.

Russia: On July 25 RSD announced that Far Eastern Railway had begun using a second 1278m Lagar - Aulskiy tunnel which has been constructed over six years at a cost of 1·17bn roubles. The new bore will allow the original double track tunnel to be rebuilt as single track by 2008, removing a 25 km/h speed limit and restrictions on loading gauge which have been imposed since damage by an earthquake in 2000.

United Kingdom: The Department for Transport has extended National Express Group's franchise to operate Silverlink passenger services from October 15 2006 to November 11 2007. This aligns the end dates of four current franchises which are to be remapped into three in 2007.

Westinghouse Rail Systems has completed major commissioning of resignalling work on Chiltern Railways' Evergreen II project to increase capacity and line speed on routes to London Marylebone station (RG 2.05 p60). Final acceptance of the PFI-funded works by Network Rail is planned for October 25.

USA: Norfolk Southern coal trains began using the Shelocta Secondary route in western Pennsylvania on August 7. Rehabilitation of 18 km of disused track and construction of 8 km of new route at a cost of $44m has cut 51 km from the journey between NS's Conemaugh line and the Keystone power station in Shelocta.

Zambia: Spoornet has withdrawn from the 20-year Rail Systems of Zambia concession signed in 2003, in which Transnet held a 17% stake, New Limpopo Projects Investments 80% and employees 3%. RSZ General Manager Babe Botana said RSZ will not be seeking another partner.

  • CAPTION: Delivery of the 12 Siemens DMUs for the Oceanside - Escondido Sprinter diesel light rail line in north San Diego County began on August 15 when unit 4001 arrived at North County Transit District's maintenance depot in Escondido. No 4002 arrived from Germany two days later and 4003 was due for delivery on August 19. The line is scheduled to open in December 2007
    Photo: Julian Wolinsky
  • CAPTION: This month Bombardier expects to start dynamic testing at Derby with a full eight-car prototype trainset ordered by Metronet Rail for London Underground's Victoria Line (RG 12.05 p780). Low-speed EMC tests with a four-car half-train began at the end of July
  • CAPTION: Two years later than planned, Göteborgs Spårvägar has put into revenue service the first three of 40 Sirio low-floor LRVs ordered from AnsaldoBreda in 2001. Two prototypes undertook extensive testing in Sweden before returning to Italy for modifications. All 40 cars are now expected to be in operation by the end of next year
    Photo: Richard Holtz
  • CAPTION: Siemens and Vossloh Kiepe have completed the first of 15 NF8U low-floor LRVs for Düsseldorf's Rheinbahn, under a contract with options for up to 61 more. Designed by Staubach of Berlin, the 30m long five-section cars are unidirectional but with doors on both sides; they are intended to run in back-to-back pairs. Powered by four 100 kW motors, the 2'BoBo2' vehicles have power modules based on the latest Combino design
    Photo: Harry Hondius