Australia: An audit of the interstate rail network carried out for Australian Rail Track Corp by Booz·Allen & Hamilton suggests that A$507m needs to be spent over the next five to six years to attract more freight to rail (p397). A$398m would go on the Melbourne - Sydney - Brisbane corridor, and A$109m on the east-west routes. A$146m is needed for the crucial Sydney bottleneck, of which the federal government has already committed A$124m for a new bypass line.

Freight Australia has announced plans for a A$1m upgrade of the 40 km Inglewood - Eaglehawk line to permit longer and heavier grain trains and provide a more direct route to Melbourne.

Europe: Expecting trans-Pyrenean freight traffic to grow from 75million tonnes in 2000 to 200million tonnes by 2020, the regions of Aragón in Spain and Midi-Pyrénées in France have signed an agreement to build a 50 km base tunnel for rolling motorway services. Costed at Fr50bn, the tunnel would lie between the existing coastal border crossings, approached from the French side by a new line via Agen, Auch and Tarbes.

France: RFF and SNCF have joined the government and the regions of Aquitaine, Midi-Pyrénées and Languedoc-Roussillon to fund a Fr6m study of improving journey times on the Bordeaux - Narbonne route. Construction of a high speed line will be examined alongside an upgrade of existing infrastructure for 200 km/h tilting trains.

RFF, SNCF and the Aquitaine region are to spend Fr60m over the next six years to increase by 30% the wagon capacity of freight transhipment facilities at Hendaye. By 2004 three additional tracks up to 750m in length will be provided to handle complete trainloads.

SNCF has set up an office in Lyon that will work on major projects such as the Perpignan - Figueres and Lyon - Torino high speed lines, seeking at the same time to establish a closer working relationship with RFF. The company’s infrastructure materials procurement division is to begin relocation from Paris to Lyon in September, joining SNCF’s general purchasing function, with some 200 IT and telecommunications staff also moving.

SNCF brought a computer-based signalling centre at Marseille Saint-Charles into service on April 29, controlling interlockings on the southern 150route-km of the TGV Méditerranée. Built at a cost of Fr216·5m, the PRCI installation features Mistral control software developed by SNCF and Sema Group.

Germany: On May 16 the DB board unveiled details of the freight locomotive leasing pool it is forming with Austrian Federal Railways (RG 3.01 p145). A management company owned equally by the two railways is to be set up on July 1 with headquarters in Frankfurt.

International: A weekly Gdansk - Odesa container train has been launched, taking 72h for the 1100 km trip.

Lebanon: Czech consultancy Sudop Praha has completed a study for the rehabilitation of CEL’s 50 km route between Tripoli and J