With the timetable change on May 30 - a year later than planned - operation of the 57 km Volmetalbahn linking Dortmund, Hagen, Brügge and Lüdenscheid becomes the responsibility of the Dortmund Märkische Eisenbahn, founded in 1997 by Dortmunder Stadtwerke (75%) and bus company Märkische Verkehrs Gesellschaft (25%).

To serve the 15 stations, DME has acquired four Talent lightweight diesel railcars identical to the DB Class 643 (RG 3.99 p147) from Bombardier Transportation at a cost of DM13m, or DM23186/m2. The 72·7 tonne cars are equipped with two 350 kW MTU engines and ZF 5 HP 600 hydro-mechanical transmissions, but do not have magnetic track brakes. The internal floor height is 590 mm, an interesting compromise to serve platform heights varying from 150 to 960 mm. The VT 643s seating 16 in first and 120 in second class replace DB Class 628.4 DMUs, built until 1994.

DME has just 20 staff, of which 16 are drivers. The company plans to run 17 trips on weekdays, 15 on Saturdays and 10 on Sundays, and expects to carry 3000 passengers per day. DME must pay an annual track access charge of DM4m to DB Netz and another DM 1·1m to DB Station & Service for use of the stations. The line is equipped with colourlight signals and Indusi, allowing the Talents to run at up to 80 km/h. n

CAPTION: The first of 18 low-floor LRVs for Belgian metre-gauge tram operator De Lijn has started commissioning trials at the Siemens test track in Wegberg-Wildenrath. De Lijn is buying a mix of unidirectional cars for Antwerpen and bidirectional for Gent