Australia: SRANSW opened the 1·6 km Cumberland line between Harris Park and Merrylands on November 2. The ’Y-Link’ curve west of Granville cost A$80m, and carries CityRail trains from Campbelltown to Parramatta and Blacktown.

Queensland Rail and Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express Ltd have set up a joint venture to run a luxury tourist train between Brisbane and Cairns from mid-1998. Rolling stock for The Great South Pacific Express is being produced by QR’s Townsville workshops at cost of A$35m.

Trackfast, the parcels and small consignment business of New South Wales’ Freight Corp, has ceased trading.

Estonia: The national Privatisation Agency has included Estonian Railways in a list of companies due to be privatised within the next few years.

Europe: NDX Intermodal was due in January to begin operating its first intermodal shuttle on the Rotterdam - München route, with Hamburg - Milano to follow shortly after. Formed by DB, NS Cargo and CSX, NDX expects to run at a profit from 2000 on 40 routes.

Intrans Zilina AS of Slovakia has launched a weekly intermodal service between Cierna nad Tisou and Moscow via Ukraine.

France: SNCF is to provide a station on the Tours - Bordeaux main line to serve the Futuroscope technology theme park.

On December 5 SNCF officially inaugurated a secure digital radio network serving its Ile-de-France commuter routes; the Matra-supplied IRIS system functions in tunnels and cannot be ’scanned’.

Georgia: Georgian and Azerbaijani Railways have begun operating a container service between the Black Sea port of Poti and Baku.

Germany: On January 1 DB handed over its traction power supply activities to a subsidiary, DBEnergieversorgung GmbH.

Great Britain: Piggyback is to be included within the 44 tonne gross weight derogation for lorries that has applied to other forms of intermodal transport using rail since 1994; the general limit for lorries is 38 tonnes.

Railtrack has quoted £308m for converting a route from the Channel Tunnel to Scotland to the higher loading gauge proposed by the Piggyback Consortium; previous estimates were under £100m.

Minister for Railways & Roads John Watts announced on December 4 the award of a £437238 grant to RJB Mining for rail facilities in Derbyshire. English Welsh & Scottish Railway was awarded a track access grant to keep sand traffic between Marks Tey and Hayes on rail.

British Railways Board has sold its Scientifics Ltd subsidiary to Atesta Group, and has offered overseas travel service BR International Ltd for sale.

On November 24 Railtrack energised the overhead line between Paddington and West Ealing. The 25 kV AC electrification is part of the Heathrow Express project.

Netherlands: NS has completed a three-year modernisation programme at Leideschendam workshops at a cost of 40m guilders.

As part of the Euroécran project undertaken by SNCF, NS and FS with support from the European Commission, 20 different designs of noise barrier for high-speed lines are being assessed at Loenersloot. Tests to find a barrier that will cut noise by 4 to 6dB for 70 to 80% of the cost of existing designs involve simulating a TGV passing at 300 km/h.

Sweden: On November 30 SJ abandoned its rolling motorway lorry piggyback service which ran between Str