Belarus: BCh has put into service the first of a batch of coaches being refurbished at Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk works. With assistance and equipment from Spain, the coaches have been fitted with air-conditioning and vacuum toilets, and are passed for 200 km/h.

Belgium: SNCB is to extend its Zeebrugge branch in May 2001, to a new station closer to the seafront.

Brazil: Mining group CVRD, owner of the Vitória à Minas Railway (EFVM), has completed its acquisition of a majority shareholding in the Centro-Atlântica Railway (RG 10.99 p615). Operation of the two railways is to be consolidated.

Europe: At a conference between the UIC and chemical industry representatives at the beginning of February, an agreement was signed for development of a common system for managing the safety of chemicals transported by rail. The Safety & Quality Assessment System (SQAS), already in use by other transport industries, will be implemented immediately by France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

In the redistribution of assets following purchase of a share in Via GTI by SNCF Participations (RG 12.99 p754), SNCF is to take control of contract public transport operations in 88 French cities and towns, and also inherits the Via GTI share in rail operating concessions in Great Britain and Sweden. CGEA takes on the German and Spanish activities.

Eurotunnel saw traffic on its freight-vehicle shuttles rise by 19% in 1999, whilst passenger-vehicle shuttles carried 2·7% fewer cars and 14·8% fewer coaches due to the abolition of duty-free sales. Eurostar passengers increased by 4·5% to 6·6 milllion, but rail freight declined by 8·8% to 2·9 million tonnes.

France: The French and German ministers of transport, meeting in Saarbrücken at the beginning of February, confirmed that construction of the first stage of TGV Est is to start in 2001.

SNCF’s board has approved the transfer of its loss-making parcels subsidiary Sernam to the transport and logistics group Geodis (RG 1.00 p12).

Germany: DB AG announced in January that it is to move its Berlin headquarters to the Sony Centre development at Potzdamer Platz this year, consolidating staff from 15 buildings. The Frankfurt offices will not be affected.

DB Cargo has launched a separate product unit to handle movement of chemicals, a business which amounted to some 45 million tonnes in 1999. ChemCargo began operations at the end of January.

Hungary: MAV has been instructed to prepare proposals by April 15 for creating a separate rail infrastructure management company. The government approved on December 27 a timetable for reform leading to a split on January 1 2001.

India: Transweb Solutions of Nagpur has launched the country’s first website offering on-line bookings for rail travel tickets and reservations.

Italy: The Schema24 consortium including French National Railways and clothes manufacturer Benetton has acquired a 40% shareholding in Grandi Stazioni, the FS company set up to manage 13 major stations. Following completion of work at Roma Termini in January, stations are to be modernised in Bari, Bologna, Firenze, Genova, Napoli, Palermo, Torino, Venezia and Verona.

Japan: JR West has discovered 40000 ’potentially dangerous’ faults in the tunnels on the Sanyo Shinkansen in surveys carried out following several incidents of falling debris. The problems are being attributed to use of sub-standard materials and rapid construction techniques in the run-up to privatisation in 1987.

Norway: The first of NSB’s order for 11 tilting Talent DMUs is due to be rolled-out at Bombardier’s Talbot Aachen works at the end of March.

Panama: Reconstruction of the 76 km trans-isthmus railway began last month, following the arrival of a refurbished GP10 diesel loco and engineering wagons from US backers Kansas City Southern and Mi-Jack Products; reopening is expected in mid-2001.

Peru: The PeruRail consortium, concessionaire of the Southern Railway of Peru, is to invest US$29m over five years in maintenance, equipment purchases, staff training and improved passenger service.

Philippines: On January 20 Transport Secretary Vicente Rivera Jr inaugurated a new station building at Tetuban on PNR’s main line south of Manila. PNR has recently taken delivery of 20 air-conditioned coaches from Japan.

Russia: The 68 km stretch of the Trans-Siberian Railway between Sibirtsevo and Ussuriysk was turned over to electric traction at the end of 1999.

Sweden: SJ officially opened its inter-city station at Arlanda Central on January 10 (RG 1.00 p26).

Spain: Work is to start this spring on a double track tunnel in C