Argentina: Looking to broaden its traffic base beyond bulk commodities, Belgrano Railway (RG 1.00 p12) has introduced Buenos Aires - Salta container services. The company also has a stake in the consortium holding the concession to operate the port of Santa Fe.

In addition to the purchase of new locomotives for US$8m (RG 3.00 p134), Ferrosur Roca’s US$17m investment programme includes US$6m to convert 300 covered wagons for the transport of bulk cement. A comprehensive programme of track renewal is to be undertaken on the core network.

Australia: The Cowra - Blayney line in New South Wales has reopened after a five-year closure for reconstruction. It restores an alternative to the north-south Cootamundra - Parkes route.

Following a decision to outsource its railway research activities, BHP has transferred its R&D to the new BHP Institute of Railway Technology established jointly with Monash University, Victoria. Expertise in heavy-haul and rail/sleeper technology is supplemented by general R&D work for the rail industry. The institute can be contacted at

China: Construction is expected to start before the end of the year on a 280 km line from Ganxian to Longyan, providing a direct link to the new Beijing - Kowloon railway from the rapidly-developing Fujian province and the port of Xiamen (RG 9.98 p613) at a cost of 5bn yuan.

Designs have been prepared for the proposed Qiongzhu straits (Hainan) and Gulf of Bohai train ferries. The 156 m vessels will have capacity for 40 rail vehicles of up to 80 tonnes on four tracks, as well as space for 50 lorries and 1400 passengers. Orders have yet to be placed for the first two ships, which are expected to inaugurate the Hainan service at the end of 2001.

Egypt: A $US53m loan from the Arab Fund for Development will finance a number of station improvement projects as well as completing conversion of a batch of second class coaches to first class.

Europe: Railway operators in Germany, Austria, Hungary and Romania met in Snagov, Romania, on March 15 to discuss formation of a joint freight transport company. DB, ÖBB, GySEV, MAV and CFR-Marfa are the participants.

France: SNCF has joined forces with Swiss wagon-hirer Ermewa to set up a subsidiary specialising in transport of chemical, petro-chemical and petroleum products. Ermefret will be owned 60% by Ermewa France and 40% by SNCF Participations.

Great Britain: The government has approved the lease to Great North Eastern Railway of two regional Eurostar trainsets. Seven 14-car sets were built to provide cities north of London with through services to the Continent, but never used. From May 28 they will boost capacity between London and York, calling at all stations served by GNER.

March saw the start of construction of a £7m freight terminal at Knowsley Industrial Park, located on a reinstated private siding linked to the Liverpool - Wigan line. On completion at the end of the year, the terminal will be operated by the Potter Group.

Hungary: MAV has announced plans for upgrading two routes using European Investment Bank funds: the 62 km Felsozsolca - Hidasnemeti portion of the Budapest - Miskolc - Kosice (Slovakia) main line, and the 100 km route between Budapest and Szolnok via Ujszasz.

Israel: Last month Israel Railways presented the Transport Ministry with a 10-year plan forecasting an increase in passenger traffic from 12·4 million journeys in 2000 to 50 million by 2010. To handle this growth, IR plans to order 91 ICE Flexliner DMUs, 60 four-car double-deck suburban trains and 60 main line diesel locos at an estimated cost of US$1bn. Traffic in the first two months of 2000 was almost 73% higher than the same period in 1999 at 1·9 million journeys.

New Zealand: A record 14·2 million tonnes was carried by Tranz Rail in 1999, exceeding the previous best of 13·6 million achieved in 1977 when road freight regulation was in force, and contrasting sharply with the 8·5 million carried in 1993 when New Zealand Railways was privatised.

Panama: Kansas City Southern President Mike Haverty was present with government officials at the February 15 ground-breaking ceremony for reconstruction of the Panama Railway (RG 3.00 p140). KCS is joint operating concessionaire of the railway with Mi-Jack Products Inc.

Spain: Renfe has signed an agreement with the Galicia regional government to build a Pts2bn intermodal freight terminal at Monforte de Lemos, where work on a 120000m2 site is expected to start next year. Private companies and the region’s five port authorities are expected to form an operating company with the building partners.

Turkmenistan: Russian and Turkmen railway ministry officials signed a co-operation agreement at a meeting of the CIS Railway Council in Ashkhabad in March, providing for joint construction of new railways, mostly in Turkmenistan. An early project is expected to be the line along the Caspian sea shore from Turkmenbasi northwards to Bekdash.

Uruguay: AFE was due to reintroduce passenger service to the Tacuarembó - Rivera route on March 13, suspended since December 31 1999. Acquisition of a railcar is under consideration to cut costs on this route, which loses US$6000 a month serving an area with poor road communications.

USA: BNSF is to start a third weekly Ice Cold Express next month between Los Angeles, Chicago and Ohio Valley destinations. Demand from perishables shippers has been high, as the average journey time of just under 59h is highly competitive with road haulage.

Maine Department of Transportation has selected the Louis Berger Group to evaluate funding options for development of a public transport network to meet current and future demand. The state’s existing funding has failed to keep pace with demand for improved transit, and the studies will look at proposed rail, ferry and air services.

Uzbekistan: Strategic studies for development of a multi-modal freight terminal in Tashkent are to be carried out by Gibb of Great Britain together with Dornier SystemConsult. The terminal will be a regional hub for international consignments by rail, road and air.